Friendly Neighborhood Spider

Many of us have a seemingly unshakable fear of spiders, but why?

By: Alex Virata

There is still debate as to whether the common fear and disgust associated with spiders is more innate or learned, nature or nurture. At Green Plate Special we know firsthand that sometimes knowledge and experience can remove the “creepy” from “creepy crawlies”. This article will hopefully familiarize you with a few of the spiders commonly seen in greater Seattle area homes and gardens, so we can be more knowledgeable neighbors for the eight-legged members of our community.

Wolf Spider? Guess Again

If it’s big and hairy it’s probably a wolf spider, right? Actually, what many colloquially refer to as wolf spiders in Washington are often three or four entirely different spiders from two families – lycosidae (wolf spiders) and agelenidae (grass spiders, giant house spiders, hobo spiders, etc.). One quick way to spot the difference between them is the size and placement of their eyes.

Grass Spiders

These dainty little creatures create funnel-shaped webs in grassy or rocky areas. If you see one in your garden be sure to thank it; their predatory behavior balances the presence of many plant pests. Averse to biting and rarely leaving their webs, they don’t pose much of a threat to humans.

Hobo Spiders

Hobo spiders are an invasive species for Washington state, introduced from Europe and established in Seattle as of the 1930’s. Since they are not very talented climbers, if you see a spider up high it is probably not a hobo spider. While they do not typically live indoors, instead preferring outdoor holes and cracks close to the ground (rock retaining walls, piles of wood, etc.), they might make their way indoors and hide in tight nooks if there is ample prey available. They can be very helpful protecting your home from insects that want to raid your pantry! They previously had a nasty reputation for aggression and bad bites, but their venom has since been proven relatively harmless to humans and they only bite if trapped against a person’s skin. Like most spiders they would much rather run away than fight!

Giant House Spiders

Few residents of Western Washington have not been startled by a giant house spider at some point in their lives.  Similar to hobo spiders, giant house spiders are also an invasive species from Europe that were only established in the PNW as recently as the early 1900’s. These critters can grow to be over three inches long, and their preferences for prey and habitat draw them indoors where they make themselves comfortable behind cupboards, between boxes, in undisturbed corners, etc. They are excellent deterrents for bugs that seek to nibble on your food, or even your house itself!

Wolf Spider

Now THIS is a wolf spider. You’ll often see this solitary spider sunbathing on a rock or log in your garden, or trotting along the ground in pursuit of dinner. Where you’ll never see one is lounging in a web; wolf spiders do not create webs. If you should find one in your home, it probably doesn’t want to be there. Houses are not ideal hunting grounds for wolf spiders, talented hunters though they are. Capture it, release it outside, give it a friendly wave and let it be on its way!

We’ll pause this topic before this article gets too long and pick it up another time, but remember: Being afraid of spiders doesn’t mean you can’t respect, admire, and share your space with them.

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