A spider web about 6 inches across, spun between two rhododendron bushes.

A lot of people hate spiders.  If they see a web in the corner of their house, their first instinct is to sweep it away or grab a can of bug spray.  But spiders are top predators in the arthropod world.  They are one of nature’s most effective means of pest control.

Spiders spin silk with their spinnerets, which are small glands on the end of the abdomen.  As it creates its web, it also produces a type of natural glue that coats certain strands.  When an insect flies into the web, the glue coats its wings and legs.  The more the insect struggles, the more coated in glue it becomes.

Close-up of insects caught in a spider’s web.

The number one dreaded insect of summer is the mosquito.  The photo to the left is a small spider web riddled with all sorts of flying insects – and most of them are mosquitoes.  On our walk today, we found more than 60 webs. That’s more than a thousand mosquitoes that won’t be biting anyone tonight!  A lot of the smaller webs, like the ones we found in the gardens, are perfectly designed to capture smaller insect prey like mosquitoes.

Spiders are not only useful, but a wonderful and welcome addition to our homes in the summer months. They are the arthropod equivalent of your home’s HEPA filter.  Spider webs essentially filter the air of small insects.

A good rule of thumb for spiders in the home: if it’s on a web, it will usually stay there.  If you see it wandering, then put it outside.

And while we’re on the subject, if you’re looking for some good information on the pros and cons of different mosquito repellents, check out our Bug Bytes podcast Buzz Off!  We compare commercial brands with natural alternatives.



Original post can be found on Talking Science.