Why do spiders come indoors in the autumn?

A perennial question on this site’s popular Ask the Ranger facility is “Where do spiders go in the winter?” (So much so that the answer is given on the same page and can be found here). At this time of the year, however, more direct approaches to The Ranger are common, as spiders start appearing indoors all over the place and startled home-owners seek advice from their nearest spider enthusiast. So The Ranger was prepared when Naturenet designer Cat posed the question “Where do spiders come from in the autumn?”, or, more specifically, why is Cat’s flat filling up with spiders?

Tegeneria in Cat's bath © Cat James

The spiders use Cat’s bath more than she does!

On investigation it did indeed seem as though Cat’s place was a great attraction for one of the largest spiders in the UK – Tegenaria gigantea. In her bath was an impressive male spider; and further searching, urged on from a distance by Cat, revealed two more similar males hiding in the kitchen sink. These two seemed to have fallen out with each other, and despite having somewhere lost two legs each, were intent on combat.

Removing a spider © Cat James

Cunning use of a beaker and a postcard of Frankie Howerd!

Using suitable equipment it is usually possible to capture even the largest specimen safely, and all three of the spiders were put in a plastic box safely. But this still leaves some of those questions that The Ranger is often asked – and here come the answers. Why do spiders come indoors in the autumn? Not surprisingly, most spiders don’t like it in houses, as they are too dry and clean, with little food. But there are also few predators, so a few species have got quite used to houses, and some live hardly anywhere else. But in the autumn particularly, a range of species which normally stay outdoors start coming in. That is why they suddenly seem to appear from nowhere. The errant spiders are almost always males, who having reached maturity now set off in search of a female. Most will remain outdoors, but as they are quite adventurous some will by random chance end up in your house.

Why do spiders like the bath? Well they don’t particularly, but they can’t climb the sides. They may fall in just by chance, or they might be attracted by the moisture, but generally once in they can’t get out. This is especially true of large spiders which, unlike most small species, cannot walk up smooth surfaces, so that’s why big spiders end up in the bottom of your bath. Unable to run off and hide they are stuck there until you discover them. It’s often suggested that spiders come up the waste pipe – well, they might go down there but only if they have fallen into the bath in the first place, as they can’t swim up through the S-bend in your waste pipe any more than you can. So if you take a bath often enough there shouldn’t be any spiders down the plughole. If this still worries you just sluice the plughole out a few times, including the overflow. Spiders have no magic survival abilities and water will wash them away just like anything else. The easiest way to get them out of the bath is to drape a towel over the bath’s side, with enough towelling inside the bath to enable the spider to climb out. Then leave overnight. This technique, although humane, is not universally popular amongst those afraid of spiders as, obviously enough, it will not necessarily get the spider out of your house.

How do I get rid of spiders in the house? Tricky. They will probably just wander off again if you let them, and certainly by the time it gets at all cold most will be dead or dormant somewhere. But you can always transfer them to the garden with the Frankie Howerd technique (above) or even a specialist tool like the Spider Catcher. The Ranger has tried one of these out and it’s actually pretty good – hard to harm the spider and ideal for even the squeamish. There’s no point in using pesticides – it won’t do you any good to have that stuff in your house and as the spiders are coming in from outside even if you kill them indoors they will come back pretty much straight away. Better to keep your doors and windows shut, and get the cracks sealed up, then no more spiders can gain entry (and your house will be warmer too!).

So, what happened to Cat’s three spiders in the plastic box? The video above shows a moment from the very prolonged tussle of the two lively six-legged protagonists. Neither seemed likely to harm each other, and eventually The Ranger took pity and took them down the garden to release safely into the hedge. No doubt he’ll be doing the same for their progeny this time next year!

61 thoughts on “Why do spiders come indoors in the autumn?”

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  2. I have been leaving conkers around my doors and windows for 2 years and have not had a spider in the house. However, this year i din’t manage to collect any and ive had some whoppers in!! Next year i will be knocking the conkers off the trees!! I believe they really work and apparently on u tube they did a test with tanks and spiders, and not 1 spider would go in the tank with the conkers in it!

