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Invasion of monster spiders

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Spider in the bath

Spider in the bath

Alistair Scott

Spider in the bath

Every year, like seasonal clockwork, the sight of eight-legged lodgers scuttling across the floor causes panic in homes and strikes fear in those with a arachnophobia.

It’s always at this time of year that householders spot frighteningly large house spiders in increasing numbers — mainly because it’s mating season and males are on the search for females.

It’s thought there are around 400 spider species in Northern Ireland, all harmless.

Emeritus Professor of Terrestrial Ecology at the University of Ulster, Keith Day, told the Belfast Telegraph the species people are noticing at the moment are the larger ones, probably Tegenaria — the giant house spider.

“They are a very large spider with a leg span of several centimetres and a body size of a fingernail,” he said.

“They can move fairly quickly and scuttle off when disturbed.”

Professor Day said spiders are now looking for a place to live over winter.

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“They don’t seek warm, dry houses,” he added. “What they are really looking for are outhouses and cellars, because they like dark, damp, cool places, but they will come into houses too.” Professor of Animal Behaviour at Queen’s University, Bob Elwood, said Tegenaria can cause alarm when it gets into houses and bathtubs.

“They are the ones that tend to cause people to run squealing out of rooms,” he said.

“In my household, it’s when I am called.

“People noticing them at this time of year has a lot to do with mating. Males are moving around seeking females at the moment.”

Steven Falk, an entomologist at Buglife, which aims to conserve “the small things that run the world”, has a phobia of spiders.

“I am trying to learn to love them,” he said.

“If you can’t leave them be, we would advise people to try and remove spiders from homes humanely.”

Factfile

Common spiders in Northern Ireland:

  • Tegenaria is a funnel web spider. You can see the webs in the bases of walls and outhouses.
  • Araneus diadematus is known as the common or garden spider. It is large and variable in colour.
  • Zygiella x-notata builds an orb-web and is yellow-brown in colour.

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