Spiders are ferocious, predatory, full of venom and take no prisoners, which is why when I woke this morning to a magnificent spiders web in the eaves above my head my immediate thought was that this eight legged predator had been silently dangling on its silken thread checking me out over night. Had it crawled on me? Did it bite me? Where was it now?
I'm sure hundreds of spiders are present in our house throughout the year waiting for their moment. Out of sight, living under baths and in the back of cupboards - going into the loft fills me with dread. But at this time more than any, across undisturbed corners and window frames, you see a gothic garland of draped webs the likes of which Hogwarts would be proud.
It is a misconception that spiders we see indoors come in from outside in winter for warmth - there are indoor and outdoor spiders. Garden spiders spin massive webs which seem to appear overnight on gates, in doorways and on hedges. Looking magical with the morning sun reflecting off the dew. These spiders don't venture indoors.
Early autumn is a spiders mating season, when the whole house-spider community suddenly comes into view looking for a mate. Silhouetted against the window the occasional twitching limb reveals a patiently waiting male looking for the love of his life or a tasty morsel.
Adept at capture they can subdue prey much larger than themselves, using long legs to throw webbing over their victim while keeping their own body well out of harms way. Entangled, the prey is bitten, and potent venom soon does its work.
They feed on other spiders, heaps of woodlice and flies, They spin their prey in a cocoon creating a silk wrapped fly mummy. They enter other spiders webs mimicking vibrations of a trapped insect and pounce on and devour the web owner.
I can therefore see why these creepy characters are synonymous with Halloween. Often playing a starring role, they act in a bewitching and fear-filled play alongside ghouls, wizards, witches and all things frightening. A menacing scurrying habit with small bodies and long fast legs, torturing and playing with their prey somehow doesn't make them likeable.
They do however have unfair press - most are harmless. Spread across the ceiling, a safe distance from the vacuum cleaner, they form a satisfying efficient fly control. They are web-wielding wonders ready to defend our homes from pests eating any insect that flies or crawls. They are also pretty useful controlling pests on crops by eating adult insects and their eggs and larvae.
Spiders are also excellent mothers. The spiderlings remain in the web until cannibalistic sibling rivalry force them to disperse.
So in conclusion they don't crawl into your mouth when you are asleep, they don't lay eggs in our bodies and most in the UK don't bite. Their jaws are not wide enough and fangs not powerful enough to penetrate our skin.
House spiders are definitely earning their keep and probably get very annoyed when with one swoop of a duster we destroy all their hard work or worse still swat them with teh nearest object. Do try to avoid the latter, as tempting as it might be,. These eight-legged predators are very useful friends.