Autumn is just weeks away, and all anyone can talk about is the impending joy of pumpkin spiced lattes and crunching through golden leaves while wearing cosy thick-knit jumpers.
Meanwhile, I’m here to remind you that the Season of the Spider is nigh, and there are some bloody big beasts out there preparing to make you jump right out of your snuggly bed socks.
But why are they suddenly scuttling into our homes like a drunken fresher wandering into the wrong halls of residence? Why aren’t they happy lurking inside an upturned flower pot or the corner of the shed as they appeared to be in the summer months?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but spiders are currently experiencing the mega horn and are looking to spurt out a different kind of web if you catch my drift.
Yup, from around early September to about mid-October, it’s spider mating season, and these eight legged creepers are looking to get jiggy with each all over the show. Maybe even deep inside those nice, fluffy slippers you were saving for the first sparkle of frost.
UNILAD contacted ecological consultant, educator and spider expert Lawrence Bee from the British Arachnological Society. I warn you now, what he has had to say has chilled me to the bone.
According Mr Bee, it isn’t that these monster spiders are suddenly creeping into our homes after living in the garden. Like many a classic horror movie, they’ve actually been in the house all along, and we just haven’t seen them.
Indeed, only about five per cent of the spiders you find in your house have ever set foot outside. According to Mr Bee, the large, sexually mature male spiders currently stomping their way across our bedroom floors usually remain hidden away in various nooks and crannies.
Mr Bee told UNILAD how these permanent guests are now in search of amore :
They aren’t going inside houses. These spiders that we’re seeing in houses at the moment have been in the house all year round and they spend their lives within the house environment.
The reason that we’re seeing them around at the moment is that mature males are now walking around. It’s their mating season so they’re walking around looking for females to be mating with.
So people say, ‘oh we’re getting lots coming in from outside’. Well, they’re not. They’re there all the time. And if they put them outside, they just come back in again because that’s their habitat. That’s where they live.
Mr Bee also dispelled myths around the idea that spiders are bigger around this time of year. Again, there are always big ‘uns out there, but this is the season when they run buck wild.
According to Mr Bee – who co-authored the book Britain’s Spiders: A Field Guide – the spiders about to do a lap of your living room carpet can indeed get ‘rather large’, with the bigger boys getting up to around 5 cm in total size, including leg span.
Somewhat touchingly (?) spiders will only pair up with one mate each season; arguably the creepiest and most un-erotic equivalent of the holiday romance.
The male spider will stick around within the vicinity of the female until the eggs hatch in a bid to keep any other males from getting their leg(s) over.
Mr Bee highlighted it is the males you will likely come into contact with:
It’s just the males that are wandering round. I think people forget that they’re not getting any bigger in size, they’re usually quite large. Males usually have longer legs as they’re moving around more.
When the male finds the female, they mate and the male will stay with the female in her web just so they can make sure there aren’t any more males trying to mate as well.
Mr Bee was kind enough to freak me out forever by revealing how spider babies will sometimes eat their own mother for their first meal, with the mum feeling their ‘job is done’. Possibly the most gruesome metaphor ever for having your life energy sapped by your kids.
So what can we do to keep these randy arachnids from using our homes as their dirty weekend getaways? I’m afraid it isn’t quite as simple as chucking their Barry White CDs out of the window.
According to Mr Bee, there really isn’t any scientifically proven way to stop spiders stomping around your house come spider season:
There’s been various people who’ve said they’ve put horse chestnuts or conkers on the windowsill, or other things.
But none of these have been proved scientifically to prevent spiders. There’s nothing you can do really to clear them out, basically. They can crawl in through air bricks and that sort of thing, but it’s something we’ve got to live with I’m afraid.
If it makes you feel better – and it has made me feel a bit more secure – keeping your house clean and tidy is widely regarded to be a good way to cut down on regular ‘spider shocks’.
According to the pest prevention website Rentokill, regular vacuuming and removing noticeable webs can help to stop spiders feeling quite so at home.
In recent years I’ve become – marginally – better at dealing with spiders, and have advanced beyond the stage of simply shrieking at them to ‘go away’. However, I still struggle to shoo them out of my house without creating a massive amount of fuss.
I certainly do not like cupping my hands over them and feeling their spindly little feet tickling the inside of my palms. And, as important part of the ecosystem – and clever little critters – you should never, ever just squish them.
Mr Bee told UNILAD:
The simplest way is to just put a cup or a glass over the spider, and slide a card underneath. And then you’ve got it contained within the container. And then just take it outside and release it outside.
There’s no guarantee it’s not going to come back in again.
Sealing off gaps in doors and the edges of windows has been reported by some pest control experts to stop spiders from getting back in, but this is of course no guarantee. Especially when you realise house spiders view your home to be just as much theirs as it is yours.
Now, Mr Bee’s words haven’t exactly filled me with optimism on the spider shooing front. However, on the bright side, Brits don’t usually have to deal with particularly fearsome types of spiders and we’re all of us locked into this grim spider orgy together.
According to Mr Bee, there just six species in the UK – out of an approximate 670 – capable of breaking human skin. One of these – the false widow spider – reportedly has quite a ‘potent venom’.
There has been various reports of false widow spiders biting humans in the last few years, with some individuals left with severe swelling and even chest pain.
However, Mr Bee assured me these eight legged tabloid monsters aren’t as aggressive as rumours might suggest, but they do bite:
If they do bite – and they do occasionally bite people – they’re not aggressive at all but they’re simply defending their territory.
If somebody is clearing away a spider’s web or happens to catch it by mistake, then the spider thinks it’s being attacked and it’s going to defend itself. Because they can break human skin, they might actually cause something a general reaction like a bee or a wasp sting.
Some people react to it, and others don’t. If they do react then there’s often a slight swelling. But the whole thing about false widow spiders is that the press got hold of them and started talking about these biting spiders.
There are instances where the bite becomes infected and it’s the secondary infection that can cause real, quite serious health problems. So it’s not the spider itself, it’s the infection of the wound.
If you feel you’ve been bitten by a spider, then the first thing to do is to just go and clean it, and this should avoid any developing problems.
A spokesperson from the British Pest Control Association, (BPCA) also told UNILAD how there is little to fear from your regular UK house spider on the pull:
Spiders are beneficial to the environment and naturally control pests in and around the home. There are some spiders in the UK that are capable of biting humans. The bite can be painful, but in most cases, this will ease within a few hours.
Spiders normally keep out of the way of humans and will only bite if disturbed so bites are rare.
Happy Spider Season fellow arachnophobes, and may we all find solace in our collective helplessness in banishing these frisky, hairy-legged fiends from our loos.
And remember, it could all be so much worse. We could be living in Australia…
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.