Easily recognisable by their eight legs, some people gladly tolerate the presence of spiders while others cannot bear the thought of them. Unfortunately for spiders, there seem to be far more of the latter, as their reputation for being dangerous to humans precedes them.
Social media is awash with spider bite horror stories and urban legends, most of which are completely fictitious. For example, there’s one story that advises homeowners to be cautious in the evenings as spiders could fall into their kettles.
According to this particular urban legend, when this happens, the spider venom is released into the water and when you make coffee the next day, you might be poisoned.
Spider venom consists of protein and because proteins degrade at temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius and above, boiling the water in your kettle would automatically render any venom inactive and harmless to humans.
Venomous spiders to look out for
While there are more than 35 000 species of spiders worldwide, only a few thousand are found in South Africa alone. However, there are actually only three spiders that are of medical interest, these are spiders that are venomous to humans.
These include the Button spider, Sac spider and Violin spider. Cases of death have been reported, but only in circumstances where medical attention was not sought, or the person experienced other medical complications.
If you’re unfortunate enough to get bitten by one of these spiders, seek medical attention immediately. Violin spider bites that are left unattended for too long can lead to tissue damage as the venom has a cytotoxic effect which kills cells. At worst, the poison can lead to deterioration and gangrene.
What attracts spiders?
Spiders can be a nuisance in the home, especially if their presence causes unease and anxiety. They are attracted to warm, dark and small spaces like wall cracks, corners, air vents and in the eaves of your home.
They are also most likely to enter your house in the autumn in search of a warm place to spend the winter.
Other species prefer to stay closer to the outdoors, weaving their webs in your garden or near outside lighting.
Prevent spiders from taking over your home
Most spiders are not harmful but rather an annoyance because of their webbing.
The best way to keep spiders out of your home is through regular housekeeping activities.
The saying, ‘They are more scared of you than you are of them’, rings true as spiders are generally shy creatures that reside in dark, undisturbed areas. Garages or sheds for instance, serve as perfect breeding spots since they don’t get cleaned on a regular basis. The more you disturb the environment in which they live in, the less they will want to inhabit those areas and the more likely they are to move to a quieter location.
1. Vacuum regularly, high and low, and particularly pay attention to those sheltered spots like under worktops, the backs of cupboards or under and behind large furniture.
2. Remove noticeable webs on a regular basis.
3. Fill in gaps in walls, around pipework and under doors to prevent entry.
4. Remove sheltering sites like piles of firewood, garden bags, compost piles and general clutter from near your property.
5. Deter all insects such as flies and mosquitoes that spiders feed on.
6. A general insecticidal spray can be used, but it isn’t necessary if you frequently clean your home and have proofing in place. If you decide to go this route, it is important to make sure that you carefully follow the product’s instructions and keep it out of reach of children and pets.