Do you have arachnophobia? By some estimates, up to 50% of people are afraid of spiders. Why, you may ask? No one knows for sure! There has been a lot of research done and there is speculation it might be a leftover survival instinct from mankind’s early days. Others believe it may be more of a cultural or learned fear. Maybe all the scary movies with spiders (think of the scene in the Harry Potter series where the spiders, large and small, terrify Ron Weasley) feed the fear, or maybe it started when your brother dropped that spider on your shoulder when you were two. If you are afraid of spiders, the reason doesn’t much matter!
Scientists say there are around 40,000 different types of spiders in the world, and they’ve existed for more than 300 million years. While all spiders can bite, most of those bites cause no problems for humans. There are only two spiders in North Carolina you need to avoid. These are the black widow, easily identified by the red hourglass shape on its back; and the brown recluse (shown left). Of the two, the bite of a brown recluse is likely to cause more damage to humans. These spiders prefer dark areas, so if you encounter them inside your house it may be in your garage, attic or storage area. Learn how to identify a brown recluse and what to do if you find one in your house.
Common Spiders in North Carolina
Most spiders live outdoors and feed off of insects. Some build sticky webs so they can trap their prey, while others hunt. They do not eat the insects immediately, but instead grind and liquefy their food with digestive enzymes before ingesting it. Spiders are beneficial to the landscape as they keep the insect population down. Some of the most common spiders you’ll find include the Black and Yellow Garden Spider, most commonly seen during the summer in large webs; the Wolf Spider, usually gray, black and brown with a noticeable stripe down its back; the Grass Spider (shown left crawling along a baseboard); Crab Spiders, small, colorful spiders that live in flowers and prey on small insects; and Jumping Spiders (shown above, right), that stalk their prey. Harvestmen, sometimes referred to as “Daddy Longlegs,” are also common to the area. These insects are not spiders at all, but are Opiliones. They also hunt and eat other insects. For a great resource and more photos of area spiders, visit the NC State University website.
The more you know about spiders, the less afraid you’ll be. If you see spiders in your yard or garden, just leave them alone. If you do find one or more black widows or brown recluses in your house, you may want to call a pest management professional.