The dreaded spider. I’ve seen 250-pound grown men scream like small children after running into an unexpected spider in their house. I’ve seen it because I’m that grown man, and I, just like you, didn’t like these little (and sometimes rather large) spiders anywhere near me.
Believe it or not, after years of providing comprehensive pest treatments in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, I’ve learned to appreciate spiders for what they are: hunters.
Simply put, if you have spiders in your house, you have a lot of other insects as well, and they’re taking care of them for you. I guess you could look at it like mother nature’s very own pest control. Here’s the news you did not want to take from this article unless you’re moving somewhere with subzero temperatures year-round: you better be prepared to encounter these eight-legged insects on a pretty regular basis.
What are Spiders?
The spiders (along with ticks, mites, and daddy longlegs) all belong to the Arachnida class. They’re a beneficial creature that feeds on a crazy number of arthropods (including insects). There are over 2,500 species of spiders found all over the United States but the ones that resonate in everyone’s heads are the brown recluse spider and the black widow spider.
Are Spiders Poisonous?
Many spiders and their bites are venomous. Poisonous refers to something that can harm you when ingested. Knowing this, yes, many spiders are also poisonous.
Most spider bites have almost no effect on humans. Of course, as with anything in life, there are exceptions to this such as a person with a compromised immune system or some other medical condition that would leave them vulnerable to venoms of spiders.
The majority of these tiny creatures have fangs that are so small they could not penetrate human skin (the thin webbing between your fingers and toes are the only place a lot of spiders would be able to do any sort of damage) and they usually will not attempt to bite unless they’re trapped between something and cannot escape.
This is a common reason why people are bitten underneath their shirts or in their shoes, or even in bed. The spiders are threatened and do what they believe to be their last resort. To wrap this up, very few spiders have venom that could be potentially harmful to you or anyone around you.
What Are the Most Common Spiders in Pennsylvania?
The most commons spiders in Pennsylvania are:
One of the most common spiders found in Pennsylvania is the typical Grass Spider. Chances are you’ve seen these guys lurking around the outside of your house. You’ll know it’s a grass spider by the web they make, which almost look like a funnel or even a cone-like formation that they’ll hide in. They make these in a wide variety of areas ranging from weeds and grass or a widespread ground cover like ivy or periwinkle to brush piles & bushes. They’re not really particular. If they can take harborage, they’ll do it. They have a significantly elongated backside, with a brown carapace (usually there is a hint of yellow too). The abdomen is almost always darker than the shell. These are the spiders you notice on a dewy morning when you look out at your lawn and see webs everywhere.
These spiders are extremely shy; they want nothing to do with you. They are incredibly fast and very rarely bite. People who have been bitten only experienced minimal side effects such as redness, itching, minor pain, and slight swelling. These systems are usually gone within a week or two.
These things are huge, and they’re scary. I’ve had people claim that they’re experiencing the huge banana spiders that everyone is afraid of, only to find that it’s a simple yellow garden spider. They’re found in a variety of areas from tall weeds, to bushes and gardens. If the area is sunny, they like it there. They’re easily identifiable as I’ve seen them as large as a large man’s hand and have a mixture of black and yellow markings. The chances of being bitten are very slim, and in the unlikely event that you would receive a bite, it would likely only cause you as much harm as a bee sting.
If I could pinpoint the biggest issues the Spectrum Pest Control gets calls about, it’s the wolf spider. They’re scary. 9 times out of 10 when we get called for a spider problem it’s the wolf spider that the customer is experiencing. They’re usually dark brown spiders with scattered gray hairs. They are hunting spiders and will only really come out of hiding searching for prey.
They will mate in the autumn and take harborage in man-made structures (your house) and the eggs will hatch in June or July, which is why it is likely that you will see an influx of spiders around this time.
It is a very common occurrence to see wolf spiders carrying spiderlings on their backs. They will only bite if trapped next to your skin for some reason (in your shoe, socks, or under your shirt) but the venom is not harmful to humans which is great news for us because they’re a larger spider and could easily penetrate our skin and do some very serious damage. You’ll have some initial redness/swelling and mild pain and all of your side effects should subside rather quickly.
This species of spider is a pale yellow or sometimes even a cream color with a dark brown mouth. They can be found under leaves, boards, stones, in windowsills, under the siding of houses, in the corners of your house where the walls meet the ceilings, etc.. They’re pretty much everywhere.
These guys are what’s known as active hunters, and they go out searching for their victims rather than waiting for their prey to come to them. They’re usually going to go out at night when they decide they want to hunt and return when sunrise comes back around just to avoid being seen and keep themselves protected. Consequently, since they’re mainly venturing out at night this is when the majority of bites to humans will end up happening since the vast majority of people are sleeping and they’re leaving shoes and clothing unused, and of course their beds and bedclothes might end up trapping an unsuspecting spider and his fight or flight kicks in.
We’ve all seen daddy long leg spiders, also know a cellar spiders, the tiny-bodied spider with gigantic legs. This is hands down the most common spider in the United States. It’s found in all types of structures and continually reproduces to develop huge populations in everybody’s house.
