There is an old English rhyme that relates the superstitious belief that killing a spider brings bad luck. The modern homeowner, however, does not have that belief and often desires a home free of spiders.
The “urban” spider lives in cities and towns, associating themselves with man’s homes and buildings. Most of these urban spiders are outdoor dwellers and prefer to stay outdoors, however because of the excessive heat, cold and dry weather many are entering homes and buildings.
All spiders are predators and feed on living prey. Their primary prey is insects and sometimes even other spiders. Spiders are generally beneficial because their feeding help keeps the insect population in check. Often gluttonous eaters, spiders liquefy their food before eating by injecting digestive fluids into the paralyzed insect and sucking it dry, leaving only the exoskeleton.
Spiders exhibit an astounding array of colors, size and shapes. They range in size from the tiny dwarf spider that is only 1/20-inch in size to the giant Chilean bird-eating tarantula (not found in North America) that may have a leg span the size of a dinner plate.
The color of spiders comes both from the exoskeleton and the scales that cover it. Most spiders are covered with hair, but in some species, it is so short or sparse that it has little effect to the color. The exoskeleton of other species of spiders may be entirely covered with hair of various lengths or may be covered by scales like that of butterflies. The most common color of spiders is brown, black and grays, but there are many that can be any color under the rainbow.
Spiders are feared by many people, yet they are relatively non-aggressive toward people and rarely bite humans. Spiders bite people as a means of defense. It’s when people put on their shoes or shirts and a spider is in it; it’s when they roll over on a spider at night; or when they pick the spider up in a pile of clothes or papers and squeeze it inadvertently, that the spider bites them. It’s trapped, it’s being crushed; it can’t make a noise; and often can’t escape; thus, it defends itself in the only manner it can, it bites.
The only two spider families that possess poison glands are the black widow and the brown recluse. However, tarantulas, jumping spiders, wolf spiders, garden spiders and numerous other species found in the state are frequently mistaken for venomous spiders: their bite being less harmful than a bee sting. It is extreme cases that the bites of know dangerous spiders cause a very serious condition or even death. The truth is that fatalities from spider bites are rare, and consequences of the bite may range from trivial to severe.
The brown recluse spider also known as the brown spider or fiddle-back spider, is light tan to dark brown in color and a violin-shaped dark marking. This marking is immediately behind the semicircle of eyes with the neck of the violin pointing toward the abdomen.
This spider is most active at night when it comes out in search of food. During the day, it rests in quiet, undisturbed places. Spiders are often found hiding in old clothes, shoes, behind pictures, in storage boxes, stacks of paper, or on the undersides of tables and chairs.
The female black widow spider is globular in shape, glossy black and never has hair. The female has slim, glossy black legs, with a reddish hourglass-shaped spot on the underside of her abdomen.
The black widow female normally hangs “belly” upward and rarely leaves the nest. She is frequently found near houses, under eaves, around trashcans, under boxes, in low growing shrubs and other outdoor areas.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gardening column for The Lawton Constitution.