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Fearful looks aside, spiders can be lovable

Many homes are being purposefully adorned with abnormally large, scary black spiders and their webs to hinge on the fact that a large percentage of the population may suffer from the fear of spiders, known as arachnophobia.

In contrast to most of America, I suffer from arachnophilia, a love of spiders. This is due to my background in encouraging beneficial insects to help lower the populations of unwanted pests in the garden. While scouting the garden, I am pleased to see the large orb-shaped web of the black and yellow garden spider in the fall or a wolf spider with her many babies she carries on her back in the spring.

As the seasons change, large matured females build webs that have zig-zag patterns in them. Earlier in the year, young immature garden spiders build smaller webs in low vegetation. As they grow, their webs get bigger and are placed higher and higher in the landscape. The web is usually eaten and rebuilt every day and catches anything that will fly or jump into it, becoming a natural source of insect control. Garden spiders are not aggressive spiders but may bite if handled. The bite is comparable to a bee sting.

While her eyesight is poor, she is very sensitive to vibrations caused by prey entangling themselves in her web. She injects the prey with paralyzing venom and covers it with silk to save it for later consumption. I have personally seen a garden spider take down a praying mantis. Creepily, she will rapidly shake the web to make herself appear bigger in order to ward off predators.

Wolf spiders spend most of their time outdoors hunting ground insects at night. Wolf spiders are active hunters that patrol the ground for insects and small spiders. While patrolling, they spot their victim, give chase, capture, and inject it with paralyzing venom. Soon the victim's dissolved tissues are sucked out.

Their activity can be threatening but really they want to be left alone. In addition, there is no need to worry about infestations because the female spider will carry her egg sacs on her belly until they hatch and then carry the little spiderlings on her back until they are ready to fend on their own. Spookily, their eyes also have a layer of light-reflecting crystals, causing them to shine brightly in a beam of light.


black and yellow garden spider photo ( Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities Extension)

wolf spider (Alex Wild)