After hearing about that home in St. Louis that was infested with thousands of venomous spiders that “…oozed out of the walls and fell from the ceiling”, you may find yourself looking around your own abode and noticing there seem to be more spiders crawling around than there used to be.
The general consensus on Brown Recluse spiders is that they live only in the mid-south and south-eastern United States. Some have been reported in the arid, south Okanagan area of B.C. You can identify Brown Recluse spiders by the violin pattern on their backs.
That’s because these creatures become particularly active as summer segues into fall, frantically spinning webs in doorjambs and corners during what is, for arachnids, their busy season.
What does this mean for us? In addition to getting a face-full of cobwebs every time we step out the front door, this higher-than-usual level of spider activity brings increased concerns about the danger levels of these venomous predators lurking in our homes. But just how worried should we be about suffering a fatal spider bite?
The spiders that chased the St. Louis couple out of their home are called Brown Recluse spiders, and according to Larry Cross of Pest Control Canada, they are rarely if ever found outside the mid-south and south-eastern United States. Furthermore, he says, we shouldn’t consider spiders to be a threat. “Humans are not a food source for spiders,” Cross explains. “Human spider bites are accidental and only occur when a spider is threatened, probably because it is trapped in clothing or a bed.”
Bottom line: spiders survive by trapping insects, not by attacking humans. “Lightning strikes probably kill more humans than spiders,” declares Cross.
Still, you can never be too careful. To ensure you know what you’re dealing with the next time you have a creepy encounter with an eight-legged houseguest, here’s a round-up of some of the types of spiders you’re likely to find in the average Canadian home.
Wolf spiders are unique in the arachnid community in that they don’t spin webs, preferring to hunt for their prey. Big and brown, wolf spiders can grow to be more than an inch long. Come autumn, wolf spiders look for warmth, and that’s when they tend to move inside homes.
Threat Level: Low. Although wolf spiders are venomous, their bites are far from fatal, and will only inject venom into a human if threatened or provoked. If bitten, expect to feel mild discomfort, swelling and itching.
Commonly known as “daddy long-legs,” cellar spiders are prolific web-spinners with a tendency to create webs in corners, especially in cool, damp areas such as cellars and basements. Those cobwebs you’re constantly tidying up this time of year? These guys are the prime suspects.
Threat Level: Practically none. This spider’s venom is relatively weak; worst-case scenario, a bite will produce a short-lived mild burning sensation, but research has found cellar spiders pose no threat to humans.
Common House Spiders
As their name suggests, common house spiders are commonly found inside the home. House spiders might be more difficult to identify, as their colour can vary from an off-white to a yellowish-brown to nearly black, with no visible markings to distinguish them. Like cellar spiders, these critters spin their webs in areas such as dark corners, beneath furniture and in closets and cupboards.
Threat Level: Harmless. House spiders will retreat when threatened, and rarely bite; if they do bite, you’ll feel little to no pain, and no lingering after-effects.
Black Widow Spiders
Just the name alone is enough to send shivers down your spine… but it shouldn’t. Black widow spiders are rare in Canada, mainly found in the southern regions near the U.S. border. Female black widows are usually black and shiny, while males are a lighter shade, usually brown or grey. In both sexes, a black widow can be identified by a red hourglass-shaped marking on the abdomen.
Threat Level: High, but not deadly. Reports of black widow bites are extremely rare, and it’s important to remember that the venom of female spiders is three times stronger than that of a male. Contrary to popular belief, black widow bites usually don’t cause any serious damage, and rarely result in death (infants, the infirm and the elderly are at the highest risk) — which is not to say getting bitten is a picnic; symptoms include muscle pain, abdominal cramps, elevated heart rate and excessive perspiration, and can last anywhere from three to seven days.