General Description
It can be said that no other “bug” generates as much fear as the spider. The fear of spiders ranks as one of our greatest phobias, along with the fear of snakes, heights and public speaking. Many species lie in ambush, hidden in cracks, crevices and holes, or camouflaged on vegetation, waiting to strike at insects that venture too close. Other spiders wait for prey to become entangled in webs they construct of silk produced from spinnerets located on the end of the abdomen. This adds to the creepiness that many people feel toward spiders.

Spider silk is the strongest fiber in nature, five times stronger than steel, yet 30 times thinner than a human hair. Different spiders use silk in different ways: for webs or retreats, to subdue and wrap prey, to line their nests and nurseries, and to form egg sacs. Silk also is used for movement. Some spiders use “drag lines” to drop down from a ceiling or a leaf. Many spiders, especially young ones known as “spiderlings,” are capable of “ballooning.” A ballooning spider extends a long line of silk that, like a kite, enables it to be carried aloft on winds that can transport the spider to places many miles away.

“Spinnerets, fangs and eight legs” would be a good answer to the question “What are the characteristics of a spider?” For another special characteristic, we can simply look into the spider’s eyes. Most spiders have eight of them. The size and arrangement of a spider’s eyes are key to its identity. Another unique anatomical feature are a spider’s pedipalps. There are two of these appendages positioned just outside the fangs. They are sensory devices, perhaps like our tongue or the antennae of insects. But a male spider also uses its pedipalps, which can look a little like miniature boxing gloves, in courtship dances as well as to insert sperm into the female’s body during copulation.

Spiders are not really bugs nor are they insects. But like insects they are arthropods related to crabs, lobsters, shrimp and similar organisms. Specifically they are arachnids, whose close relatives include mites, ticks and scorpions. Unlike insects, spiders have a two-part body, a cephalothorax and abdomen.

General Control
As for most pests, effective spider control begins with identification. With spiders, identifying the species may not be necessary, but it is important to know whether the spider is a hunting spider or webhanging spider. Spiders that catch prey in webs are usually found in or near their webs. These include cellar, cobweb, orb weaver and funnel web spiders. Often these spiders are more easily controlled than spiders that roam in search of prey. Control can be as simple as destroying the webs and squashing the spider with a fly swatter, newspaper or shoe. A vacuum cleaner works well too and leaves less mess. Vacuuming spiders and their webs is a good, non-toxic method that also can be used on hunting spiders,if you are quick enough.

Install door sweeps to keep spiders from entering beneath doors. Try to keep doors and windows screened and shut. Minimize lighting that is visible from outside because lights attract insects, and insects attract spiders. If you must have outdoor lighting, use yellow “bug lights” or sodium vapor lights instead of white lights and mercury vapor lights. Sticky traps can help catch and monitor hunting spiders. Pesticides can be effective against spiders, but in many cases control is not achieved by the use of pesticides alone. As with many pests, the greatest degree of control results from the combined use of several control methods, that is, integrated pest management.