Just as I sat down to write about the number of spiders creeping into our homes at this time of year I noticed some movement out the corner of my eye. With impeccable timing, one such beast was calmly strolling across the floor. The word giant seems paltry for this massive spider, which even made my South African husband do a double take (and a girly squeal).
'Arachnophobes' should probably stop reading, as we're now into spider breeding season, which runs from August to October. And this year, the pitter-patter of eight little feet could be happening more frequently than normal.
Like most things in life, you can blame it on the weather. If it wasn't bad enough that summer only lasted a few days, the wetter than normal conditions have apparently led to a boom in spider numbers. Fast forward to the colder, wetter days of autumn and the common house spider is on the lookout for a dry place to mate. And our warm homes with the lights on in the darker evenings are just too inviting.
Despite the name, house spiders prefer to live in sheds, garages and under shrubs in the garden. But as the seasons change, just like us the house spiders spend more time indoors. Thankfully other species of spider are happy to remain outside all year.
You usually see the mature male house spider as it moves around searching for a mate. The females rarely leave their nests and can lay hundreds of eggs, and in each egg sac there can be up to 60 spiderlings. Typical locations are between boxes in cellars, behind cupboards, in attics, near window openings and other places that they're likely to remain undisturbed.
The one I spotted is likely to be a giant house spider -- a relative of the domestic house spider which can grow up to 12cm long. Take a look on a ruler, that's pretty giant! The good news is they are harmless, though if you disturb them they can bite. Which might sting a little if they pierce the skin but it's not venomous.
Apparently spiders are good news, however intimidating they can look. Before you squish the next one to invade your home try to remember they eat pests such as clothes moths, flies and mosquitoes, and that can help curtail the spread of disease.
That said, the next time I find some conkers I will be testing the theory that they keep spiders away!