It’s the season of the Northwest spider.
Actually, they’re around all year, but it’s late summer/early fall when the itsy bitsys give people the creepy crawlies by making themselves known. And there’s a good reason for that.
“We are looking at spiders that have attained maturity — a lot of the males are out looking for mates,” said Entomologist Arolo Pelegrin. “If you’ve ever been around teenage boys trying to get a girl’s attention, they will engage in near suicidal behavior. It’s easy to observe boys of a lot of species taking big risks to get attention, find a partner.”
That’s why the spiders, which usually remain hidden in corners away from people, are wandering in places they can be seen. They’re looking for love, but in all the wrong places.
“The males are basically like a group of guys on a pub crawl stopping at different bars to see if there are any girls in there,” Pelegrin said. “That’s kind of what these spiders are doing, walking around houses, looking in cracks and crevices. The females stay pretty stationary. That usually means walking across kitchen floors or appearing in the middle of the floor while you’re watching TV.”
Pelegrin said that when it comes to a Northwest spider, it’s always spider season. It’s moist throughout the region, and there are a lot of plants, which means a lot of insects or spider food.
“The Seattle area is rich in spiders,” he said. “They are just starting to get big now.”
Big — like the giant house spider. That’s what many people are seeing around their homes around this time — a brownish spider that is about as big as a person’s palm. Its long legs give it the giant appearance, though its body is relatively small.
Then there’s the trapdoor spider, the other common variety around the end of summer. It’s smaller and darker than the giant house spider.
“As we move in to September and October, the orb spiders will become more apparent,” Pelegrin said. “They make those traditional, flat, wheel-shaped spider webs.”
The main message Pelegrin wants people to hear is that despite the urge to jump at the sight of spiders, they really aren’t much of a threat.
“I know it’s a difficult thing to tell people who are freaking out about spiders, but take it with a grain of salt,” he said. “Typically, spider invasions don’t last more than a couple of weeks. They aren’t going to be around too long. Their mating season will end when it cools off.”
“They are afraid of us,” Pelegrin said. “Spiders are not well-defended the way ants and beetles are. They tend to stay secretive.”
Northwest spider remedies
There are a few things you can do around the home to keep spiders away.
The first thing is keeping a clean home. Spiders come into a home because there are bugs to eat. Bugs are attracted to trash, crumbs, etc. So staying tidy stops them from coming indoors.
Pelegrin is not in favor of chemical methods.
“Exterminators will guarantee that the spiders won’t come in for a while after their application, so there are heavy-duty chemicals you can lay down that the spiders won’t cross,” he said. “But then you have chemicals in your yard, or in your house.”
Instead, he recommends oil — peppermint, tea tree or neem. To people, they smell fresh and pleasant. To spiders, the smell of peppermint, for example, is overwhelming and generally deters them.
The idea is to spread the oil around the home. There are many methods — from sprays to soaking cotton balls with the oil and placing them in dark corners or cracks.