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Scientific Name: Araneae
Physical Attributes: Two-part segmented body with eight legs and two fangs
Adult Size: Body length of .37 mm – 90 mm
Habitat: All except oceans
Lifespan: 2-25 years
Found In: All U.S. states
Spiders have been around for a very long time. The oldest preserved fossil of a spider was from approximately 130 million years ago. The oldest known arachnid (eight-legged invertebrates, including spiders, ticks, and scorpions) is from over 420 million years ago, and the first silk-producing arachnid, classified as a spider, was from about 380 million years ago. Suffice to say that spiders have been an important part of our ecosystem for quite some time, and they have changed relatively little throughout the years.
Unlike many household pests, spiders tend to be solitary creatures. All but one known species of spider are carnivores, feeding on insects (and, in the case of larger species such as tarantulas, birds, snakes, and small mammals). Spiders capture their prey in an astounding variety of ways. Many spiders build webs in the air between trees or other areas where flying insects are likely to venture, though many spiders also build funnel webs across the ground in the hopes of capturing other insects. Still other spiders (such as the common wolf spider) hunt and chase down their prey.
Spiders tend to avoid contact with humans if at all possible. Many people panic at the sight of a spider and don’t stop to think that the spider does as well. It’s the equivalent of you coming into contact with a 1,300 foot tall alien.
In homes, spiders prefer dark places where there is little human or pet traffic, so closets, attics, basements, sheds, and garages are their favorite places to live. Many people live in fear of spider bites, due partially to over-exaggerated claims of the threat posed by many species in popular media.
While some spiders are, in fact, venomous, the threat they pose is far outweighed by the benefits that spiders provide in the environment.
Though a household pest, spiders perform an important, and often underappreciated, function in nature. Spiders are our natural exterminators, feeding on many other species of insect which we classify as pests, such as termites, cockroaches, ants, bees, wasps, etc. In fact, some spider venom has been successfully used as an alternative to synthetic-chemical pesticides
Complete control of spiders in your home is not only difficult, but not recommended, due to the benefits they carry. However, some species of spider are dangerous, and can infest homes. Widow spiders and Recluse spiders in particular are venomous, and an infestation can be treated by pest control experts using a variety of pesticides. Many spiders are resistant to pesticide treatment, but a trained professional will have options that will work for whatever species is plaguing your home.
The following types of spiders are the primary venomous spiders located in North America: