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Spider control can be a major concern for homeowners - particularly for those who live in Florida. There are about 3,000 species of spiders throughout North America, but only two in the southern and western United States can cause serious harm when accidentally disturbed - the black widow and brown recluse.

Black widow spiders are most recognized for the red hourglass shape under their abdomen. This spider gets its name from the popular belief that the female black widow spider eats the male after mating, although this rarely happens. Black widows are poisonous when ingested during the first 17 days of their life.
Brown recluse spiders have a characteristic dark brown violin marking on their back. These spiders often infest cedar shake roofs and spin irregular webs, which are used as a retreat.
The common house spider is usually the spider most often encountered indoors. It is a nuisance pest, probably more because of its webs than the spider itself. The house spider is found worldwide and is common throughout the United States and Canada.
Unlike most spiders, wolf spiders don't hunt with webs. Instead, they chase their prey using their fast running ability. These spiders are often big and hairy which alarms some people, but they are primarily nuisance pests. Over 100 species of wolf spiders are found in the United States and Canada.

If spiders are infesting your home, contact Westfall's at (941) 761-0125. We will inspect your home, confirm the species of spider and recommend a course of proper spider control.

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They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But what about with lazy spiders versus lively ones? When it comes to keeping pests at bay, the personalities of the spiders hunting them are important.

That’s what two behavioral ecologists reported after watching bug dramas play out in a sunny hilltop alfalfa patch. Raphaël Royauté of North Dakota State University and Jonathan Pruitt of the University of Pittsburgh were studying the personalities of wolf spiders (Pardosa milvina). The spiders are common in many types of crop fields, and prey on all kinds of bugs. But individual spiders, like other animals, can have different habits or tendencies. So, the scientists asked, shouldn’t those differences affect which prey the spiders catch?

First they collected wild wolf spiders from Tennessee. (Rather unnervingly, the authors note that they found the spiders at night “using their eye shine.”) Focusing on female spiders, they performed a simple personality test. They placed each spider on a piece of graph paper, then counted how many lines it walked across in the next three minutes. Spiders that covered a lot of ground were labeled as “active.” Those that preferred to stay put were “inactive.”

Then the researchers brought their spiders to an alfalfa patch they’d planted. They set up 55 “mesocosms,” or mesh boxes about the size of a laundry basket. Into each box, they put eight spiders. These were either eight active spiders, eight lazy ones, or four of each. As a control, 10 boxes held no spiders.

There was also a selection of pests in each box that represented what the spiders might find in the wild. Specifically, the researchers had stocked the boxes with 15 blister beetles, 15 potato leafhoppers, 10 beet armyworms, 9 pea aphids, 5 sharpshooters, and 8 alfalfa weevils each.

A week later, the researchers opened up the boxes to look for survivors. They found that mixed-personality spider groups killed the most pests. Boxes that held only active spiders, or only inactive spiders, had more surviving pests.

Royauté explains that the difference likely comes from how spider personalities interact with the personalities of their prey. Just like the wolf spiders, certain leafhoppers or aphids or weevils may be more timid or bold than others. They might like to stay hidden, or to spend their time exploring the alfalfa. Bugs that hide in one place may be more vulnerable to active spiders, which will hunt them down eventually. But roving bugs may be more vulnerable to lazy spiders that are lying in wait for them. Between the two spider personality types, more prey bugs get eaten.

The biggest surprise, Royauté says, was that boxes holding a mix of spider personality types produced widely varying results. Using only active spiders, or only inactive ones, “yielded very predictable results,” he says. The bug demographics—how many of each species there were—tended to look one way after a week with active spiders, and another way after a week with lazy spiders. But with both types of spiders combined, the results were unpredictable.

Royauté thinks the results could someday be useful for farmers trying to control pests in their fields. For example, maybe a certain pesticide, or a certain way of tilling a field, harms active spiders more than inactive ones. This could indirectly affect which pest species stick around afterward.

Releasing spiders into a field as targeted pest control isn’t very practical, Royauté says. For one thing, spiders are “highly cannibalistic,” so when you raise them in big batches they tend to eat each other. And there can be dozens of spider species in an agricultural field, attacking pests at different points in their life cycles.

It might be more practical, he says, for farmers to try to encourage a diversity of spider species and personality types. Diversity among predators seems to keep prey in check, as the researchers saw in the experimental boxes. Maybe keeping grass strips around a field, or growing two kinds of crops together, can promote the kind of mixed spider community that’s helpful to farmers—better than honey or vinegar.

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Spiders get a bad rap. These creepy-crawlies often appear in horror movies, haunted houses and, worst of all, inside our homes where they are usually met with shrieking and the bottom of a shoe. It's easy to understand why people cringe at the sight of a spider on the wall. The way they move is startling and unpredictable, their webs are sticky and their hunting methods are rather gruesome. There are also many myths floating around about spiders (no, people don't regularly swallow spiders in their sleep!) that make this pest seem much scarier than it actually is. In reality, almost all types of spiders found in the United States pose no threats to people.

Despite the benevolent nature of most spiders, there are two species in the southern and western United States that can cause serious harm when accidentally disturbed - the black widow and brown recluse. Below is a guide to help you identify some of the most common types of spiders and the potential threat they can pose to our health.

Types of Spiders

Black Widow Spiders

  • Appearance: Black widows are black and shiny, with a telltale red hourglass shape on their back.
  • Region: This spider species is found throughout United States, but is most common in the southern states where the temperature is warmer.  
  • Habitat: Black widow spiders are often found around woodpiles and can gain entry into a structure on firewood. They are also found under eaves, in boxes, and other areas where they are undisturbed. Black widow spiders spin their webs near ground level.
  • Threat: While male black widow spiders rarely bite, females are known to be aggressive and bite in defense, especially when guarding eggs. Symptoms of a black widow bite include fever, increased blood pressure, sweating and nausea. Fatalities are unlikely, as long as proper medical treatment is sought in a timely manner. Despite their notoriety, there hasn't been a death in the U.S. due to a black widow bite in more than a decade.
  • Unique Facts: Female black widows were previously thought to kill and consume males after mating, hence their name. However, further research has shown this to be a rare occurrence in the natural world.


Brown Recluse Spiders 

  • Appearance: Brown recluse spiders are light to dark brown, with a characteristic dark brown violin marking on their back.
  • Region: This species is found in the central Midwest U.S. from Ohio to Nebraska and southward through Texas and Georgia.
  • Habitat: Brown recluse spiders often live outdoors in debris and woodpiles. Indoors, they can be found under furniture, inside storage items and in dark recesses such as baseboards and window moldings. Closets, attics and crawlspaces are the most common hiding places of brown recluse spiders.
  • Threat: Like the black widow spider, the brown recluse spider bites in defense. Bites are often painful and can produce an open, ulcerating sore that requires medical treatment. Restlessness, fever and difficulty sleeping are common symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite.
  • Unique Facts: Male brown recluse spiders wander farther from the nest than females and are therefore more likely to crawl into shoes or other attire. Brown recluse spiders get their name from their coloration and reclusive habits.

Common House Spiders

  • Appearance: House spiders are often yellowish-brown in color with an elongated abdomen.  
  • Region: House spiders are found worldwide and are common throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Habits: Inside structures, house spiders are most likely to be found in upper corners, under furniture, and inside closets, basements, garages and crawl spaces. Outside, they are often found spinning webs around windows and under eaves, especially near light sources that attract prey.
  • Threat: House spiders are nuisance pests, but post no threat to people.
  • Unique Facts: Common house spiders have a difficult time surviving in modern homes due to low humidity and fewer insects for food. They are more likely to prosper in garages, sheds, barns and warehouses.

Jumping Spiders

  • Appearance: Jumping spiders are compact in shape with short legs. They are usually black in color with pale markings.
  • Region: This type of spider is found throughout the United States.
  • Habits: Jumping spiders build web retreats, which can be found both indoors and outdoors. These spiders frequently hunt inside structures around windows and doors because more insects are attracted to these areas and their vision is best in sunlit areas. Outside, jumping spiders are commonly seen running over tree bark, under stones and boards, and on bushes, fences, decks and the outside of buildings.
  • Threat: Jumping spiders may bite in defense, but their bite is not poisonous.
  • Unique Facts: Unlike most spiders, jumping spiders are active during the daytime and seem to like sunshine. They have the keenest vision of all spiders and are able to detect movement up to 18" in distance.

