Northern Ireland

The eight-legged monsters lurking in our homes

House spider
Image caption A common place to find them is in the bath

I got the fright of my life last week.

I was in bed reading when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of black on my carpet.

And then I saw it - my eight-legged uninvited guest.

Not the usual 'I have no problem dealing with you kind', but one that was going to take nerves of steel to dispose of.

It was too large for me to leave on the loose overnight so I grabbed an empty shoe box to temporarily contain it.

As I approached it and lowered the shoe box, it ran and jumped - I screamed.

It took refuge under my handbag. After composing myself I lifted the bag and lowered the box and suddenly felt a whole lot better.

Two days later another one this time in my bath.

Was this personal?

It seems not. When I mentioned to family and friends I found out many also had their own spider tales to tell.

Entomologist Paul Moore, has studied all types of insects during his 40 year career at the Department of Agriculture and the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

He said this is the time of year when spiders leave their usual habitats - garages and greenhouses.

"These are common house spiders and they're coming in now for a bit of shelter, primarily to mate," he said.


"The ones you are seeing are the big females. After they mate they will lay their eggs next spring time.

"They need a dark, cool place to live in over the winter to hibernate, so you may see them walking through your kitchen or your living room where it is warm, but they are on their way looking for somewhere nice and cool like a box room, under the stairs or an outhouse."

While their size and agility - house spiders can jump - may frighten many of us - Mr Moore said they are "completely harmless".

"They're just passing through but unfortunately they do scare people because of the size of them," he said.

"It's their fastness. They come from nowhere, one minute there's nothing and the next thing they're scurrying across the floorboards and you actually hear them tapping away on laminate flooring."

After lifting my shoe box I used a magazine to steer the spider into the box and covered it with a shaky hand before bringing my unwanted guest outside.

"It is better to get them on walls, get a clear glass, slip it over them and then put a piece of cardboard as a lid to trap them," Mr Moore advised.

He said it is not the spiders who come to visit in our homes that should give us cause for concern or caution.

"We're buying stuff from all around the world and we expect it all to be spider free but that's not the case," he said.

Potentially dangerous

"We do import a lot of fruit from other countries now, bananas being one of the main imported fruit, and you'll get banana spiders, which are fairly harmless.

"There are also wandering spiders from south America which are potentially dangerous.

"We also get black widow spiders on grapes from Spain and California, so I always advise people to wash grapes in cold water to flush them out.

"I have literally had people feeding grapes to youngsters and the spider has dropped out of the bunch as they're feeding them."

And it is not just on fruit that the eight-legged arachnids have been discovered in Northern Ireland.

"I've found black widows on mining parts from Texas, and we've had them inside vintage cars and pottery from Australia," he added.

Suddenly I felt a whole lot less scared about the common house spider.