Spiders in West Island – Some love them, most fear them. People in Montreal and especially the West Island, have been encountering an unusual number of spiders this season, a lot of them larger than they’ve ever seen. The weather created the perfect conditions for the little Arachnids to flourish and food was in abundance, so more of their offspring survived. And now with the season changing and it getting cooler, they’re looking for their winter abodes… insides our homes.
Humans might be hundreds of times bigger than the eight legged, air-breathing arthropods, but face-to-face, the spider morphs into something much larger for the fearful, especially when they come inside. They suddenly appear big enough to make the toughest of the tough run screaming for their lives – and in some cases, the best of warriors to don armor, baseball bats and shovels (with flame throwers at the ready) in the battle against the itsy-bitsy menace.
As for those who love them, they either leave them tend to their webs in peace or take the utmost care to carefully remove them from the house and set them free outdoors. Those noble people become the heroes I call upon when in need of valiant action – action to rid my humble abode of a spider taking up a corner on my living room ceiling. It may only be the size of a dime, but it can’t fool me. I know from the look in its eight eyes that it’s clearly a direct descendant of Shelob from Tolkien’s Middle Earth. And bordering on arachnophobia, a Buddhist monk I am not.
As the lyrics to a popular nursey rhyme goes; “The itsy bitsy spider, Climbed up the waterspout / Down came the rain, And washed the spider out / Out came the sun And dried up all the rain… And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again”. In other words, the spider just keeps coming back!
There has certainly been enough arachnids around the island this summer, quite worthy of the cry ‘SPIDER!’ – but do we really need to fear them? Well, here’s a few examples of what people have reported seeing this summer:
WOLF SPIDER: They are native to Canada and actually quite harmless to humans. Most wolf spiders only bite if they feel threatened and their bites only produce a mild redness or swelling. Their ‘wolf’ name comes from the fact they do not use their webs to catch food and instead chase and catch their prey on the ground, like a wolf does.
ORB WEAVER: Also known as the Cross Orb weaver and other names. They are non-aggressive and rarely bite – but if they do, their venom is of low risk to humans. Still, they can grow well over an inch in size (just the body) so you don’t want one crawling over you.
Other spiders that seem to be creeping around more this season include:
LONG-LEGGED SAC SPIDER – They are mostly found indoors and come out typically at night, crawling on ceilings and walls – and are actually native to southern Europe, but slowly made their way to North America. They do bite and it could be painful like a bee sting, but their venom is non-lethal.
ZEBRA JUMPER – You’ve seen them on rocks, window sills, cement or brick walls and around the exterior of buildings. They seem to blend into cement, but are easily identifiable by their zebra-like color pattern. When trying to catch one you have to be quick, as they have the ability to rapidly jump away. Their bite is also very low risk to humans.
GRASS SPIDER – Mostly found outdoors they build their webs in grass, often around shrubs, steps and foundations. Their webs have a funnel spun into them, which they use for a quick retreat inside. They do bite when threatened, but their venom is also of low risk.
On the other hand – although spiders bring out the fear in many people, they are actually very important to our ecosystem. As predators, they help control insect populations both outside and inside, including the diseases carried by mosquitoes. For gardeners and farmers, they keep unwanted insects under control. They are also food for other predators. Scientists are even studying their venom for use in medicine – and spider silk is so strong it is being used in engineering. The benefits are clear and you might want to think twice before you squish the next arachnid into oblivion. I promise… to at least try.
Do you have a fear of spiders? Or are you spider-friendly and go to any lengths to keep them alive and spinning their webs?