Autumn is prime house spider season. But attitudes to such house guests vary, to say the least. Despite my best efforts to raise a nature-friendly household, both my children are arachnophobic as adults.
I went so far as to take them to an insectarium when they were young, where we were allowed to hold a gentle elderly tarantula called Bella. The experience cured me of much of my spider squeamishness, but seems to have left my youngsters with a life-long terror of “anything with seven or more legs”, as my daughter puts it.
In the past, I have received texts from her upstairs, reporting a humongous speeder-spider on the landing to be removed before she will venture out of her bedroom.
But now my phobic kids have flown the nest, I have a much more live-and-let-live attitude to spiders, and it seems I’m right to be so indulgent. Spiders not only cause no harm, but they catch creepy crawlies that can wreak havoc. Midges and mozzies are a real nuisance, flies can spread all sorts of nastiness by landing on food, and pests such as earwigs and aphids can attack house plants.
Add in clothes moths – which can really devastate expensive woollens and cashmere – and you may see the advantages of having a few organic superheroes living alongside you to tackle such critters.
Superstition would have us believe that spiders are associated with financial good luck too, something we could possibly all do with currently. The thinking dates from Roman times, when people wore spider amulets to attract success in business.
Smaller ones are still called money spiders, and it’s considered extremely bad luck to kill one. As the saying goes: “If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.”
And, of course, in Scotland we celebrate the legend of Robert the Bruce and his tenacious spider, which strengthened his resolve before the Battle of Bannockburn.
In Japan, catching a glimpse of a house spider is said to be a portent of a long yearned-for visitor and so, again, harming them is thought very unlucky. I’ve always felt that dispatching innocent creatures is cruel, somewhat hypocritically as I have no reservations about mouse traps, fly paper, or insect spray.
But capturing our eight-legged friends and putting them outside is also likely to lead to their demise, as they aren’t likely to survive the shock of the cold weather. Which has led me to the strange practice of dusting around them – I will take down the more obvious webs, but I leave the spiders in situ, thinking that they can always rebuild their spectacular creations.
It can’t go on, not least because spiders come inside in autumn to breed, and while I’m generally sympathetic, encouraging nests of them around the house is a welcome too far for me. Instead, I plan to rehome them to the garage, and hope that the downgrade in their accommodation won’t have an adverse effect on my financial fortunes.
- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman