Posted: Wednesday 24 September 2014
by Richard Jones
Despite the lurid tabloid headlines, we shouldn't be at all surprised that there are some large spiders in the garden.
Despite the lurid tabloid headlines, we shouldn't be at all surprised that there are some large spiders in the garden. Every year it’s the same: a few lazy journalists happen to notice some beefy spiders in the hedgerows, and then start bleating about dangerous assassins, septic pus-filled wounds and inflamed whole-body rashes.
It’s all nonsense, of course. It’s just that all those tiny overlooked spiderlings that hatched in May are now approaching their mature adulthood. So they're starting to arrive at full adult body mass. The exceedingly common garden spider, Araneus diadematus, can achieve a body as big as a child’s marble. Its close relative the four-spotted spider, Araneus quadratus, is a size bigger, and heavily gravid females seem barely able to drag their bloated bodies about. Poor things.
But these are just ordinary spiders, reaching their ordinary size. They may have been helped along the way and grown slightly quicker than in some years, and there may be a few more of them. This is because 2014 has been warm and sunny, and has favoured all those warmth-loving and sun-basking flies, beetles, bugs, bees and wasps, which make up regular spider food items. The spiders have been feasting and are now reaping the benefits of good nutrition and an easy life. But no matter how large they get, they're incapable of opening their jaws wide enough to bite a human finger, and their fangs aren't long enough to puncture human skin. They're all harmless.
For the non-arachnophobe, large spiders can offer pretty colours and dazzling patterns as they disport themselves brazenly in their webs. The slightly queasy can at least rest easy in the knowledge that large spiders can catch all the large blow-flies buzzing offensively about at the moment. The genuinely spider-averse will just have to stay indoors, but please don’t fuss; as well as being harmless, they won't venture into the house. They're all firmly denizens of the horticultural zone.