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Spider season is upon us...

Posted: Thursday 24th September 2015 by Community

Heralding the approach of winter, the cool dewy mornings and horizon skirting sunshine reveals a seeming influx of spiders in our gardens. And as spiders begin to creep into our houses at night, the season of the spider has begun...

Old superstitions don’t always give spiders good press: some state that the arrival of a large, dark spider is a sure sign of death and, while some cultures believe it’s lucky to see an arachnid climb down its thread, certain misfortune will be afoot if it actually reaches the floor.

Rather than feeling afraid of spiders, however, many people might actually feel sorry for them if they realised that those most commonly seen in the home, such as Tegenaria domestica or Tegenaria duellica, are actually lovesick males in search of mates.

Living solitary lives throughout most of the year, in autumn the males leave their funnel like retreats in wood piles, sheds and garages to go in search of the love of their lives. Their searching will often lead them indoors, into bathrooms and under sofas to where the females have been quietly hiding, unknown to us, all year long.

The female of the species is more deadlier than the male!

Unlike in most mammals, the female spider is bigger than the male so the dating game can be a dangerous enterprise. Although it’s difficult to tell the different house spider species apart unless you have a microscope or a hand lens, it’s easy to tell if they are male or female by taking a closer look.

The males have a long thin pair of ‘boxing gloves’ (palps) protruding from the front of their heads which are swollen at the ends. Once the males have found their Juliets, they perform a courtship dance on the web to ensure that the females don’t mistake them for food.

This courtship dance lulls the female into relaxing allowing the male to approach and mate. The male will then stay with them for several weeks chasing off rival males as the female doesn’t fertilise her eggs until the following year.

The males won’t survive the winter however, after defending the female from other males, and in one last attempt to ensure the survival of their offspring he will sacrifice himself to the female, providing her with a good meal to see her through the winter.

All very 'romantic'... 

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