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Spiders in the Garden

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on October 7, 2011

Many people are afraid of spiders.  I think they are fascinating.  Come on, how would you react to a story about a creature that spits stuff out of its butt and uses it to make a trap for its food?  In Texas, there are only two spiders that are able to make people sick with their bite:  the black widow and the brown recluse.  All the other ones may hurt if they bite you, but they won’t do much more than that.

Black Widow Spider on web

Black Widow Spider on web

This is the black widow spider.  Note the shiny appearance and the red hourglass on the lower abdomen.  If the spider is fuzzy, it isn’t a black widow.  In fact, you will probably never see this spider.  She is shy and likes dark places.  Potting sheds and the inside of unused spigots are the usual traps for the unwary these days.  Once upon a time, they nested in out houses.  Not a good thing.

The brown recluse is called the fiddle back spider because it has the very clear outline of a fiddle on its back.  It, too, is shy and hides in the dark.  Unlike the black widow, it likes houses.

All the other spiders you see are essentially harmless.  In fact, they eat tons of insects a year.  Their basic motto is “leave me alone and I will leave you alone”.  Spiders are actually very interesting creatures.

Because they have eight legs, spiders are not insects.  They are in the class Arachnida.  Most of them have eight eyes in arrangements that help distinguish between families of spiders.

The most common spiders brought in for identification are wolf spiders and jumping spiders.  Wolf spiders are the big brown spiders common in houses.  When the spider has her eggs, she carries the egg sack around to protect it.  When the babies hatch, she carries them around for a while to protect them, too.  Disturbing the mother by trying to catch her or swat her will result in all these babies bailing and running every where.  This tends to really startle people.  Wolf spiders are predators and eat other spiders and insects.  They are better left alone than bothered.

The other spider lots of people bring in is a black and white jumping spider with fur all over her.  They think it is a black widow.  It isn’t.  This is a predator, also, and is found where there are insects.  Again, she is getting rid of pests, so leave her alone or put her outside.

Orb spiders are those beautiful spiders that make the big webs outside.  They eat a lot of pesky insects, including mosquitoes.  Although many people have an automatic swat reflex with regards to spiders, they are actually mostly good.  Leave them alone and they will help keep your vegetables, and yourself, safe from marauding bugs.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth Parker October 8, 2011 at 1:26 am

I know that spiders are “good” bugs but I still don’t like them! I usually just pick them up with a piece of paper and set them outside when I find them indoors though.
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Stephanie Suesan Smith October 8, 2011 at 4:48 am

I am glad you just set them outside. Liking every organism isn’t required, but it helps to understand what they do and why they are important.

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