Another Sauna Showdown
August 12, 2010 2:53 AM   Subscribe

[Arachnid Filter] Why don't these two spiders eat each other?

Here's the low down.

I live in a small house (~ 600 sq.ft.) whose backside is partially dug in and built into the side of a small wooded hill. The house is at the bottom of a shallow, narrow valley. A trickling stream runs in front of the house about 20 feet from the front porch. The hills surrounding it rise maybe 150-250 feet. There's a thicket of various underbrush and tallish trees-- small poplars and bushes, 8 to 20-30 feet tall (grown too dense for exploration) on the back rise. In the front just beyond the stream there's a long narrow lawn.

So right now, it is really fuckin hot. It is too hot to sleep.

I don't have an AC but I do have lots one good fan and one of these cheapo weather stations on my desk that says
rH. 75%
4:34.55 AM

I have a dehumidifier (this one actually) but I am afraid to turn it on because all its exhaust pumps out is more heat. I ran it earlier tonight and the humidity (according to the weather station) did go down a bit (from 83% to 78%), but the temp inside also rose 5 degrees F. I cut my losses. Still not sleeping? No Help.

So on to the spiders. The spiders live in my bathroom, just above the shower head. My bathroom is at the ass end of the house, dug deep inside the hill. The floor is made of tiled stone. The walls halfway up are ceramic tile. Above that is sheetrock painted with a semi-gloss latex called "Water Fountain" by Valspar.

When I went away for a few days recently, I closed and locked all four of the windows. I returned to discover a green fuzzy dust covering everything in my house, a mold bloom in my bedroom closet that spread to the rest of the house, green fuzzy dust everywhere including the ceiling (sorry no photos of that traumatic event).

Subsequently, I bleached the shit out of every surface, including the bathroom shower stall.

That was two weeks ago. After my bleach, ammonia, and vinegar and baking soda maneuvers, (don't worry, not all at once), my house is mostly clean again. 30 loads of laundry in one day (at the laundromat) and I have also repainted some of the walls (still working on that, as you can see from my previous trim job).

Two weeks later...

It is really fuckin hot in here. And humid. Almost like death.
These two spiders don't seem to mind.

They arrived shortly after I bleached the bathroom. They've been up there for a long time and I know for a fact that there's not many bugs flying around up there. What can they possibly be eating? What's stopping them from eating each other? They don't move around much, so I 'spose they may be hibernating, maybe conserving energy?

[Bonus question]: how do I fix this fucked up situation regarding a small hobbit house dug in a hill, excessive heat & humidity, crazy mold, lack of AC, a dehumidifier that blows hot, no ventilations whatsoever, plenty of bugs, no direct sun, and two spiders who seem to be locked in a dead heat sauna showdown?
posted by at the crossroads to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They look like the same breed of spider to this layman. Maybe they're getting ready to make babies? Not all spiders are cannibals.

My answer to your bonus question might not be very useful, so I apologize in advance.. but it sounds like a horrible place to live and if I lived there, I would move. Or invest in installing ventilation and a AC.
posted by royalsong at 4:04 AM on August 12, 2010

We have those same spiders too, mostly in the basement, but occasionally I'll find one in the house. They coexist peacefully as best I can tell.

Anyways, can you get a window AC unit?
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 4:14 AM on August 12, 2010

The spiders are neighbours; plenty to eat for everyone.

You need an AC unit. No -- don't argue. Your domicile is like unto a cave and unless you start pumping moisture out of the air you are going to get mold and grues. Get a small Energy Star unit and put it in a window, and then get a small fan to circulate the air from the rest of the house into that room.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:12 AM on August 12, 2010

You've got a myriad of issues in that little hobbit house. Is this YOUR house?

My quick guess is that you've actually got moisture permeation through the walls, not just from the ambient air. (FWIW , here, yesterday, the ambient air temp was 94 with 99% relative humidity, I feel your pain). I worry that, should you be able to see behind that sheetrock, you're going to see mold from hell everywhere.

We can't see the outside of your house or know what it's made of, etc. The good thing about your house being dug in is that it's using the hill for a heatsink, or it should be---and you need to try to capitalize on that if possible. The normal, quick and easy fix for this kind of issue is a humidistatically or manually switched gable end fan, blowing OUT on the opposite end from the coolest part of the house. Moving that air is critical.

Barring that, you can actually get a HUGE difference with the proper use of your bathroom exhaust fan, assuming it's in place and actually working. It should be directly vented through the ceiling to the outside, whether vertically or horizontally. If you do not have one of these fans, get one and install it ASAP.

We need to know what the outside of this house looks like. Are there no windows? No gable vents at all? Screen door? What kind of furnace do you have? Can you operate its fan independently of its heating function?
posted by TomMelee at 5:14 AM on August 12, 2010

Seconding seanmpuckett. An AC is necessary, even if you have to get one of those where you dangle the exhaust out a window.

I also recommend a HEPA air purifier. You may need two of these to cover your whole house, but it still seems worth it—I've lived in a damp house with mildew and spider problems before, and you need to make sure your air is both dry and clean or you're going to get sick.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:17 AM on August 12, 2010

Mod note: few comments removed - it's one question per week, not one essay about your life with a bunch of questions in it please make a note for next time, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:23 AM on August 12, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry if my detailed description made things extra confusing.
[I also redact my bonus question].

My question simply is:
when there is no other food source, why aren't these spiders trying to eat each other?
posted by at the crossroads at 5:53 AM on August 12, 2010

They're probably not spider-eating spiders. There must be something else out there for them to eat, unless they have a very slow metabolism, like a snake.
posted by Solomon at 6:22 AM on August 12, 2010

There's probably plenty of teeny tiny bugs for the spiders to eat, like midges and fruit flies and gnats. You just aren't seeing them because the spiders are catching and eating them before you get a chance to notice the bugs' existence. I have a bunch of similar-looking spiders in my bathroom, kitchen, and hallways (I don't kill them because I'm sure they keep the insect population down). They never move around and don't appear to do much, but I hardly ever see dead ones.

If there was nothing for the spiders to eat, they would either have moved away in search of happier hunting grounds, or you'd find dead spiders. Most web-building spiders aren't particularly active; after all, they have a perfect insect-trapping device and it would be senseless for them to squander energy when they just have to wait for something to blunder into their web.

Also I'm sorry your house is such an unpleasant environment.
posted by kataclysm at 7:39 AM on August 12, 2010

Actually, they ARE spider-eating spiders, which is why I leave the ones in my house alone.

Maybe they don't eat others of their kind? Maybe they're heterosexual arachnid lifemates. Or maybe they're in Mexican standoff. Maybe they're in cahoots and waiting for a larger and more delicious spider to show up and then they'll share.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:45 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

From the description of your environment and your pictures, I think these are cellar spiders (pholcidae). It looks like they eat other spiders, spider eggs, and other small insects.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:46 AM on August 12, 2010

The picture is from far away, but they look generally like "daddy long legs" or "cellar spiders." Look directly below where they hang and you may see tiny debris of the hulls of small insects they've eaten. Since it's in the shower, maybe you don't notice because that just gets flushed down the drain. If there's really not any other food, perhaps these two individuals are sizable enough that they're not able to eat each other.
posted by scrambles at 7:53 AM on August 12, 2010

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