Rod Crawford has some very bad news for people who don’t like spiders.
It may seem, around this time of year, that spiders — usually giant house spiders — are running inside to take refuge in your warm home, but they’re actually year-round tenants. This time of year, they start making their way out of the crawl spaces, wall voids and storage areas they live in most of the year, to look for mates.
In the late summer and early fall, the males become sexually mature, said Crawford, the curator of arachnids at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture.
“That means their life is almost over and they have to spend the rest of it looking for females,” he said.
“And they can really run but they’re not very smart. They don’t know the difference between a female’s habitat and your habitat and that’s why they run across your living room,” looking for a single strand of a female’s web.
Because of its size, it’s usually the giant house spider that most people seem to see in their homes, but it’s really just the most visible of the 30 or so species of house spiders common in Washington.
The other species of spiders, the ones that live outdoors, would never come inside on purpose, he said. So it’s not really a kindness to scoop up spiders found inside and gently place them outdoors, he said.
“Good intentions don’t save any spiders,” said Crawford, who writes articles for the museum’s blog debunking spider myths.
With 965 different species and counting, Washington has more spiders than almost any other state, besides Texas and California.
While black widows can be found in Eastern Washington and the driest parts of the San Juan Islands, none of the other spiders found in the Puget Sound area are dangerous to humans. And there are only a few whose bite would even be painful, he said.
He said the brown recluse, another spider that people fear and imagine they see, is not found in Washington at all.
“The nearest brown recluse is in Nebraska,” he said. “However, the nearest person who thinks that they have a brown recluse in their house is on your block.”
For those who get shivers even thinking about spiders, Crawford would like to remind you of this: They are the main population control on insects.
“If an arachnophobic person had their dreams come true, insects would become out of control, would go through boom and bust cycles like locusts and pretty soon, most land vertebrates would be extinct.”
So when you see a spider in your house, he said, the best thing to do is to make peace with it and “wave as they go by.”