common name: Spider
scientific name: Class Arachnida, Order Araneae, many families
identification: Spiders are not insects; they have no antennae, eight segmented legs instead of six, as insects do. Many construct webs for capturing prey. Jumping spiders of the family Salticidae are colorful and leap to capture prey on the leaves. Wolf spiders of the family Lycosidae run rapidly on the ground to catch prey at the base of plants. Garden spiders or orb-weavers of the family Araneidae string vertical webs to trap flying insects. Funnel-web spiders of the family Agelinidae create funnel webs and trap leafhoppers primarily. Crab spiders like flowers where they blend in with the colorful petals waiting to ambush their next meal.
biology and life cycle: Males are often smaller than females. Not all spiders spin webs. Some live in tunnels. Most spiders lay eggs in silken sacs, which may be attached to the web or to twigs or leaves. Some carry the sac with them. Young are called spiderlings, look like adults, and are often cannibals.
habitat: Different spiders live in many different plants and habitats--beehives, wood scraps, fencerows, vegetable crops, and ornamental plantings.
feeding habits: Paralyze with venom and feed on insects and other small animals.
economic importance: Spiders are highly beneficial because they feed on many troublesome insects. Black widows and brown recluses are the only poisonous spiders, and they are very dangerous ones.
natural control: Mud daubers and other wasps. See Mud Dauber.
organic control: If a problem, knock the webs down with a broom. If they have to be killed, use soapy water or citrus. Vacuum thoroughly and often. Eliminate other insects--the spiders' food source. All but the black widows and brown recluses are totally beneficial.
insight: You'll probably never see a brown recluse because they're reclusive. They live in dark places and move about at night. The female black widow is easy to identify by the red hourglass on her abdomen. Beware of her venomous sting. It is very powerful and can cause illness or even death. The much smaller male isn't much trouble; in fact the female eats him alive after mating. Spiders are a great help in controlling moths whose larvae feed on apples, pecans, and other orchard crops. They also eat aphids in fruit trees and ornamental plants. See also Black Widow Spider, Brown Recluse Spider, Tarantula. See appendix for bites.