Spiders growing in size all summer and now they're moving into our homes
Summer's over, the kids are going back to school and gigantic spiders are creeping into warm homes across Northern Ireland.
Pictures of huge spiders are proliferating on Twitter as the creatures go on their annual prowl in our living rooms and bathrooms.
The arachnids have been quietly growing in size in our garages and sheds all summer and now they're on the move.
Claire Laverty from Belfast described her shock encounter with one of the enormous critters in her bathroom this week.
"I pulled back the shower curtain and to my absolute horror there was a monster spider lurking there. I'm not someone who is worried about killing spiders so I flushed it down the plughole because I don't like them," she said.
Meanwhile, Joanne Thompson, from east Belfast, said they hide in the overhang of the steps on the staircase.
"Last year we were probably getting five or six every other day. They are just horrific," she said. "They hide under the step on the stairs or you are lying in bed and you look up and they are there. I've seen two this year but they look as big if not bigger than last year.
"My 23-year-old nephew was staying with us in the guest room and he roared when he saw one of them scuttling across the floor. He wouldn't even sleep in the room – he had to spend the night on the sofa."
But scientists at Queen's University say it's all perfectly normal and there is no reason to fear these monster spiders – they are simply lovelorn, overgrown males in search of a mate.
Dr Neil Reid, manager of the Quercus centre, which researches wildlife, said: "At this time of year, you're getting a lot of domestic house spiders or their close relatives, giant house spiders.
"The really big leggy spiders are the males and at this time of year they will wander round looking for females.
"They pose no threat to humans and probably don't bite. And if they did bite, it would be inconsequential.
"The males have been growing and have reached their largest at this point in the year.
"After they mate they will die and the females will lay their eggs in a corner and these will probably hatch next spring.
"The females are unlikely to lay their eggs in the house as they don't thrive in our warm, centrally heated conditions. They prefer to find a cool, quiet corner, like a garden shed or behind bits of wood in the garden."
None of the native species of spider can deliver a harmful bite to a human, apart from perhaps the rarely seen woodlouse spider. "These can give people a nip, but it is just a nip, and it would be fairly unusual," Dr Reid said.