Luckily, these are not known to be harmful in any way. They’re found in warehouses, basements, cellars, anywhere where it’s quiet, dark, and most importantly protected. They’re about three times as long as they are wide with what looks like a cylinder-shaped body, with a tan or yellowish color and a gray mark in the center of its shell. They take about one year for a spider to hatch and develop into adulthood, where they’ll live for another year or two, possibly longer depending on the living arrangements it’s made.
The daddy long legs are not known to bite humans, and I wouldn’t worry too much about this guy when it comes to being dangerous. They are also pretty easy to get rid of.
There are a few species of jumping spiders lurking around the great state of Pennsylvania. Common types of jumping spiders in Pennslyvania include:
- the long-bodied cellar spider
- the zebra jumper
- the emerald jumper
- the bold jumper
- and the bronze jumper.
These jumping spiders range in different colors and sizes. If you’ve had the opportunity to encounter one of these guys you’ve probably tried to squish them (if you weren’t already running away) and they’ve just jumped out of the way which makes them seem about 400 times scarier. Luckily, the jumping spiders we have around these parts are not known to bite anybody.
Black widows are native to Pennsylvania. These spectacular little arachnids are black, ranging from 8-13 millimeters long, and of course, they have the famous hourglass marking on the underside of the female spider. The males, on the other hand, has a white underbody with red spots and are slightly smaller than the female.
They’ll live almost anywhere that they will remain undisturbed – Garages, barns, under stones or in stumps, even rodent burrows.
We’ve all heard that after mating the black widow female kills and eats her male mate, and this is absolutely true. As I’m sure you gathered, that’s where the name ‘widow’ comes from. She will lay up to 9 cocoons each of which contains 200-800 eggs. The eggs will hatch within a week or two.
Much like the brown recluse, the black widow bite is at first pretty much painless. 1-2 hours later you’ll end up feeling a tingling along your nerves or even down your spine. There is practically zero swelling at the injection site, but you will see two fang markings with a tiny rash. Eventually, you’ll develop fever, chills, high blood pressure, and then a burning sensation on your skin, breathing problems, muscle pain (usually in the stomach), and of course the rare occurrence of death (young children or elderly are most susceptible).
These guys are a housekeeper’s worst nightmare. Blink, and there is another web. This is because they’re known to frequently abandon their current web and create a new one.
The common house spider is located usually in a damp area such as a crawl space or a basement. Also known to be found in floor joists, windows, corners, etc.
A bite from one of these guys is practically harmless with a little bit of pain, redness, symptoms usually resolve in a day’s time.
Are Brown Recluse Spiders in Pennsylvania?
Brown recluse spiders can be found in Pennsylvania, but rarely. I’ve taken countless phone calls from customers claiming that they have a house full of brown recluse spiders and need someone out to the house immediately. I can tell you first hand that if you think you have a brown recluse problem in your house there is a 99.9% chance that it’s not a brown recluse.
We have been in this business for a very long time and have yet to encounter one of these arachnids. They are not prevalent in Pennsylvania whatsoever and cannot survive in our climate. Now, that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be one lurking around somewhere that was shipped in a box from Amazon, eBay, or some out-of-state produce, isolated occurrences do happen, but very rarely.
Believe it or not, there are 11 species of brown recluse spiders known in the United States, but only four are known to be harmful to humans.
They are established in 16 states: Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, Arkansas, & Alabama. This does not mean you will see them in a state that was not listed. There are isolated occurrences that have been reported in Pennsylvania, along with plenty of other states.
What Does a Brown Recluse Spider Look Like?
The Brown Recluse is a brown arachnid and will typically be approximately nine millimeters in length with quite long legs. They have a distinct eye pattern with 3 pairs of eyes, totaling 6 eyes. They mate around June and will lay anywhere from 20 to 50 eggs. A single female can do this up to five different times during her lifetime.
Side Effects of a Brown Recluse Bite
If you’re on the unlucky end of the brown recluse bite you will not notice an immediate pain, accompanied by a possible stinging pain. The venom has a necrotic effect which basically causes the tissue around the injection site to begin to destroy itself. It will start off like a small blister that grows and grows with side effects ranging from fatigue, fever, and chills the whole way to blood in your urine, nausea and the incredibly rare case of death. Healing will take anywhere from eight weeks to a year, depending on the size of the wound.
What Happens to Spiders in the Winter?
In the winter, Spiders go through a process where they enter a slowdown state called diapause.
Here in Pennsylvania, we have what seems to be an endless onslaught of a very wide variety of spiders, and as stated earlier, unless the temperatures decide to plummet to below freezing for a very extended period of time, there’s no getting rid of them. I know it’s a common myth that winter comes every year and the insects all die off due to the temperatures. If there were any truth to that statement, when springtime came around and the weather warmed up again, there wouldn’t be an issue with insects. The fact of the matter is while yes it does get cold, it does not stay cold enough, long enough to kill insects. Insects do not die off; they just slow down a little bit.