Big thank you from

Insects in the news this week

by Paul Cormacain

SPIDERS! What glorious creatures, if you like that sort of thing.

I see small spiders every day, in the house, in the garden, and in the greenhouse. The usual run of the mill spiders, nothing too mysterious or unusual. Then a giant house spider put in an appearance in the house, and I threw him out.

Spiders are one thing, giant spiders are another. My normal reaction to foreign bodies in the house is to throw them out. I do not like killing, and even a bluebottle will have a window opened for him to persuade him to leave. If I have difficulty in making a fly leave, I will flick him, then catch him, then throw him out. Killing is a last resort.

Spiders get into the bath from time to time. Then they cannot get out. I catch them gently with a piece of tissue paper, then throw them out. I do believe that when we were young, we used to give the caught spider a bath or a shower in the bath, then flush him away. No, I am too soft for that now, and invariably I get the unwelcome guest out without harming him. But the giant house spider. We have had a few of them in the house this year. I checked with the museum, and spider expert Robert Nash has had many reports of the giant house spider this year. We used to see it the odd time in the past, but this seems to be a great year for giant house spiders.

The spider is associated with human dwelling, and it is found throughout Ireland, according to Robert. It is also found in all continents - what a range! I would have seen spiders in Europe, Africa, Asia, north and south America, and in places like Fiji, but was always slightly apprehensive, and kept my distance. I may well have seen the giant house spider in other parts, but was afraid of it. Well it does look so big, and I always got the feeling that such size could do serious damage.

It is one of the largest spiders found in Europe. The body alone is about lcm long. Check the bath tomorrow, it may well have one of these creatures in it, unable to climb the sides. Tell him to leave, but kindly.

As well as in the bath, it may be found all over the house. We got one in the bath, but we found others climbing walls, and trying to remain inconspicuous. An impossible task! It has a 1cm body but its legs are huge, and conspicuous, and may measure an amount, which gives it a length of perhaps 5, or perhaps 6cms. That is huge for an insect found in the home.

As well as being found in the home, it may well be found in outhouses, conservatories, garden sheds and greenhouses. It can also turn up in stone walls, and under the eaves. Robert tells me that the insect is found throughout the year, but most commonly in August and September. All our giant house spider visitors seem to be October creatures.

Robert also tells me that this spider is not very good in the eye department. His vision is not great. Mr Nash says that if you want to catch one of these creatures, hold an empty jam jar in front of him, then prod him from behind, and chances are he will run into the jam pot. Then you can throw him out without harming him.

They are still about. Please throw them out without harming them, using my method of a loose tissue, or Robert's method with an empty jam pot.

Coming Events

Monday October 25 - James Orr will talk on Satellite Tracking of Irish Brent, at Lisburn RSPB meeting at Friends' School, at 1930.

Saturday October 30 - The RSPB initiate a bird feeding frenzy in Feed the Birds Day. Talk to the RSPB on 028 9049 1547. The Lisburn RSPB is having an outing to Strangford Lough and Castle Espie, sounds great, details from David on 028 4062 6125.

Ulster Star