Found in most buildings, spiders are not actually a pest and provide a service by reducing the number of flies and other unwelcome insects in the home. Despite this, spiders are often viewed as an unwelcome intruder.
There are five species of ‘House Spider’ living in the UK and although largely disliked by most of us, they are actually much more friend than foe, as they help control the number of real pests such as house flies. The five species are:
- Tegeneria domestica (Common House Spider), body size up to 10mm
- Tegenaria atrica body size up to 18mm
- Tegeneria gigantea (Cobweb Spider), body size up to 18mm
- Tegeneria parietina (Cardinal Spider), body size up to 20mm
- Tegeneria saeva, body size up to 18mm
Tegenaria domestica is the smallest of the five and is found throughout Britain. Although virtually reliant on people’s houses, this species can also be found in cave entrances and inside hollow trees. Like the other Tegenaria species, they spin a sheet web that leads to a tubular retreat which is normally in a corner of a room or behind a piece of furniture. Strands of silk extend beyond the main platform of the web forming a tangle of lines. Females hang their off-white egg sacs from ledges using a few strands of silk.
Tegenaria gigantean produces a quite small web and occurs in houses and out-buildings as well as outside. This species is more commonly found in southern England where it can be found in crevices, under stones and logs, and holes in banks.
Tegenaria saeva is the northern and western British equivalent of Tegenaria gigantea and can be found in similar circumstances.
Tegenaria parietina gets its common name ‘Cardinal Spider’ from the story that the spiders living in Hampton Court used to terrify Cardinal Wolseley. This species has longer and more hairy legs than T. atrica, which it matches in size. The sheet web is larger than that of T. atrica and they occur in the south of England, being absent from some counties. Because of their size, some consider T. parientina to be the most frightening night prowler.
Tegenaria species very rarely bite and if they do it is painless. What gives them a bad reputation is their size, speed and nocturnal habits. Females can live for several years, but males, who live for a few weeks with the female, die after mating and are sometimes consumed by the female. Like all spiders living in houses they can withstand the very dry conditions and survive for months without sustenance.
Male spiders are usually seen more often than females, as they wander widely in search of a mate. After a male has found a female’s web he will stay with her for a number of weeks, mating with her repeatedly during this time. He then dies and the female eats him; the nutrients within the male contribute to the development of his young.
The word ‘spider’ derives from the Old English word ‘spithra’, which means ‘spinner’. Spider webs have been used to heal wounds and staunch blood flow for many years.
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