According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 15% of the world’s population has arachnophobia, otherwise known as the intense and often irrational fear of spiders. Even for those of us without arachnophobia, the sight of a large spider skittering by in close proximity is probably enough to send a shiver down your spine. The truth of the matter is, that spiders are a common fear for many homeowners for a variety of reasons. Their foreboding appearance, their ability to run and jump quickly, and for some, the danger they pose are all reasons to feel apprehensive in a spider’s presence. But are spiders in your home truly as dangerous as some fear? Are you and your family at risk if sharing space with a common arachnid?
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WHAT ARE SPIDERS VS. ARACHNIDS?
Spiders are a vast group of arachnids that are classified as anthropoids. This class is not only made up of the typical spiders you’d expect but also scorpions, mites, and ticks. There are over 45,000 known species of spiders that span across the globe and thrive in a variety of habitats. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on spiders that are native to the United States.
Spiders can vary greatly in size depending on the species; some can be as small as 0.011 of an inch, while others can have a leg span of nearly a foot! Their appearances don’t range strictly in size, either. Spiders can be practically any color, range in shape, and even vastly differ in hairiness. While spiders have a lot of differences between species, there are some things all arachnids have in common. All spiders have bodies that are divided into two tagmata (segments or sections), eight jointed legs, no wings or antennae, simple eyes, and an exoskeleton.
Another thing nearly all spiders share is venom. Only two small subgroups of spiders lack venom glands, while the overwhelming majority of spiders are considered venomous. That said, just because nearly all spiders are venomous, it doesn’t mean all spiders are a danger to humans. In fact, many common spiders have venom so weak that they are generally regarded as harmless to humans. In cases such as this, the venom is typically only an effective poison for a spider’s prey, not human beings.
A spider’s venom is an important tool in its ability to hunt. A common misconception is that all spiders spin webs to catch their prey – this is simply not true. While all spiders have the capability of producing silk, many spider species do not entrap their prey in webs. Some spiders prefer to hunt in the more traditional sense, where their venom plays a key role in immobilizing their next meal.
WHAT KIND OF SPIDER IS IN MY HOUSE?
Now that we understand not all spiders are dangerous to humans, you may be asking: “okay… but which ones are? And how can I tell?!” While most spiders you encounter in your home are likely harmless, spiders can be difficult to identify. Incorrectly identifying a spider is a mistake you don’t want to make. Despite most spiders being innocuous, there are a handful of species that can be very dangerous to handle without the proper knowledge and protection. If you are concerned you have a potentially dangerous spider in your home; we recommend you contact a reputable pest control company immediately for proper identification and removal. Please do not attempt to remove a harmful spider yourself, as bites from the wrong spider can result in painful swelling, cramps, spasms, achiness, upset stomach, blisters, and even scarring.
AMERICAN HOUSE SPIDER
Also recognized as the common house spider, the American house spider is only of the most frequently encountered spiders in a home. As the name suggests, these spiders are known for building webs in hidden areas of a home, such as attics, basements, sheds, barns, and even corners of a room. The American house spider is less than a quarter of an inch in size and is brown with occasional white spotting on the abdomen. Males have legs that appear orange-tinted, while females’ legs tend to look yellow. One of the easiest ways to spot an American house spider is by the several dark rings on its legs.
American house spiders rarely bite unless threatened. If bitten, an individual may experience some pain and swelling at the bite site, but the bite is generally not considered dangerous to humans.
DADDY LONG LEG
Another easily recognizable and frequently sighted arachnid is the Daddy Long Leg. Identified by their small spherical abdomens and extremely long, thin legs, the Daddy Long Leg isn’t actually a spider at all. They make up the order of Opiliones and aren’t a spider but are classified as arachnids (just as ticks, mites, and scorpions are.) Another misconception about these arachnids, or rather a well-accepted myth, is that Daddy Long Legs are the most venomous of all spiders, but their fangs are simply too short to bite humans. This isn’t true for two reasons: first, they’re not spiders at all, and second, they actually don’t have venom glands (or fangs, for that matter.)
Orb weaver spiders are the most common group of spiral-shaped web builders that are most frequently found in gardens, fields, and forests. Orb weavers are an incredibly large group of spiders that consist of many different spider species, making identification rather difficult. This group is one of the most diverse in appearance, varying in color, size, and shape depending on species. Many orb weavers are bright in color with relatively hairy bodies and spiny legs, but nocturnal species can also be colored black or gray. Perhaps the best way to identify an orb weaver is by their webs themselves, all of which are large and made of many concentric circles connected by spoke-like strands of silk.
While larger or brightly colored orb weavers may look formidable, their venom is not nearly potent enough to cause significant harm to people or pets.
Comprised of other well-known spiders like grass spiders and hobo spiders, funnel weavers are a broad group of spiders similar to orb weavers that have been aptly named for the type of webs they spin. Generally gray or brown in color, funnel weavers are relatively small spiders, maxing out at roughly ⅔ inch when fully grown. Particularly hairy on their legs and abdomen, they are frequently mistaken for wolf spiders due to their similar appearances. Their size and four pairs of symmetrical eyes are the best way to distinguish them from wolf spiders or other species.
