Our Family Spiders

We’re pretty tolerant of spiders in our house. In fact, we’re downright welcoming. At any one time, there are usually a couple house spider funnel webs in the corners of our windows, helping to catch the flies that frequent those same spots. The webs made by the cellar spiders down in the basement sometimes get in the way, but I don’t really hold that against them.

The funnel web of a house spider in our living room yesterday.

Our family favorites are the jumping spiders. I’m a fan of them for lots of reasons, starting with their big eyes and (often) fuzzy teddy bear bodies. In addition, they’re just mesmerizing to watch. Unlike web weaving spiders, jumpers roam around in search of prey, so they put on a good show. The one currently living with us likes to move between the big south facing windows of our dining room and living room several times a day.

Here’s our current jumping spider, which hangs out on our living room and dining room windows.

When I work at the dining room table, I enjoy being able to keep an eye on the jumping spider as it patrols its territory. Now that we’ve had some hard freezes, the number of insects hanging out in the windows has really dropped off, but there are still a few flies around. The other day, I watched it stalk a lady bug. When it got about an inch away, it pounced, but then immediately backed off. I’m not sure if it was the beetle’s hard shell or bad taste that repelled the spider, but whatever it was worked very well for the lady bug.

A fly carcass left by the jumping spider in our dining room window.
Here’s the little jumper hiding in the corner of the window while I tried to act like I wasn’t interested in photographing it.

I recognize that spiders aren’t the world’s most popular group of organisms. Many of us have a kind of instinctive reaction when we see a spider. It’s something you can train yourself out of, but there’s not much incentive for most people to do that. The deluge of misinformation about spiders floating around certainly doesn’t help.

The vast majority of spiders aren’t at all dangerous to people. Those that can be dangerous (black widows and brown recluses, for example) are not hanging around waiting for an opportunity to attack you. It’s good to know who they are so you can be smart around them, but it’s also important to recognize that all the other spiders you see are harmless.

One of my biggest pet peeves is how often people claim to have ‘spider bites’, which – as far as I can tell – include any small red, itchy, or painful bump someone might find on their body. Hey everyone, you’re not getting bit by spiders. You’re just not. That’s not how they work. If you got bit by a black widow or brown recluse, you’d know it. Those other ‘bites’ are ingrown hairs, pimples, insect bites, or something else besides a spider bite. Good grief. Seriously.

Here’s the jumping spider on the glass, hunting for flies.

If you’re not a spider fan, I’m not here to judge you. I would encourage you to learn a little more about them just so you don’t live in constant fear of something that’s not worth worrying about. If, on the other hand, you’re like our family, and are comfortable with them, spiders can be pretty amazing to have around the house.

Regardless of whether you like them or not, you have to admit spiders are fascinating. Just the fact that they walk around using hydraulic pressure to move their legs (!!) should be enough to get your attention. The next time you watch the jumping spider on your window sneak up to a fly and pounce on it, remember that its jump is powered by fluid being pumped into its legs very quickly. How can you not be in awe of a creature like that?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

18 thoughts on “Our Family Spiders

  1. It was a dark day in this household when the hand-held vacuum mistakenly sucked up our tiny pet jumping spider who — for weeks — had patrolled the corner of an upstairs windowsill. A black-hole nightmare for all concerned.

  2. Thank you for this post. I have long championed spiders in our household, both house and garden. One year our family watched for several weeks as a female Golden Garden spider inhabited one of the flower pots on the front porch. It was an opportunity for my boys, about 5 and 11 at that time (now 19 and 26), to learn about them and appreciate rather than fear them. Always too, if I need to remove a spider from the house, I never smash it. Rather, I carefully trap it with a clear drinking glass and a piece of stiff paper, then transport it outside. One additional point, many cultures regard spiders in the house as lucky and advantageous — a point I have often relayed to my children over the years. Again, thank you for this post.

  3. Spiders are fascinating. The jumping spiders’ binocular vision is fairly unique, and they have some problem solving capacity.

    Here’s an interesting novel I started reading, it’s an “uplift” saga gone wrong for primates but very right for insects and spiders.

  4. Thank you for spreading the word. I hope all of us remember to talk up spiders to our own circles. I’m so disappointed in my daughter-in-law for inflicting her phobia on her children… and none of them listen to me, of course.

  5. I don’t know what kind inhabit our home but we have some hard working spiders here too. One hangs out around the night light in the hallway. Another over the back door when it has captured more than one of those invasive stink bugs. That is one is my hero. I hate those stink bugs. They are intrusive and stink even when you try to gently usher them out of the house.

  6. Nice bold jumping spider. A personal fave – maybe because a) they are easy to ID, or b) I’ve been one for Halloween for three years now! Found one lurking on my iron a couple weeks ago – poor thing got his grippy feet snagged on the ironing board and struggled quite a while before I was able to relocate him onto the arbicola. Possibly he came in with the house plants this fall.

  7. We cohabitate with a variety of spiders too. We also host a colony of Mediterranean geckos that manage (gasp!) the spiders and random insects the spiders miss. I love our little urban ecosystem.

  8. I love this post. Tremendous photo of a wonderful little creature. It’s an amazing feeling when we get that sense of connection from their eyes staring back. They also have an odd way of moving that looks almost robotic. Is that the hydraulics at work? Can’t help but wonder what they think of our big heads staring back?
    Once I discovered a jumper in a bag of grapes, insulated in a little covering of cottony web. It was summertime so I took it outside to a pot of flowers. It seemed to shake off the cold and settle in. They’re always welcome in my windowsills as are those long delicate indoor spiders (name?) and Daddy long legs. That said, I’m still creeped out by orb weavers and their giant sticky webs hanging across my doorway in the late summer. Writing spiders also give me the willies. Big bodies and big webs just make me shudder. Eeeek! I’m an avid gardener. Can I be cured?

  9. Thank you for more spider photos! I have some very tiny house spiders in a few corners and always remind myself not to squish them when cleaning. That is always sad. I too love spiders!

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