I’ll be the first one to admit – spiders can be creepy. Outside is fine, but I really don’t like them in the house. However. Most of them really are super beneficial – even the ones hanging about in the corners of my house!
I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a house that hasn’t had some kind of spider claiming it as its home as well. The types of spiders I’ve had to share my home with have varied greatly from place to place though. The house I grew up in always had (and still does) very stereotypical looking “house spiders” in all the windows. Which of course would frequently move to other parts of the house – especially when it started getting cold. Pretty much every spring, this would result in a tiny baby spider explosion in the basement, but that’s a story for another time, lol. During my postdoc, there were some kind of wandering/non-web-making spiders that would climb up on the ceiling, where all the recessed lights were, and then sporadically drop on you when you walked underneath. Yeah. Fun times… In the first house I had with my partner we had sac spiders that loved the crevices where the ceilings met the walls. They would be in one place, tucked in their little webby sac one minute, and then a few hours later they’d have moved to another crevice somewhere else in the house – sac and all. You never knew where they’d be. The sac spiders also liked to spring off the walls at you if you disturbed them. Not sure if that was normal, or just for my benefit…
Now, in my current house, I have full time resident Cellar Spiders. Of all the different spiders I’ve shared space with, I think these have been the best roommates. Cellar Spiders are super spindly looking spiders in the family Pholcidae. The ones I have are most likely in the genus Pholcus, although I’m not sure which species they are. There are about 49 different species in the family found in North America, 13 of which are in the genus Pholcus (which I think my spiders are). Some of the Cellar Spider species are native, while others are not. Unless I catch one to put it under the microscope, I will probably never know which species I’m living with or if they are native or not. Doesn’t seem to really matter though. They are notably helping keep the other buggy critters that come into the house in line and are completely harmless to me… Seems like a good deal since they’re here anyway.
Cellar Spiders, also commonly called “daddy long-legs” (although I grew up calling a very different spindle-legged critter that name), can be found in most parts of the world (see map). They prefer sheltered habitats with low light, typically in caves or hollows, under rocks, logs, or other ledges, or around human structures like attics, garages, and the ceilings and corners of my basement. Cellar Spiders make rather messy looking webs compared to some of the works of art you see from other types of spiders. Maybe that’s why they usually hang upside-down on their webs? Because they are so messy, they can’t tell the top from bottom? Nah, I’m sure there is a logical scientific reason I’m not aware of, but it sounded funny in my head.
There is actually a good reason for creating such a messy web though. The web is so messy, that the prey critters that run (or fly) into it can’t find their way out and get trapped. Without the spider needing to add any stickiness to the silk strands of the web! As you might imagine, this saves a ton of important energy and internal resources for Cellar Spiders - most likely helping them do so well in areas that generally don’t have a lot of things to eat. I wonder if that argument would have worked when my Mom told me to clean my room as a kid? But, Mom, I’m saving my energy like a Cellar Spider so I can live longer and eat less! I’m guessing probably not, but let me know if you try it, lol.
Here’s another interesting snippet I learned about Cellar Spiders: Expectant mother spiders carry their eggs sacs (spiders typically bunch their eggs into a bundle(s) tied up with a bit of silk =egg sac) around in their mouths until they hatch. The mother Cellar Spider will then continue to guard her newly hatched babies for up to 9 days. After that the babies are on their own, but that’s more care than many get in the spider world.
Unlike many of the other spiders I’ve shared space with, Cellar Spiders generally pick one place in the house and pretty much stay there unless disturbed. On top of that, they usually try to pick corners and areas that are rarely used by us humans. This is somethings I really do appreciate, because it means I don’t actually have to move them very often. Additionally, they’ve been helping with the mosquitoes that invaded the house this winter. I’ve found several mosquitoes tangled in their webs and I’m guessing there are many more I just haven’t seen. That’s a huge help since I don’t always catch the mosquitoes I swat at!
But what if, despite their benefits, I still don’t want Cellar Spiders in my house!? Well, they’re really not that fast. If you are sure you don’t want their free, blood sucking pest control services, just carefully move them somewhere else. You can use a container or just a piece of cardboard to scoop them up for relocation. Just be careful since they are kinda fragile with their super long legs. Maybe find a nice warm spot in the garage for them? Or if they need to be further away from the house, look for a sheltered area in a tree hollow or under the ledge of something. They’ll do better there than in the grass. Once you move them to somewhere more acceptable, I’ve found that spraying a bit of mint oil periodically in the area you don’t want them to be generally will make them choose somewhere else. As long as there is somewhere else. Also, the mint oil spray won’t make them move if they are already there. You have to move them first, and then spray the newly vacated area to keep them away… Personally though, I’m rather pleased about my roommates helping control the mosquitoes in the house.
To read more about Cellar Spiders, check out these resources:
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