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Many people are afraid of them and others just don’t want them around: spiders. Or in Latin Araneae, an order of arthropods that fall under the arachnid category, Arachnida. Spiders come in all shapes and sizes. Small, large, hairy, and so on. Some spiders are poisonous and there are species that are even deadly to humans.
There are about 45,000 different species of spiders. Spiders are found all over the world and have a lot of variance in physique, behavior and food preferences. Besides the fact that there are many species, the population density of each species is also very high. In the Netherlands and Belgium, you can encounter about 700 species of spiders. There are too many species to list, but below are some of the most well-known species.
The gray house spider, Tegenaria domestica, is a large species of spider belonging to the family of funnel spiders and is closely related to the field spider. A house spider can bite and this bite can also be painful, but fortunately, house spiders are rarely aggressive and usually just leave humans alone.
The large vibratory spider, Pholcus phalangioidies, is a species of spider belonging to the family of vibratory spiders. The vibratory spider is one of the most common species in the Netherlands and Belgium, but you encounter this spider worldwide. What is remarkable about the vibratory spider is that they often make an irregular web of a few threads in which a prey can fly and only then throw threads over their prey to entrap the prey.
In your garden you will primarily encounter the cross spider, Araneus diadematus. A medium-sized spider that belongs to the wheelweb spiders. Unlike other species, the crossweb spider is not at all shy and often sits in the middle of its web, making the spider very noticeable to humans. A striking feature of the cross spider is the pattern on its abdomen that resembles a cross.
Field funnel spider
The field funnel spider, Tegenaria agrestis, falls under the funnel spiders, like the house spider. These spiders make a non-sticky web in the form of a tunnel with a funnel at the end. In the funnel, it waits for prey to enter it. The field spider is shy and this one tries to avoid humans.
Habitat of spiders in the Netherlands
Spiders are clever survivors and can be found really everywhere, except in places that are permanently cold like Antarctica. The distribution of a species depends on which family they come from. Some groups, for example, are found only in a limited part of the world. Think of the tarantula, which is found only in certain areas. On the other hand, you find the armored pocket spider worldwide, of all the spider families it has one of the largest ranges.
So in the Netherlands you can encounter about 700 species. Of these species only a few are known by name to most people. Yet there are many species here, most of which can be seen throughout the Netherlands. Consider the cross spider, which can live all over the Netherlands, but only outside in gardens and not in the home.
A spider that does have a more specific habitat is the lime mining spider, which lives only in southern Limburg and digs long tunnels lined with cobwebs.
Another spider species with a preferred habitat is the water spider, which – as its name suggests – lives only under water.
The spiders you can encounter in the Netherlands and Belgium are fortunately not dangerous spiders. However, there are species that you better avoid because their bite can be painful, such as a bite of the red-white cell spider, rail spider or water spider.
Outward characteristics of spiders
Although there are so many different types of spiders, you can identify fairly easily when you are dealing with a spider. A spider always has 8 legs and a body consisting of two parts. The front part carries the legs. Spiders almost all possess 4 pairs of eyes, or 8 eyes in total.
In terms of size, most spiders have a body length of about an inch (without legs). A few species can grow a very large body, but these are not found in the Netherlands.
The arachnids category includes animals such as sea spiders, harvestmen, ticks and mites. These also have 8 legs, but cannot officially be called a spider. The category Aranae is where you find the “real” spiders. Scorpions also resemble spiders, but these have prehensile claws and an elongated part of the abdomen with a venomous sting.
You can distinguish harvestmen, ticks and mites because in these the body is 1 whole, while in spiders it consists of two parts.
What is very characteristic of spiders is the production of spin. There are a number of other insects and mites that can also produce spinel, but only the spider does this with the spinnerets on its abdomen. Caterpillars, for example, produce spinning from glands near the head.
A large proportion of spider species therefore use its web to capture prey. Especially the sticky web is a well-known method. These webs can be used in different ways. A horizontal web to catch prey that want to ascend from the ground or a vertical web for horizontal prey. But there are also funnel-shaped webs, for example, into which prey can be lured. With 45,000 spider species, there are lots of ways the web is used.
The web is used for, among other things: catching prey by sticking them, wrapping prey to eat them, providing a living tunnel, anchoring the body when walking or jumping, spreading as a young spider by hovering away and so on.
What do spiders eat
Spiders are seen by many as a type of pest, but at the same time they are themselves pests, for example, they eat other insects such as mosquitoes. Spiders mainly live off living prey, but they have a wide range of food preferences and methods of capturing prey.
What a spider eats depends on its species and size. Large tarantulas may eat mice and small snakes. But mostly they eat insects, such as mosquitoes and flies that end up in the web. A few species also sometimes eat plant foods, such as pollen, nectar, plant sap, leaves and seeds.
Enemies of the spider
The spider has a large number of natural enemies. Ranging from parasites and single-celled pathogens to naturally larger animals which eat them. All kinds of insectivores pose a danger to the spider. Although the spider is not an insect, to a reptile, amphibian or bird this does not matter. In addition to animals that eat spiders for food, there are also spider killers, relatives of the parasitic wasps.
When a spider is threatened, some species will raise their front legs and display chelicerae (jaws). Larger species can even hiss.
Reproduction and longevity
Spiders hatch from an egg; the number varies among species, but on average a spider deposits several hundred eggs. Many species have a post-embryonic stage where they have an almost round body shape. A characteristic of spiders is that they molt. After the first molt, spiders begin to look more like their parents. Only in terms of color are they still different.
In many species there is dimorphism, in which the female and male look different. Often the male is smaller than the female. Males always seek out females to mate. In this process, cannibalism can occur, the female eats the male, making it risky for the male to look for a mate. However, this only occurs in a small proportion of spiders.
Age is again very dependent on the species. For example, a cross spider becomes about a year old, they often do not make it through the winter. In the tropics you have no winter and a tarantula spider can live up to 10 to 15 years. In the Netherlands there are some spiders that can live to be 2 to 3 years old, but this is quite an achievement.
Nuisances and diseases
In principle, a spider does not cause a nuisance; rather, they cause other unwanted insects such as mosquitoes to be caught and eaten. But not everyone is a fan of spiders; web formation can cause contamination on windows, window frames and woodwork. Some webs are difficult to remove and, of course, it doesn’t look fresh. They hide in all sorts of places inside and outside the house where it is small, warm and dark. Such as crevices, cracks in walls and corners, vents, under roof openings and near outdoor lights.
Spiders in the Netherlands and Belgium are not dangerous to humans. They carry venom, but this is only lethal to insects. Also, spiders in the Benelux do not carry diseases. It is a misconception that spiders carry Lyme disease. These are ticks, which fall under the spiderlike creatures, but are not spiders.
There are several ways how to get rid of spiders. Prevention is especially important. Remove cobwebs as soon as you see them, don’t leave your lights on all the time (they like this) and close as many cracks and holes in your house as possible.
But spiders in your home? Then there are animal-friendly ways to get rid of them. For example by catching them and putting them outside. This can be done with a jar or a so-called spider trap; the spider gets stuck between closing brushes, after which you can walk outside and let the spider escape from the brushes again. Vinegar and lemon don’t like the smell of them, so spraying with this can keep them away.
If you don’t dare do that or there are too many spiders, then you need to go exterminate. For example, with a vacuum cleaner or insecticide spray that kills them. If you’re really at a loss because of a spiders’ nest, for example, you can always hire a professional to get rid of the spiders.
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