Columnist asks readers to change their mindset about spiders - should the eight legged pest be friend or foe?

Many people suffer from arachnophobia but columnist Kirsty-Jo Muddiman says people should let spiders live in their homes to help the environment.

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 9:35 am
Spider photographed by local photographer @The_skys_the_limit5

The leaves are turning and there’s a chill in the air.

Autumn comes in with the running of the last horse at The St. Ledger Festival and the nights are really drawing in.

It’s cold outside and warmer inside and as Halloween draws closer, the frights of the arachnids enter our homes.

You might be terrified of spiders altogether or you might be OK with money spiders.

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The thought of spider so big you can see the hairs on its legs maybe turns your legs to jelly or maybe you are absolutely fascinated by our eight-legged friends.

Whatever your take on spiders I thought them worth a mention.

I want to look at the positives of spiders, why they come into our houses and what we can do if spiders are unwelcome guests.

There are approximately 650 species of spider in the UK and as the temperature drops, spiders start to look for an overwinter home so you might have noticed a few more spiders in and around the house recently.

Last night a large brown house spider scuttled across my living room floor and found sanctuary under the sofa.

I could tell he was a male spider because he was big enough for me to see the boxing-glove-like packages on the end of his palps (the small leg-like structures near the head) that only male spiders have.

I reckon just over and inch as he darted under my seat.

Spiders are an important part of ecology; a natural pest controller preying on flies and other insects.

Given the mosquito infestation we’ve had this year, I’m planning to foster all the spiders I find and make sure they are big and strong ready for next year!

I wasn’t always so keen on spiders.

When I was twenty, I acquired a small spiderling from a friend of a friend for £10 including tank and bedding as the poor creature was surplus to requirements.

I took on Norman (who turned out to be Norma) specifically to conquer my fear of spiders.

She was the best pet ever.

No need to feed her when I went away, no walking and minimal cleaning out.

Over time, Norma grew from half an inch to bigger than my hand, and I grew to love Norma.When she eventually died, aged 10, my young son cried for her.

I can remember the fear of spiders and it’s still there a little within me so I can appreciate why you might not want spiders in your house but it’s almost unavoidable.

There are always spiders in your house.

You’re more likely to see them in Autumn as the males get brave and venture out looking for a mate but the chances are that they were there all along.

If you kill or remove a spider, another is likely to take its place and actually, a vacated and undefended territory may house two spiders in the place of the one you got rid of so my advice is to leave them be if you can possibly bring yourself to.

You know this, but I’m going to say it anyway.

Spiders are more frightened of you than you are of them.

If you’re truly frightened of spiders, it’s probably best not to get close enough to kill them;

their reactions are usually fast and unpredictable- exactly why so many of us have arachnophobia.

An encounter like that will probably make your phobia worse.

If they’re a regular, like Fred who lived in our fireplace when I was growing up, give them a name.

If they have a name and you know where they live, you might just be able to bear sharing your space with them.

Remember, mosquitoes bite and spiders are extremely unlikely to in the UK, especially if you leave them alone.

So, you’ve accepted spiders are in your house.

You get the odd fright but Fred in the fireplace is OK and Janice in the corner of the hall rarely moves.

You’ve made progress and you’re feeling good about making the firsts steps to conquering your fear of spiders.

You walk into the bathroom and see that Steve, the titan of all spiders, has fallen into the bath (spiders drown in water, they never come up the plughole).

You’re not ready for the glass and paper trick, nowhere near ready, and you need to get in that bath tomorrow morning before work.

That spider is going nowhere without help because the bath is too slippery for him to get a grip, but you just cannot bring yourself to wash Steve down the plughole.

Anyway, he’s so big that you’d have to squash him down with your fingers and that is NOT happening.

What can you do?

It’s easy.

Take a length of toilet paper and dangle it over the side of the bath so that one end is near the plug hole and one end is over the side of the bath. Leave.

Come back in a couple of hours or so and Steve will have vacated the bath, he never wanted to be there in the first place, and gone back to the smallest of spaces in your house where you are unlikely to see him ever again.

My final plea for the spider is that they are lucky.

A money spider running across your palm means you will come into money.

The presence of a spider in your home symbolises good health, wealth and cleanliness so it is considered to be bad luck to kill a spider.

In Vietnam it is believed that a person’s soul leaves the body to become a spider when they sleep so killing spiders is very taboo there.

They’re an amazing and essential part of our eco system.

They’re a natural pest controller working in your home.

Avoid, relocate but never kill.

For the sake of ecology and the Vietnamese at sleep, never kill.