Spider-Man, Spider-Man... WOAH Dude! Not Cool!
September 8, 2014 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Do not read this question if you do not like spiders. However, if you do like spiders, perhaps you can help me manager a guest in our garden.

I have always had a very low-key live and let live attitude towards lots of insects including spiders. I happily let them camp out in our backyard and I don't mind sharing the shower with one co-resident who's been hanging out for a while.

However. This spider... this spider is now making me reconsider that position: spider album

First of all, he/she/it is large by Irish standards; about 9cm from leg tip to leg tip in this photo. Second of all, it's eating the other smaller, milder spiders; yes, these are the carcasses of two fallen brethren blowing in the wind. Three, it's aggressive; after it spent all day staking out the chosen home of a third spider (in a crack in our window frame), I attempted to move the big dude along by nudging him with a straw. WOAH MAN... there was no normal spider scuttle; there was a full on strike attack. Fourth, it's kinda... fangy.

So I guess I am asking the following:

Does anyone know what this spider is? And should I: a) ignore it an let it munch it's way through the local population; b) attempt to relocate it c) light the house on fire and flee.
posted by DarlingBri to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: At first I thought wolf spider as well, but something about the legs reminded me of Agelenopsis, the grass spider. It seems Ireland's entry in the grass spider category is Tegenaria atricia, the Giant House Spider. Does this look like your guy? On the "against" side, it does not appear to have a "messy web with a funnel at one end," but if it's a male (and it looks like it is, what with the narrow abdomen), it may be out looking for the ladeez at this time of year.
posted by miss patrish at 7:44 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The 'fangs' are actually pedipalps. They're used to transfer sperm, not to bite. And are you sure those are 'carcasses' and not just the spider shedding its exoskeleton as it grows? That's what you often see.

It's one of several species related to the domestic house spider. The size suggests the Giant House Spider (Eratigena atrica). It's one of the commonest spiders in the UK and Ireland, related to the infamous hobo spider. A bit scary to look at, but generally harmless. My garden is full of them, and I frequently have to evict them from the house. I never kill them - they're really effective at controlling woodlice and other undesirable house-guests.

They can bite - it hurts about as much as a wasp sting. I've never been bitten - they're generally fairly shy and will only bite if roughly handled.

On the whole, I'd leave it alone.
posted by pipeski at 7:46 AM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: YES! That is it! It is indeed a Giant House Spider!

And are you sure those are 'carcasses' and not just the spider shedding its exoskeleton as it grows?

Pretty sure, because the large dead carcass was Fred, the previous windowsill tenant; Fred and SpiderDude co-existed in different areas of window territory until...

I never thought about killing it, I just wondered if it would be a kindness to the other spiders to move SpiderDude to a new location. I'll just leave him where he is though; there's another, cooler spider down the way I wouldn't want to put him near.

Thank you! You are all spider geniuses!
posted by DarlingBri at 8:00 AM on September 8, 2014

Response by poster: PS: I didn't know to look before but yes! he has a large, funnel shaped web. It starts on our rain gutters and is maybe 4 feet wide, comes down in messy swags, and narrows to the stake-out-the-other-spider point in one corner of the window.

I have now named him Dobby.

PPS: I think the other cool resident spider is a European Garden Spider, also listed here. That one is called Esmerelda.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:14 AM on September 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I hope this is not deleted for being off-topic, but my DarlingBri love has grown another size upon learning that you name all your resident spiders.
posted by drlith at 9:38 AM on September 8, 2014 [18 favorites]

Best answer: This is a tricky one. Spiders in the house I always make an effort to relocate because spiders, even deadly (or just plain terrifying) ones, are our friends, and have much of a right to life as any of us. I move them so that one of our cats doesn't get them, because as much as I love cats they are kind of assholes, and not native to this country - the spiders were here first, so they get a great deal of consideration.

Spiders outside, on the other hand, attacking other spiders? Provided they are native - which they are - I'd be inclined to just leave them be, and battle it out with the other spiders if that's their gig.

It sounds like this particular spider is a bit of a shithead and a bully, but that's their world, not ours, and they need to live in it the way they do. It's never nice watching critters kill other critters, and knowing you could have done something about it, but I think you just need to let it happen.

Some interesting reading here that might make you feel better or worse, depending.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:33 PM on September 8, 2014

Response by poster: Update: Dobby, in true Giant House Spider form, moved into the house a few days after I posted this question. We trapped him under a glass and relocated him to the very back of the garden, where we assume he is continuing to thrive as a shithead and a bully. Interestingly, the day after he vacated the kitchen window, Esmerelda relocated herself from the bathroom window to Dobby's former abode. She continues to hang out there, peacefully, and I admire her pretty, neat web when making my morning coffee.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:19 PM on September 20, 2014

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