Spiders are some of the most important animals in our environment.
It is thought that spiders began their evolutionary history around 300 million years ago – millions of years before even the first dinosaurs reared their scaly heads. This amount of time has allowed them to develop an astounding amount of variations in the way they live.
North America is home to over 3,000 species of spiders that we know of, and they are in such huge numbers that each acre of land is thought to be home to around 1 million of these silk slingers.
Spiders are estimated to dispatch around 600 million tons of insects a year, making bats and birds look lazy in comparison.
All spiders utilize silk, however their uses are varied depending on the environment and preferred prey of each species.
Some spiders create intricate webs to catch prey, while others weave silken tunnels for shelter and pursue their meals on foot.
A few are even able to use small bits of web as a sticky catcher’s mitt to snag passersby, and some actually throw bits of web much like a fishing line.
There are spiders with such extreme wanderlust that they create silk sails to hitch a ride on local winds or even onto the electrical field of the Earth itself, traveling for hundreds of miles in search of a new web site.
Going beyond even these intrepid arachnids, water spiders create air-filled web bubbles that allow them to take up residence underwater.
Jumping spiders rely on silk draglines to help slow and control their impressive leaps.
Many of these feats are possible because of the resilience of spider silk – weight for weight, it is stronger than steel. Scientists are currently working on methods of using spider silk for multiple applications, including vests that absorb bullet impacts while staying extremely light.
While most spiders enjoy the outdoor life, there are a few species that are known to take up residence in our houses. In fact, some of the species of spiders that you find inside have been living with humans for so long that they cannot survive outside of a building.
These spiders, while cobweb factories, actually provide your home and office with free pest control that is far more effective than any commercial treatment.
The spiders in your home aid in reducing the populations of roaches, flies, mosquitoes, clothes moths and other pests around the house.
Even though a few spiders with deadly bites have given their cousins a bad name, the vast majority of spiders can do us no harm.
From a spider’s point of view, bites are a costly affair which use up precious venom that could be otherwise put to better use. Because of this, most only bite under extreme circumstances.
There are written records of spiders taking up residences in Roman villas, and humans have most definitely coexisted with spiders in their houses for far longer than that.
Many of the species found in houses have evolved ways to survive the unique difficulties in human house living, including infrequent prey and scarce water.
While finding one of your spider roommates in the sink or tub can be an unwelcome start to your day, moving them to another part of your house will allow them to continue keeping other more harmful pests at bay.
My preferred method of relocation is a glass or jar and a sturdy piece of paper.
Once the glass is over your spider, slip the paper underneath and allow the spider to climb on top, sealing them inside.
I encourage you to embrace, or at least turn a blind eye to, these ancient and helpful creatures as they in turn help protect your pantries.
Brannen Basham and his wife, Jill Jacobs, operate Spriggly’s Beescaping, a business dedicated to the preservation of pollinators. He can be reached at email@example.com.