High numbers of spiders appearing across Alberta

If you’re noticing more spiders than usual this year, you’re not alone.

According to Dr. Jamie Pinzon, a Research Scientist with Natural Resources Canada and adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, many areas of the province are experiencing an unusually large number of arachnids this spring.

Pinzon attributes the high numbers to Alberta’s relatively mild winter and early spring.

“Many of these species overwinter as immatures, and many don’t make it, especially if the winter is harsh,” says Dr. Pinzon. “So, likely, many survived, and the result is the larger numbers we are seeing.”

As for spiders found in homes, Pinzon explains that some species of arachnids are attracted to human dwellings.

“There are a few species that you normally don’t find elsewhere but in basements, such as the barn funnel spider (Tegenaria domestica),” says Dr. Pinzon. “Others are common in crawl spaces and backyards, like false widows or grass spiders.”

Dr. Pinzon also mentions that, unlike other insects in the region, spiders do not have a population cycle. As a consequence, spider populations vary from year to year.

According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine, the fear of spiders, called arachnophobia, affects between 3.5 and 6.1 percent of the global population.

Dr. Pinzon points out that there are many misconceptions about spiders, particularly those that can potentially harm humans.

“In Alberta, there is only one species that occurs naturally and is potentially harmful to humans, the western black widow,” says Pinzon. “It is distributed mostly in southern, dry areas of the province.”

He adds that the chances of encountering a Western Black Widow in Northern Alberta are very slim. Furthermore, he clarifies that the often talked about Brown Recluse Spider is not found in Alberta.

There are some benefits to our current high populations of arachnids. Pinzon highlights that spiders are adept predators and are likely to keep other insect populations, including mosquitoes, in check. He anticipates that the high number of spiders will continue throughout the summer.

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