Into the Outdoors - Spiders

By Chris Henderson

The other day, a little spider skittered across my bathroom floor and disappeared into a crevice. When you come right down to it, I was rather glad to see him, which I will explain later. Since outdoor activities are somewhat limited at this time, I thought it might be fun to take a little look at these fascinating little critters.

Let’s start off with snow spiders. I know this sounds ridiculous, but they exist, and right around here.  Several years ago, when Old Bub and I were deer hunting on a cold and snow covered day, we noticed dozens of spiders on the snow. Both of us were surprised, as we both felt that spiders either died or hibernated in winter. For the most part, these spiders live in the leaf litter blow the snow, but, during a warm spell, they will often emerge from there and travel on top of the snow.  They seem to be immune to the effects of cold that most of us assume would kill them. Actually, they hide behind bark, under rocks, etc. for protection from the cold.  The weather brings them out onto the snow.  I guess they’re not all that uncommon, but I can only recall of seeing them that one time.

I should now state that, despite the resemblance, spiders are not insects. They are arachnids, actually more closely related to lobsters than insects. They have eight legs and many have eight eyes.  They are actually very equipped for predation, as they are carnivorous.

How do spiders, like the little guy I saw in my bathroom, wind up in the house? Some were born there. Others moved in to escape the cold, and will often take up permanent residence. Although a source of terror to many, when you come right down to it, they are beneficial residents, as they eat insects. In fact, while doing research for this column, I came across an interesting fact, and that is that some spiders will eat those disgusting stinkbugs, that few things will eat.  In scientific tests, fish took them into their mouths and immediately spit them out. When faced with the choice of spiders or stink bugs, I’ll take spiders any day,

All of this is not to say that spiders are cuddly, friendly little creatures. They are not. Virtually all spiders are venomous, although, in most cases, the venom is too weak to have an effect on most humans.  A little bit of itching is usually the maximum. The fangs of a spider, however, are often dirty, and this makes a bite susceptible to infection.  As with any wildlife, don’t try to pet them!

Here in Pennsylvania, however, there are two species of spiders that are definitely dangerous.  These are the brown recluse and the black widow. Of the two, the brown recluse is probably the worst.  Its bite, while often painless at first, can lead to tissue necrosis, which can sometimes spread.  Unfortunately, both of these little nasties are able to make themselves very at home in our dwellings.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this little look at spiders. I thought that it would be a refreshing change of pace. On another front, I have found the weather to be miserable as of late. It sort of makes one want to stay inside. You decide on something to do outside, then you look outside and change your mind. It’s no wonder they call it cabin fever. In the near future, we’ll take a look at some ways to combat it.

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