Spiders' autumn invasion

Forget Big Brother and welcome a whole host of housemates into your home - spider season is officially here. And as the Guardian newspaper proudly announced earlier this week 'owing to a dismal summer, the 2011 domestic spider season promises to be the best yet' Great news!

Actually, I'm not in the least bit arachnophobic - never understood the problem with them, especially after watching Charlotte's Web with the children - but obviously there will be plenty of people quaking in fear at the thought of an invasion of eight-legged invertebrates climbing into all their nooks and crannies.

I went to brush my teeth the other night and was greeted by the sight of two enormous spiders in the bath; properly huge, complete with hairy legs and winsome smiles. There's a great website to help identify British spiders at www.uksafari.com and having looked at the photos, I think what I saw were Cardinal spiders - named after Cardinal Wolsey who was allegedly terrified of them. Also, contrary to popular belief, spiders don't climb up the plughole, they end up in the bath after falling from above and then can't escape because of the enamel surface.

The reason there are so many spiders around is because a) September is the start of their mating season, (so they're actually looking for love) and b) experts are saying that a warm spring and dreary summer has meant greater numbers this year. There are 640 species of spider in the UK and according to the Natural History Museum, 12 British breeds are capable of biting humans, although only one - the False Widow Spider - can actually do any harm to us. The museum also sensibly points out that no-one has ever died of a spider bite in the UK.

So what's the point of spiders, arachnophobes may ask. Well, they're actually very important to the ecosystem and when they come into our homes looking for shelter this month, will helpfully eat lots of other creepy crawlies during their stay. And as for how to dispose of them - there's a multitude of advice and opinions on this subject - I went for the 'grab in a piece of kitchen roll and fling out of the window' approach with my spiders in the bath, but it seems that a covered glass is the method of choice for showing spiders the door.

So next time you see a spider looking for a quiet corner to call his or her own in your home - maybe it's not such a bad idea to consider taking on a temporary lodger.


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