Spider Season

© Philip Precey

As autumn approaches, the papers are once again full of stories about giant spiders invading our homes.

Thankfully, as attitudes to wildlife have evolved and public understanding of the part arachnids play in the ecosystem improves, most articles now detail ways to remove 8-legged squatters alive and focus on the types of spider you are likely to encounter.

So why do we see more spiders in late summer and early autumn? The simple answer is sex.

Males of many species have now reached maturity and are on the hunt for a mate. It is these amorous arthropods that you'll see scuttling across your carpet of an evening in search of a willing partner. 

The attractive warm dry environment of our homes - coupled with the tendency to keep windows open as the weather is still relatively mild - means that we see an influx of spiders in our houses at this time of year. Some species live alongside us in our homes year round, we are just more likely to notice them now, as they seek out mates and reproduce.

Love is in the air

Female spiders are usually quite a bit larger than males, but reach sexual maturity slightly later in the year. Eager males set out in early autumn to find a mate, ensuring that they are ready and waiting when the ladies make an appearance.

When he finds a partner, a male will approach and wait to be accepted, before joining her on her web and mating repeatedly. Once he's done his thing, he'll die as winter approaches.

The female spider will overwinter, before feeding on early insects the following spring and laying her eggs. She may live well into the year.

Which species are you most likely to see?

The spiders that you encounter in your home are usually one of 4 species of big, thick bodied and hairy legged 'house spiders'. Of these, the cardinal spider is the largest, hairiest and most feared due to its impressive size. It is worth noting that as with all UK spider species, it is harmless to humans.

Other spiders you may encounter include the cellar spider (also known as the daddy long-legs), spitting spider, several lace-web spiders, money spider, mouse spider and rarely, the false widow, which has probably grabbed the most column inches of any UK arachnid.

The beautiful orb-weaver spiders that you see spinning intricate webs in the garden tend to stay outside.

Live and let live

If you can cope with them, spiders are quite useful to have around the home. They will capture and eat insect pests and generally keep out of the way, preferring the quiet life in a dark corner. 

Spiders were around long before us after all. It's not their fault we've provided them with a warm, dry comfortable habitat.