Spiders

Spiders have an unsegmented body with two main divisions and four pairs of walking legs. They also have organs for producing silk, which is used for making nests, webs to catch prey or cocoons for its eggs.

They can have up to eight eyes. With so many eyes, it is surprising that most are near-sighted. Most prey on insects, many of them pests. Once the prey becomes tangled in the web, the spider immobilizes it by wrapping it in more silk and then injecting venom to paralyze it. Later, it injects a predigestive liquid and sucks out all the nutrients from its prey. They are not all web spinners, and there are many types that use different strategies to catch their food. Most are nocturnal, shy, and avoid confrontation by running away. They will only bite if they feel threatened, for example being squeezed or held.

Wolf spiders are unusual because they do not build webs but rather hunt for their prey. These can be as large as 3 cm in length and are dark brown in colour. The female spins a large white spherical egg sac that she attaches to her body and carries around until the eggs hatch, after which the newborns stay on the mother's back for about a week. They are generally found on the ground in grasslands, woodland floors, beaches and gardens where they mostly feed on insects. In the fall, they look for warm places so they are more likely to enter our homes around that time.

Cellar spiders have very long legs and build their webs in the corners of cellars or cool, damp basements. These are harmless and can be eliminated by removing the webs and reducing the humidity in that area of the house.

They have also been called daddy long-legs and can be confused with another spider-like relative, commonly known as the harvestman or daddy long-legs. The harvestman does not have two distinct body parts and it does not have silk-producing glands either, but it does have four pairs of long slender legs which make it look like a spider at first glance.

The house and black widow belong to the same family. The house is more commonly found within the house whereas the black widow is more likely to be found in dark crawl spaces, garages or outhouses. The house varies in colour from dirty white to nearly black with more or less visible markings on its body, and its first pair of legs is almost three times the length of its whole body. It builds webs in dark corners, under furniture and anywhere insects might be caught.

The black widow is shiny black with a distinctive red hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of the stomach. It spins a small, silk web close to the ground and is found in secluded places such as garages and sheds or under rocks or fallen trees when outside. It is not aggressive and prefers fleeing when disturbed, so it will bite only defensively.

Although fishing spiders look like wolf spiders, they have a different eye pattern. The adults can reach up to 7.5 cm in width. They are commonly found near cottages and waterfronts, especially around rocks near the shoreline. These forage for their prey (insects, minnows, etc.). The females carry their eggs around in a spherical sac until ready to hatch. They then spin a web to surround their eggs and guard them until the spiderlings have all grown and dispersed. Unlike wolf spiders, which carry their egg sac behind the body, these carry their egg sac under their head and front thorax (upper body).

They are excellent pest control agents. The wolf type are especially helpful to farmers and gardeners because they prey on common crop pests like caterpillars, plant bugs and aphids. They do not transmit any diseases. Although nearly all have venom glands, they rarely bite humans, usually only if they feel threatened.

The degree of reaction to the black widow bite depends on the area of the body bitten, amount of venom injected and a person's sensitivity to the venom. Serious long-term complications or death are very rare. However, if bitten, remain calm, and immediately seek medical attention by contacting your doctor, hospital and/or poison control center. Apply an ice pack directly to the bite area to relieve swelling and pain. Keep the bite area clean and dress to reduce the risk of infection. If you can reach medical attention, there is a antivenin available.

The initial pain is not to severe, but severe local pain rapidly develops. The pain gradually spreads over the entire body and settles in the abdomen and legs. Symptoms may be, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, weakness, sweating, tremors and a rash may occur. Anaphylactic shock can occur, so be ready to treat for shock or to perform CPR. Poisonous bites from the funnel web or the tarantulas should be treated the same as the black widow bite. 

With the brown recluse spider, there is very little or no pain whatsoever, but within a few hours a painful red area appears with a mottled cyanotic center. After a few days a dark purple discoloration appears at the bite site, then later when the scab falls off it will leave an open ulcer that just does not heal, and persists for weeks or even months. In addition to the ulcer, there is often a systemic reaction that is serious and has been known to lead to death, mainly with children and adults with a weak immune system . Symptoms are fever, chills, joint pain, vomiting and a rash. Medical attention should be sought once the painful red area appears.


Click here to return to Tips & Tricks from the spiders page.

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Spiders hate peppermint! Put a few drops of peppermint oil in a squirt bottle with some water and spray your spot, the spiders will stay away.

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