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Common name: Spider

Scientific name: Class Arachnida, Order Araneae, many families

Size: Varies

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.

Most spiders are beneficial. They eat insects and help to control many pests. Only two spiders in the US are poisonous to most people – black widow and brown recluse. Brown recluse spider venom has no antidote, but get to a doctor quickly if you’re bitten by either of them. Problem spiders can be controlled with garlic/pepper tea, or citrus sprays but it is better to knock the webs and nests down with a broom or vacuum them. Citronella sprays such as Skeeter D’Feeter also work well.

A product that will prevent spiders and wasps from locating their webs and nests in unwanted locations is Dr. T's Cobb Web Eliminator.

The ingredients are:

Capsaicin (hot pepper)
Corriander oil
Anise oil

We have had reports from Ground Crew members that this is a very effective product.

The toxic sprays labeled for use against spiders are far more dangerous to humans, especially children than the spiders.

Q:  I have killed almost a hundred Wolf Spiders in our house and garage; I have killed a few African Jumping spiders in my house, and had a Brown Recluse alive in our bath room. But now I am concerned, because tonight I had a female Black Widow in the middle of her web under my back patio door.  When I spray the spider with Spider Shot spray it does nothing, but wasp spray does kill them after I drench them. I am getting really concerned, because I have a three week old baby and a house full of spiders. What can I do to rid our house of the pests? I know they are suppose to be good for insect control, but considering a Black Widow has venom 15 times as potent as a Rattle Snake, I prefer not to have these spiders in or around my house. Insecticide is just not doing the trick.  J.R., McKinney.

A:  The sprays you are using are far more dangerous to your child than the spiders. Although most of the spiders are non- poisonous, the orange oil sprays will kill them. Stomping on the individual ones works well. There's also good information in the Texas Bug Book. Wolf spiders and jumping spiders for example are non-aggressive, safe and very beneficial in helping to control pests.




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