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House Spiders: Facts, Identification And Control

9-Minute ReadMay 27, 2020

It’s a fact many of us prefer not to think about: No matter where you live, there’s probably at least a few creepy, crawly creatures lurking within your abode.

While it’s curious that something so small could elicit such visceral, terrified reactions from such an advanced species as modern humans, the fear of spiders is very real for a lot of people.

However, spiders play a vital role in our ecosystem, and because there’s so many of them, it’s inevitable that you’ll find one around the house from time to time.

Because we so often fear that which we do not understand, here are some basic facts to know about some of the types of spiders you’re most likely to encounter, as well as some things you can do if the arachnid presence in your home becomes a bit too overwhelming.

What Is A House Spider?

Like a houseplant but less welcome, a house spider can be one of the many species of arachnid (of the taxonomic order Araneae) found in North America that commonly seek refuge in our basements, garages, attics and, occasionally, our living spaces.

Spiders are a diverse group of arachnids, though there are some you’re more likely to come into contact with than others, depending on where you live. While some have lifespans of just 1 – 2 years (or less), other species, such as the barn funnel weaver spider, can live up to 7 years. (There are people who haven’t lived with their human roommates for that long!)

Though you’ll sometimes find one hanging out on the wall or ceiling of your living room or – eek! – your bedroom, spiders tend to be pretty shy, and prefer hiding out in the darker, more isolated parts of your home, away from humans and any other animals that they don’t prey on for food (like mosquitos and other insects).

What Attracts House Spiders To Homes?

Why do spiders like living in homes so much? Probably some of the same reasons that you prefer to live in a home rather than out in a field or forest: shelter. Most animals prefer to spend at least some of their time in a sheltered environment, where they can rest and get refuge from the elements. Spiders are no different in this respect.

Additionally, spiders like to go wherever they’re most likely to get their next meal. Things like trash, food, dirty dishes or excess moisture or humidity attract insects, turning your home into a delicious, all-you-can-eat buffet for any nearby spiders.

What Do House Spiders Look Like?

There are a few key features that unite all species of spider: eight legs, a body divided into two parts (a “head” and an abdomen) and multiple sets of eyes. Beyond that, spiders vary quite a bit.

Spiders can range from less than an inch in size to up to a foot, though North American house spiders are typically on the low end of this spectrum (the largest species of spider, the Goliath birdeater, is found in the rainforests of South America). Female spiders tend to be larger than their male counterparts.

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The 10 Most Common House Spiders

There is a wide variety of spiders you’re likely to come across in your daily life, all with different appearances, characteristics and even risk factors.

However, the likelihood of a house spider presenting a health hazard to the residents of your home is very small. Worldwide, there are only a few species that come close to being considered lethal to humans. While certain spiders’ venom has the potential to cause death in humans, it happens very rarely, especially with medical intervention and the administration of antivenom.

That’s not to say that you should go around encouraging spiders to bite you – there are a couple spiders common in the U.S. whose bites can cause painful or serious side effects. But many of our fears when it comes to venomous spiders are unfounded.

Here are the types of spiders you’re most likely to encounter in your home.

Common House Spider

Common house spider

This spider, sometimes known as the American house spider, is found throughout the U.S. As the name suggests, these guys love setting up camp in man-made structures including sheds, barns and often, your home.

If you have an abundance of cobwebs in the more secluded areas of your home, the common house spider may be the culprit. These spiders are known for their quintessential tangle webs and classic “spider” look with their distinct, bulbous abdomens.

To know if you’re looking at a common house spider, look for shades of brown coloring, from very light, almost yellow brown to spots of dark, almost black brown. The legs are brown with darker rings of color.

These spiders are small and nonthreatening. They’ll only bite in self-defense, and their bites typically don’t pose much of a threat to humans beyond a bit of localized pain.

Barn Funnel Weaver

Barn funnel weaver spider.

This guy is known as the domestic house spider, though you typically won’t find him partaking in such tasks as cooking meals and taking care of household chores. Rather, Tenegaria domestica (its scientific name) prefers to hang out in dark, moist places, such as your basement.

Brown, hairy and up to an inch in size, barn funnel weaver spiders are members of the family of spiders that creates funnel webs, which are distinguished by their horizontal construction with a funnel-like tube coming out of the bottom.

While bites from most spiders are rare, bites from a barn funnel weaver may be rarer still. When they do, bites are said to be both painless and harmless.

Grass Spider

Grass spider

Another member of the funnel weaver family, grass spiders typically like to hang outside, hidden among their namesake plant, but they will occasionally wander inside, especially as temperatures begin to drop.

You can spot a grass spider by its brown body with tan stripes down the length of the body. They’re fast-moving, though they’ll almost always be heading in the opposite direction of wherever you’re standing, as they’re quite shy.

If one of these guys bites you, you may experience mild symptoms akin to a bug bite: some swelling, redness and itching.

Hobo Spider

Hobo spider.

The hobo spider is another funnel weaver family member that is most commonly found in the Northwestern U.S. Their bodies are tan-colored and typically about a half-inch in size, with tan legs that are solid in color. These spiders prefer moist, dark areas.

Depending on who you talk to, you may have heard that hobo spider bites are a danger to humans. While the venom produced by these spiders had previously been though to be toxic to humans, this has been disproven.

