By Janis McMath, Editor-in-Chief
September brings two seasons: school season and spider season. Both have the ability to strike fear in the hearts of many—yet the fears surrounding spiders in BC are unfounded. Our humble little province has only one spider with venom harmful to people. That spider is the western black widow spider, and while a bite from them is capable of causing abdominal cramps, swelling, and requires medical attention—such bites are rarely deadly. It is also important to note that these guys are actually shy and tend to hide when threatened, and they are regularly found along the east coast of Vancouver Island and the Thompson-Okanagan—nowhere close to us. Brown recluse spiders, one of the nastiest biters, are not found in Canada as may be incorrectly believed. A prevalent spider in BC is the brown house spider, and while these guys are large enough to be intimidating, their (uncommon) bites are most comparable to a bee sting. In fact, most spiders do not usually bite and only do so when they are extremely stressed.
BC has 893 of the 1,600 documented spider species in Canada, and this is due to the diverse habitats our home offers these little creatures. Spiders have a bad reputation, and while Joan Jett has the luxury of not giving a damn about her reputation, spiders could use some help in repairing their public image. A prevailing misconception is that the bites you get in the night come from our hairy friends. In most cases, these bites are actually gifts from fleas, lice, ticks, bed bugs, and other insects. Another misconception is that most spiders are big and gross like the common giant house spider; of the 893 spiders in BC, the majority are “smaller than an apple seed.”
Another mistaken belief is that the reason why spiders enters homes in September is to escape the cold. In fact, all the spider guests entering your home uninvited are actually just looking for companionship. Male spiders leave their homes during this mating season and wander in hopes of finding a female (since female spiders don’t move). If you’d like to help them, just place them outside once again! Because weather is milder on the coast, many people don’t make an effort to climate-proof their homes—making entry for spiders very easy.
Spiders are hard little workers that offer the ecosystem a large list of benefits. For example, spiders can be a great way to keep other undesirable larger spiders out of your home! Brown house spiders kill and feast on their larger cousins, so these little guys may prove to be pals. Spiders also prey on hornets, wasps, mosquitos, and many other insects that are similarly aggressive, carry disease, or cause crop damage. This old quote restated by Arachnologist Rick West is not to be ignored: “We’d be up to our asses in flies without spiders.”
Don’t let spiders scare you—let the thought of a world without spiders terrify you instead. And, if you want to be scared by an insect, spend your time researching ticks. Avril Lavigne got Lyme disease and so could you. Stay out of the high grass.
On to Cincinnati,