  3. It’s quite a warm September evening so I had my window open. One of the spiders like above JUMPED into my room, I saw it at the corner of my eye. It is now hiding under my bed. I am TERRIFIED of spiders. What are the chances of it crawling on me as I sleep? I have a Divan bed so can’t get to it.

  4. Found this article after disposing of another whopper in our new house. They do give me the heebiejeebies, but I am I’m charge as the husband is frankly rubbish with them. My advice is to use a plastic beaker rather than glass so you can’t see them racing around inside the glass, its the way they move that gets me. Juddering thinking about it!

  5. I am very impressed by spiders I find them lovely and pretty. I can see them if behind glass, yet I am also terrified of them but I do try to pick them up with frankie howerd way and place them outside, however I have not had any issue with them in so long. Over 7 years I have seen around 7 enormous ones and 4 of those in the past week alone, the rest were intermittent. Now that I know the mateing season is June till Sept ish. They live to approx 2 -4 years if not battered by humans. Is there anything I can do to tey and stop my fear of spiders. As I believe these to be wonderful reatures, just with a bad reputation. I also wish my daughter was not scared as she is only 6 but freaks out. Yet she is the one that spots them, they seem to be attracted to her too. I liked spiders and could touch them up until I was around 8 when my best mate freaked out at a money spider, I then bore a fear of them. Please all those scared do not kill then just capture and release into wild, but best way glass and card, as some times they will find their way back in when freezing temps via the web they lay behind them. X enjoy thee pretty small and mighty creatures.

  6. We had a huge spider living under the bath. It sat under the pipe behind the toilet and every time we got close it disappeared back behind the bath. I thought I’d hoovered it 4 times, but it was always back there 5 minutes later. It took my bf over a week to finally catch it, he put it outside, apparently some way away. Last night (about 2 months later) its back sitting there again! I’m sure its the same one. I hate them and this is my worst nightmare!

  7. Quote from The Ranger “I once had a job carrying a petrol-powered pooter across the moors collecting spiders. Seriously I did!”

    We’ve just found a rare spider on one of our sites because of a man with a bug-vac.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-14215583

    When I was a kid my dad used to make Harry Ladders (TM?) out of toilet roll, he hung them over the edge of the bath so the spiders could get out. now my cat eats them, but not til sh’es played with them first!

  8. By the way, a good method to get rid of one is to insert a piece of gauze or thin piece of material between a section of the hose of your vacuum cleaner and suck the bastard up. Obviously, it will get trapped at the gauze and then you can take the hose apart keeping the hose upright at all times. Hose isn’t probably the right noun. Anyone?

    I have a battery powered spider catcher and the power is no way strong enough to lift anything bigger than a tiny spider. Use your vac.

    The Ranger responds:
    sounds like you’ve just invented the pooter. I once had a job carrying a petrol-powered pooter across the moors collecting spiders. Seriously I did!

  9. I lived in the south of Spain. Not once, in 3 years, not once did a tegenaria gigantea come into the houses where I lived. I never saw one. Cockroaches, the odd scorpion maybe but none of them big nasty spiders.

    One of the attractions of living in Spain. My question is, at what point going south from the United Kingdom does this occur. You see them in France, but not in Spain. You don’t even see them in houses in the North of Spain. Not much anyway as my Asturian friends have testified to me. In fact when I told my Asturian friend about the whoppers we get inside houses in the UK he couldn’t believe it.

    An answer would be great.

  10. Don’t kill them unless they are poisonous (the harmful to humans variety, as all sipdes are poisonous, but only some are harmful to humans). Spiders are very beneficial and having them outside is very good for you house, plants, garden, ect. I know they are creepy crawly and scare the daylights out of most people, but capture them and put them outside. You’ll enjoy the benefits of less of your outside plants/trees/vegetables/fruit being destroyed by truly “bad” bugs. In the area I live in I became used ot them and even handle them all the time now (was a horrible arachniphobe) When I find them in the house I grab them in my hands and let tem go outside. Now I even think I see repeat offenders who must think I’m some taxi service, ha ha ha.

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