Daddy Longlegs

Harvestman spider

Have you heard the popular tale that daddy longleg spiders have the most dangerous venom in the world, but their fangs can’t penetrate human skin? This is one of those rare urban legends that gets every piece of its information wrong; not only is it not true, but daddy long legs aren’t even spiders!

Well, sort of. “Daddy longleg” refers to two different animals. One of these is the harvestmen, which are characterized by their pill-shaped bodies and long, thin legs. For many, these creatures are what we picture when we think of daddy longlegs. While harvestmen are indeed arachnids, they aren’t spiders.

Cellar spider

The other daddy longleg is the cellar spider, which is actually a spider, but also doesn’t present a danger to humans. These spiders, like the harvestmen, have long legs relative to their body size, in addition to the vital characteristics that make it a spider, including two body segments.

True to their name, cellar spiders can often be found in basements, cellars and crawl spaces. Cellar spiders rarely bite humans, and their bites are thought to be medically insignificant.

Black Widow

Black widow spider

The notorious black widow is one of the most-feared spiders in the U.S., and rightly so; their venom contains neurotoxins strong enough to cause severe side effects even in healthy, adult humans.

These spiders are fairly easy to spot – just look out for the shiny black coloring with the telltale bright red hourglass-shaped spot on the underside of the abdomen. Fortunately, black widows like to keep to themselves, hiding out among rocks and woodpiles. If they find themselves indoors, they’ll often seek shelter in secluded or cluttered areas.

Black widows will only bite if they feel threatened, so if you’re in an area where you believe black widows are likely to be present, watch where you sit or step. Though bites are very rarely fatal, those who have been bitten may still need to seek medical treatment to alleviate the symptoms associated with a black widow bite. Young children, elderly individuals and those with weakened immune systems may be more at risk for serious complications.

You may or may not notice the initial bite. If you do, wash the area with soap and water. Within a few hours, you may begin to feel severe pain or muscle cramps. You may also experience difficulty breathing or severe abdominal pain.

If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a black widow spider, you should immediately call your doctor or Poison Control.

Brown Recluse

Brown recluse spider

Another commonlymfeared spider, the brown recluse is brown or tan in color with a distinct violin-shaped marking on the head. It is commonly found in the southern and midwestern U.S. These spiders are about the size of a quarter with legs extended.

Like many spiders, brown recluses prefer to inhabit areas where they’ll be mostly undisturbed by humans. Bites can happen when the brown recluse hides in an item that a person attempts to use, pinning the spider against the skin and causing it to bite. If you live in an area where brown recluses are common, remember to shake out your shoes before you put them on.

Brown recluse bites are no joke. Though you may not notice the bite until hours after it occurred, the effects can be long-lasting. Bites from brown recluses are very rarely fatal, and serious side effects are often limited to the site of the initial bite. Bites can cause serious, deep sores and death of skin tissue that, in extreme cases, may need to be repaired with skin grafts.

If you believe you’ve been bit by a brown recluse, call your doctor or Poison Control.

Wolf Spider

Wolf spider.

Wolf spiders are a diverse bunch; they can range from a quarter inch to an inch and a half in size. They’re hairy and fast-moving with black, gray and brown coloring.

Wolf spiders are commonly found inside homes during the colder months as they seek shelter from low temperatures.

Wolf spiders aren’t a danger to humans. They tend not to bite, and when they do, side effects are typically minimal.

Yellow Sac Spider

Yellow sac spider

These small spiders are distinguished by their pale yellow coloring. They like to hide under objects or in corners, and are commonly found in gardens.

Of all the spiders on this list, yellow sacs may be the most likely to bite humans. Though bites from yellow sac spiders can be painful, they are usually not cause for concern.

Jumping Spider

Jumping spider.

The mere fact that there’s a spider so known for its jumping abilities that it was given the name “jumping spider” may be enough to terrify some of our more arachnophobic friends, but try not to freak out too much. Jumping is how these spiders catch their prey, and since humans are not in that category, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Jumping spiders are small, black and hairy. The outdoors is their preferred environment, though they can occasionally be found indoors, preying on the insects in your home.

Bites from jumping spiders are typically mild and aren’t considered dangerous to humans.

Tips For Household Spider Removal And Control

Because spiders are almost always harmless and completely removing all of them from your home is a nearly impossible task, many experts say that the occasional spider is nothing to be concerned about. If you come across a spider that you’d rather be rid of, it’s better to capture it and let it loose outdoors.

However, if you find that you have a significant spider problem, there are some things you can try to mitigate the number of spiders that are currently in your home and prevent more spiders from coming in.

Look out for points of entry where spiders or other creatures could be sneaking into your home. Seal cracks and holes in your home’s exterior and ensure that screens on doors and windows are tight-fitting and unbroken. Clean your gutters regularly to prevent the creation of a breeding ground. 

Reduce clutter, as clutter provides an ideal spot for spiders to hide. Remove any webs you find in your home. Take care of insect infestations in your home, as they encourage spiders to come inside to hunt for food. Also, be sure to inspect any furniture thoroughly before bringing it into your home.

If you have a serious infestation, you may want to consider contacting a licensed pest control professional, as they’ll be better equipped to deal with your problem.

The Bottom Line

Spiders can produce a lot of negative emotions in homeowners, but try to remember that spiders are common both indoors and out, and sharing your home with a few is inevitable.

For more homeowner tips, check out the Rocket HomesSM blog.

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