Funnel weavers often build webs in the grass, bushes, or low foliage that are funnel-like in shape, beginning wide at the entrance and growing smaller at one end to entrap prey. While not particularly sticky, funnel weaver webs include many vertical strands that impede a prey’s passage, allowing the spider to rush out and subdue said prey. Some funnel weavers have extremely potent venom, posing a potential threat to humans.
It’s said that only 10-15% of funnel weaver spiders have venom that is dangerous to humans, but due to the difficulty in identifying species within the funnel weaver family, all bites should be treated with caution. Most funnel weavers are meek in nature, but accidental bites can occur. If you have been bitten by a funnel weaver spider, it is recommended that you seek medical attention immediately.
Jumping spiders are the largest family of spiders known as the Salticidae family and account for a staggering 13% of all spider species. With some of the best vision of all spiders, jumping spiders don’t rely on catching prey in webs but rather hunt by tracking and ultimately jumping to their prey’s demise. Jumping spiders are some of the easiest to identify, thanks to their large, four sets of eyes and forward-looking faces. The front four legs of a jumping spider are generally noticeably larger than the hind four, despite using the rear for jumping.
Though sometimes mistaken for black widows due to their compact black bodies and shorter legs, jumping spiders can appear in a variety of colors such as brown, tan, or gray and include markings that are white, gray, yellow, red, green, or blue in color. Jumping spiders are also known for their fuzzy bodies and legs, appearing much more cartoon-like and unthreatening than other species. Luckily, their looks are not a facade. Jumping spiders are not aggressive, rarely bite, and their venom is generally considered harmless to people and pets.
The brown recluse is well-known for its venomous bite and, unfortunately is the most common of brown spiders. Found from Texas to Florida and up to Ohio, brown recluses are feared for their necrotic venom, which can potentially result in rotting lesions if left untreated. While all brown recluse bites should be treated with utmost caution and medical attention, statistics show that 90% of bites are not medically significant and can even heal without any medical attention. While this information is reassuring, we do not recommend the handling of brown recluse spiders, and should you experience a bite, we urge you to seek medical attention immediately.
Brown recluses are frequently encountered in homes due to their preferred hiding places. Commonly inhabited spaces include closets, basements, and cellars where the spiders can hide in boxes, clothing, shoes, rubber tires, and other dry, dark, and warm places. Often difficult to identify, brown recluses are rather unassuming in appearance and frequently misidentified as the lesser feared hobo spider. Not particularly large or significantly colored, the best way to spot a brown recluse is by the tell-tale dark brown violin-shaped marking on their back. Another unique characteristic of the brown recluse is its 6 eyes, arranged in pairs rather than rows.
An equally notorious spider is the black widow, similarly feared for its venom, which is reported to be 15x stronger than a rattlesnake’s. When bitten, humans may experience a plethora of unpleasant reactions, including muscle aches, nausea, difficulty breathing, and even death. While serious reactions are rare, suspected black widow bites should be addressed with medical attention immediately.
Mostly identifiable by their large black bodies with the infamous red hourglass on their back, the ones who have most to fear are, in fact, other insects or male black widows. Females have been known to eat their counterparts after mating, giving credence to their ominous name. Despite their violent reproductive habits, black widows are solitary creatures who generally avoid humans and are regarded as nonaggressive. Most black widow bites have been the result of humans accidentally grabbing or sitting on them, provoking the spider to bite in self-defense.
The Northern Black Widow Spider is found throughout the eastern US, from southern Canada south to Florida and west to eastern Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
WHAT ARE SOME BENEFITS OF SPIDERS?
While some spiders are certainly worthy of some concern, the vast majority of spiders we encounter in our day-to-day lives are not only harmless but beneficial. Spiders are wonderful for ridding your home and garden of other bothersome pests. Insects like ants, flies, aphids, caterpillars, mites, and weevils are all problematic pests that spiders consume. This means they can not only keep your home and garden pest-free, but they also benefit agriculture as a whole by providing truly organic pesticide!
Spiders and their unique ability to create lightweight but incredibly strong webs also serve as inspiration for future innovation. Scientists today are exploring the implementation of spider silk for wound care; a team in the UK even going as far as to create a bandage from spider silk. Engineers have also begun research into creating lab-made silk that could be used in bullet-proof clothing, parachutes, reinforced nets, and more.
WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT SPIDERS IN MY HOME?
The occasional spider in your home or garage may not be cause for concern. In fact, a spider or two could prevent future infestations of unwanted pests and insects. But in the event of an infestation or dangerous spider taking up residence in your home, spider removal is best left to the professionals. Correct spider identification is crucial in the safe handling of spiders, and unfortunately, identification can be the single most difficult step in spider removal.
Should you suspect a dangerous spider in your home or experience a spider infestation, contact EcoShield immediately for safe, effective, and expert removal. Give us a call or fill out the contact form on this page, and our expert technicians will help ensure your home is free from pest-related concerns. Our Shield Home Protection plan is guaranteed to eliminate and prevent spiders from entering your home and provides year-round protection. If you are a customer and are experiencing spiders in your home, just give us a call and we'll come out and treat for free.
Frequently asked questions
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