Long Bodied Cellar Spiders

  • Appearance: Cellar spiders are pale yellow to light brown in color with long, skinny legs and a small body.
  • Region: There are about 20 species of cellar spiders found throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Habits: Cellar spiders and their webs are usually found in dark and damp places, such as cellars, basements and crawl spaces. They can also be found in the corners of garages, sheds, barns and warehouses, on eaves, windows and ceilings, and inside closets, sink cabinets and bath-traps. Cellar spiders seem to fare better in areas with higher relative humidity.
  • Threat: Cellar spiders do not bite and therefore pose no threat to humans. Urban legend has it that their venom is the most deadly of all spiders, but their weak mouthparts keep them from injecting venom into humans.
  • Unique Facts: Cellar spiders are commonly referred to as "daddy-long-legs" because of their very long, thin legs.

Wolf Spider

  • Appearance: Wolf spiders are usually dark brown with paler stripes or markings. They have long, spiny legs and some hair on their body.
  • Region: More than 100 species of wolf spiders are found throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Habits: Inside, wolf spiders tend to stay at or near floor level, especially along walls and under furniture. Wolf spiders may be brought indoors with firewood. Outside they can be found under stones, landscape timbers, firewood, leaves and other debris. They often rest in such sheltered places during the day.
  • Threat: Wolf spiders can bite, but it's extremely rare unless they are provoked.
  • Unique Facts: Unlike most spiders, wolf spiders don't hunt with webs. Instead, they actually chase their prey using their fast running ability.

Dangerous or not, most people would prefer not to have any types of spiders in their homes. The best way to prevent spider infestations is to remove any possible harborage sites. Spiders are more likely to take refuge in dwellings during the colder months and will gravitate toward dark, undisturbed nooks and crannies. Therefore, homeowners should keep garages, attics and basements clean and clutter-free, avoid leaving clothing and shoes on the floor and seal off any cracks or crevices around the home from different types of spiders.


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Spider Facts

Spiders have adapted to live in nearly every type of habitat, and they are one of the top 10 most diverse populations on earth. They play vital roles in all ecosystems -except in your home.

The following spider facts will help you learn more about these eight-legged pests, some of which might appear in your backyard this summer and fall.

All spiders produce silk
Something common to all 40,000 species of spiders is that they all spin silk. And as spiders have evolved, so has their ability to work with silk. One spider can produce up to seven different types, each used for a different purpose such as spinning webs or capturing prey.

One species is mostly vegetarian
It was thought that all spiders were carnivorous, capturing and eating other insects, but one species in Central America has been found to be mostly herbivorous! Bagheera kiplingi inhabit trees that produce protein-rich buds on their leaves. These buds are part of a symbiotic relationship between the trees and ants, but B. kiplingi also benefit from consuming the buds. However, during dry seasons these spiders are known to be carnivorous. They may cannibalize each other or steal ant larvae when food is scarce.

Spiders are nearsighted
Most spiders have eight eyes, but some, like the brown recluse spider, only have six. Spiders typically have a main set that can create images while the secondary sets can only detect light and shadow. It is thought that the secondary sets of eyes are derived from the compound eyes of a common ancestor to both spiders and insects.

But even with all of those eyes, spiders cannot see far into the distance. Nearsightedness is a problem for people, but the habits of spiders are such that being nearsighted isn't a deficiency. They wait for prey to get caught in their webs and use silk trip wires to warn of approaching predators.

Females can lay up to 3,000 eggs at one time
These eggs are housed in one or more silk sacs. The level of care a female spider provides for her young varies by species. Some females will die shortly after laying eggs while others will carry spiderlings on their backs or share prey with them.

Jumping spiders can jump up to 50x their own length
When hunting or trying to escape a predator, jumping spiders are able to make very agile movements and jump multiple times their body length. This is possible due to an internal hydraulic system. Jumping spiders can alter the pressure of fluids in their legs resulting in a springing motion that propels the spiders forward.

The 'daddy long-legs' you see might not actually be a spider
The nickname 'daddy long-legs' has been given to several different pests, only one of which is an actual spider. Crane flies, harvestmen and cellar spiders are all colloquially identified as 'daddy long-legs.' Only cellar spiders are spiders. Harvestmen are in the arachnid family, but they lack venom and silk glands. Crane flies are agricultural pests with very long legs and the ability to fly.

If you think you have a spider infestation in your home, contact Westfall's Pest Control & Lawn Care at (941) 761-0125 to identify the species and recommend steps for removal or treatment. Some species are poisonous to humans and should be handled by a professional.

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