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This time of year, as air gets crisper and chillier and daylight gets scarcer, we notice that insect populations dwindle quite a lot, well for all but spiders.  In the fall we still see plenty of spider webs and spiders, so do they die in winter?  Do they survive in cold weather?  The short answers are no and yes to those two questions. So, what happens to them in the winter?

Many spiders survive the cold winters as eggs. Most spiders lay their eggs in the fall, but eggs cannot survive being frozen.  So, these arachnids have come up with different ways to survive cold weather. Many eggs hatch in the fall as little baby spiderlings, but they stay in the egg sacs to keep warm. However, whether spiders are spiderlings or mature adults, they all go through a process of cold hardening to survive.

Cold Hardening

Cold hardening is triggered by colder temperatures at night where it gets cold but doesn’t freeze. These colder temperatures tell the spiders’ bodies to produce anti-freeze compounds much like the same antifreeze we put in our cars.  The compound builds up in their tissue and it lowers the temperature in which they freeze.

Wintering Shelters

Spiders know they need to go somewhere where they are sheltered, like leaf litter or cracks in the bark of trees.  Those places combined with their anti-freeze compounds keep the spiders alive during the winter.

Other spiders produce eggs in the spring. These survive the winter as young spiders going through the same cold hardening process then finding shelter in leaf litter, piles of rocks or wood wherever they can manage to find shelter. Once in their wintering spots, spiders enter a phase called diapause in which all their body functions slow down and they stay in that state until spring because there is little food available for them.

Do Spiders Invade Your Home During the Winter?

Most spiders that are outside do not make their way inside your home.  They will stay in their diapause state where they are less active, but if a warm day comes around, they may hunt other insects that show up on the same day. Some spiders may even hunt other spiders to help them stay alive when food is scarce over the winter. Others that live outside during the winter will stay in the gaps between the snow and the ground where snow actually helps insulate them from colder air.

Most spiders that you see scurrying about your home over the winter did not just come into your home.  It is likely they have been in your home their entire life, but because other insects may have found your way inside, they may be more active as they hunt other uninvited guests.

A Dangerous Exception

There is a dangerous exception to this rule, however.  It is not uncommon for the Brown Recluse to find its way into your home, seeking warmth and food. The Brown Recluse as its name suggests loves to hang out and hunt in areas where you do not often go.  The dark corners, un-dusted bookshelves, the clutter in your garage or basement. They can also be found in stored items such as shoes, clothing, bedding, and decorations. Especially those that are stored in wooden containers, cardboard boxes or other containers that are not sealed airtight. Most Brown Recluse bites occur by accident if a brown recluse feels trapped against a person’s skin they will bite and inject a hemotoxin that starts as a blister that slowly kills the skin around the bite.  Recluse bites can take months to fully heal depending on the victim’s sensitivity to their venom.

If you have a spider infestation, call All-Natural Pest Elimination for help in eliminating pests in your home.