There’s a saying among arachnologists that you’re never more than five feet from a spider. That’s especially true here in British Columbia, where there are nearly 900 documented species of spiders.
At this time of year, you’re likely to find some walking across your living room or in your bathtub. They might have slipped in through the crack under your door, or hitched a ride when you walked through a web in the garden.
But don’t worry, they are quite harmless and only there by accident. It’s mating season in the spider world and males are wandering around looking for females. They come into the house, by accident.
The most common spider you’ll find are the garden cross orbweaver spider (Araneus diadematus) and the giant house spider (Eratigena atrica), which are commonly but incorrectly referred to as wolf spiders. Another is the hobo spider (Eratigena agrestis).
All are introduced species and harmless to people. Their lifespans are only a year. When the mating is done, the female lays her eggs in silken pods and hides them away for spring hatching. She dies, and sometimes eats the male before she goes.
Arachnologists say while some spiders will bite, the only one British Columbians have to worry about is the Western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus), which has a pea-sized, polished black abdomen with hourglass-shaped red marking. Its bite and small dose of venom can cause abdominal cramps and swelling, but nothing more. This spider rarely leaves its hiding place and lives for two or three years. It likes mossy outcroppings in gardens and rocky slopes.
Perhaps the creepiest spider in BC — the Pacific folding-door spider (Antrodiaetus pacificus), a distant relative of tarantulas can live up to 20 years. They lay trap webs outside their holes and wait for prey to be caught, then pull it in for dinner. The females never leave their burrows and the males wander the forests.
BC has 893 distinct species — a large number considering there are 1,600 documented species in all of Canada. Our diversity of habitats — mountain ranges, valleys, prairie, deserts and coastal forests — allow spiders to flourish here.
People often blame spiders for bites when the culprits are actually bed bugs, lice, fleas, ticks and other insects. But make no mistake. Spiders are useful to humans. They take care of a lot of insects that carry diseases for humans and cause crop damage.
A lot of people still have the knee-jerk reaction to kill a spider when seen; but, we should just let them live and go about their business.