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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?
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.
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!