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Did you ever wonder how so many flimsy, dusty, infuriating spider webs seem to magically appear in your house? Even extremely tidy people are often surprised by the number of wispy webs that can be found in any odd corner or window sill. You might be surprised to meet the likely creator of those frustrating webs. The spider that weaves isn’t always the spider you see.

Much of the time, if we at Russell’s Pest Control get a panicked phone call about spiders, it’s because the homeowner has seen a large specimen (like a wolf spider) scurrying across the floor. This isn’t surprising behavior because wolf spiders (and many other spiders in Knoxville and its surrounding counties) are ambush spiders. They don’t build elaborate webs to ensnare bugs. Instead, they wait for small prey to approach and then pounce on them, trusting that their large size and powerful jaws will allow them to take down the unsuspecting insect quickly. Of course, all spiders use silk, but that doesn’t mean that it is their primary method for acquiring food.

This means that if you’re seeing a lot of webbing in the corners and windows sills, you probably don’t have a wolf spider infestation (feel free to breathe a sigh of relief). The most likely candidate for your dusty webs is a creature called the cellar spider (also known as the cobweb spider). Cellar spiders are hard to spot if you’re not paying attention. They are often fairly pale in color and are unusually thin when compared to most spiders. They are equipped with incredibly long legs; in fact, they are sometimes mistaken for harvestmen (sometimes called “daddy long legs”), though that’s a myth because the two species are quite distinct. If you do happen to spot a cellar spider, you’re mostly likely to see it hanging upside down from its web. Should you disturb it, it may begin to shake its web violently to try to scare you away. So, what do you need to know about cellar spiders that may be in your home? Most importantly, you have no reason to fear these spindly creatures. They are physically unable to bite humans or pets because their jaws are too small; it’s impossible for them to hurt you. Additionally, even a home with many cobwebs may have very few cellar spiders. Although many spiders eat their discarded webs so that they can digest and re-use the silk, cellar spiders are not able to do so. This means that when a web gets ruined by a struggling bug or by a passing broom swipe, the silk strands will stay there until you get rid of them; the spider won’t do you any cleaning favors. Therefore, you may see lots of webs that are made by very few spiders.

If you do have a cellar spider or two, you may want to think twice about whether it’s worth your time to hunt them down and kill them, particularly if they’re in your garage or around the outside of your house. These spindly arachnids are excellent trappers and will rid your home of many six-legged invaders that you may not even see. In fact, the presence of lots of cellar spiders is just an indicator that there are bugs nearby since hunters only set up housekeeping where food is plentiful. Against all odds, cellar spiders are also known to catch and consume black widows, which can make them very beneficial inhabitants in your garage.

There are people who can’t stand spiders of any sort, and we at Russell’s Pest Control perfectly understand that it is just hard to share space with anything that falls into the arachnid family. If you want to try to eliminate the cobweb makers, start by knocking down the webs every time you see them, and be persistent. Because cellar spiders do not re-use their webbing, they have a limited supply of silk. If you make it impossible to keep a web built, they will often pack up and go to a more hospitable location. If you want help with other sorts of spider control (as well as ant, rodent, roach, and cricket control), well, you know where to reach us.

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