Have you ever wondered where spiders go in the winter months? Some animals like birds migrate to warmer countries, others like hedgehogs and squirrels hibernate, and humans simply warm up warm and sit by the fire.
Arachnids are cold-blooded but are fairly hardy to cold climates, and they have a few tricks that help them survive the winter freeze.
Where Do Spiders Live in Winter?
Spiders, like most organisms, can sense when winter is approaching. As the cold months settle in, the majority of spider species will move to inhabit warmer areas. Often, this includes urban settlements, such as houses, which is why spiders are more commonly seen inside during the winter.
Anywhere that provides good shelter and protection is where spiders can be found over the winter. This includes log piles, foliage, rocks, outbuildings, cracks, and crevices.
After a spider has selected a new home, they enter a state called diapause. This is where their bodies suspend development due to unfavourable environmental conditions. They slow down their metabolism and move their legs close toward their body to conserve body heat and moisture.
Diapause is not too dissimilar to a state of dormancy or hibernation. Spiders can survive for many months without food. However, on warmer days, the spider may venture out in search of food, meaning they do not enter true hibernation.
However, if the spider has managed to secure a spot that is warm and sheltered, such as in a house, then they have no need to enter diapause and continue to thrive as usual.
When temperatures begin to warm again, spiders will come out of their diapause state and resume a normal life. Arthropods, the main food of spiders, also enter diapause during the winter. Hence, when they emerge, spiders are soon to follow.
How Do Spiders Survive Cold Temperatures
Arachnids and their eggs cannot survive being frozen and can certainly die of the cold. Due to this, there are numerous habits, mechanisms, and behaviours that spiders have evolved in order to survive the winter months.
Preparing For Winter
Many spiders prepare for the winter by laying their eggs in the fall which will hatch in early spring. Spiderlings would be unlikely to survive a very cold winter.
Females lay their eggs in silken sacs, which are either hidden in a safe location, fitted to a sheltered surface, or carried by the female.
Female spiders can produce either one egg sac with several thousand eggs or multiple egg sacs with several hundred eggs. The sac itself is made from silk that the spider weaves herself. The egg sacs are of a similar size to the female.
Eggs are susceptible to freezing and many of the sacs may not or spiderlings may not survive the winter. Hence, it is imperative the female chooses a safe and warm location for her eggs.
Some species of spider including the yellow garden spider and the North American black spider have evolved to only live around a year. Once winter and hard frosts arrive, they die as they simply cannot survive the cold.
However, other species of spider are adapted to surviving subzero temperatures. These spiders include sac spiders and crab spiders. When the temperature begins to drop, these species produce a protein compound similar to antifreeze. Anthropology Ecology refers to this term as ‘supercooling’ where the spider tissue remains unfrozen even below freezing temperature.
The anti-freeze-like compound accumulates in their bloodstream. It contains protein and glycol and allows the spider to cool their tissues. This means that the temperature at which their tissues will freeze is significantly lower, so they can withstand temperatures below freezing.
What Do Spiders Eat in Winter?
Insects, such as flies, fleas, moths, wasps, and bugs make up the majority of spider’s diets. However, during the winter months, there is significantly less food available for spiders. Their prey often enters diapause or dies during cold weather.
Luckily, spiders are able to survive for months on end without eating. Some insects, like spiders, will venture to warmer locations to take shelter for the winter, meaning the prey and predators are often in close proximity.
Although food is less abundant, spiders still continue to catch flies, ants, and even smaller spiders. On warmer winter days, spiders may venture out from their state of diapause in search of prey to consume. They will even feast upon prey that is not part of their usual diet, to keep their bodies fueled.
Common House Spiders in Wintertime
During the winter, spiders become common residents in urban houses as they provide warm and sheltered habitats from harsh weather.
- American House Spider – they are grey-brown in colour with white markings on their abdomen. They reside in dark, concealed areas and are harmless to humans.
- Wolf Spider – they can be either black, brown, or grey in colour and tend to be fairly large and hairy. They make their homes among debris or in crevices. They are not deadly to people.
- Black Widow Spider – they are glossy black overall and have a characteristic, bright red hourglass shape on the underside of their abdomen. They dwell in corners and can cause nausea and muscle pain if bitten.
- Brown Recluse Spider are brown overall and have a distinct, violin-shaped patch on their thorax. They frequent undisturbed corners and clothes piles. Their bite is venomous and causes necrotic wounds.
- Daddy Long Legs Spider – they have a small, rounded body and very long, thin legs. Often, they can be seen in the corners of ceilings. They do not possess venom glands and pose no threat to humans.
- Hobo Spider – they are mottled brown and rather hairy. These spiders may venture into bedding, clothing, or shoes. They can inflict a painful bite but is not fatal.
- Jumping Spider – there are over 300 species of jumping spiders and they all look very different. They can be distinguished by their large, round eyes in the front-middle of their head. They do not build webs so are commonly seen climbing walls. They are not venomous to humans.
- Yellow Sac Spider – they are yellow-brown in colour and have a dark ‘V’ shape on their abdomen. They spin their webs in the corners of ceilings. Their bite can be harmful to those who have compromised immune systems.
- Orb Weaver Spider – they have oblong abdomens and long legs, both of which can be striped or patterned, although they vary greatly in colouration. They build webs on lighting fixtures where they are most likely to catch insects. Their bite is not fatal.
- Grass Spider – they are mottled brown. These spiders can be found in the foundations of houses and are not harmful to people.
Prevent Spiders In Your Home During Winter
Although it is impossible to completely spider-proof your house, they are some measures you can take to minimize the chances of these arachnids entering your home.
Spiders despise certain smells. Citrus, peppermint, cinnamon, and vinegar are all strong scents that naturally repel spiders.
Spiders frequent cluttered spaces where they can hide. By regularly cleaning, tidying, and decluttering your home, there will be less suitable areas for spiders to make their home.
Spiders are generally small, so they can easily enter houses through cracks and crevices. Ensure any potential entrances are sealed and also avoid bringing outside decorations in, as spiders could hitch a ride on these items.
While light does not attract spiders, it does attract their insect prey. Where insects are abundant, spiders are sure to follow. Use curtains and blinds to prevent inside light from shining outside.
If spiders are already in your home, spider catchers are a great tool to get rid of them. They gently vacuum up the spider allowing you to release them outside without harming them.
You may enjoy reading Spiders in Tennessee | Identification, and Risk
FAQs Where Do Spiders Go in Winter
Verdict: What Happens to Spiders in Winter
During winter, spiders enter a state called diapause and produce an antifreeze-like compound allowing them to survive subzero temperatures.
They seek warm and sheltered environments to provide protection against the cold.