Creeping into garages, sheds near you — spiders

Posted: Monday, September 12, 2005

They're beige in color and about the size of a marble, they have eight brown striped legs and they're creepy ... and they're heading your way.

Known to arachnologists as orb weavers, the rather large spiders showing up on sheds, garages and other out buildings around the central Kenai Peninsula these days are the "good guys" according to the Cooperative Extension Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Although Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician, is not a specialist in spider identification, she is familiar with the common garden spider sighted by many homeowners annually at this time of year.

Orb weavers are not poisonous, but because they have been busy eating garden pests all summer, they're relatively large and ominous as fall weather begins.

Chumley said every year, at about this time, homeowners bring in spiders for the extension office to identify, but the office on Kalifornsky Beach Road just outside Soldotna does not have an arachnologist on staff.

In fact, no state agency has such an expert, she said, possibly because no poisonous spiders are native to Alaska.

Insects more in Chumley's field of expertise that have been showing up in abundance this year include root weevils, domested beetles and the wooly alder sawfly, she said.

"This year is stunning for root weevils," Chumley said.

Typically the one-quarter-inch long, dark brown weevils live in the roots of plants, but this year have been showing up in large numbers in people's homes.

"You may find 100 in your bath tub one day," Chumley said.

Her advice for keeping the insects out is to check weatherstripping and caulking around doors and windows.

Once the weevils are in, she recommends picking them up with a vacuum, which is also the suggested method for controlling domested beetles, another insect being reported in abundance in Kenai Peninsula homes this year.

The domested beetle has a recognizable cream-colored stripe on its light brown back as well as two small dots, according to Chumley. In its larval stage, it is about one-eighth inch long.

Especially along the Kenai River, this has been "a great year for the wooly alder sawfly," Chumley said.

She said some people see the abundance of the sawfly on alders and think the plants are doomed.

The insect, which is native to Alaska, however, goes through population surges and then dies off.

"Alders are perennials and will come back fine next year," Chumley said.

She suggested that people concerned about invasive species of plants and insects entering Alaska attend the sixth annual Statewide Noxious and Invasive Plants Management Workshop at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge on Oct. 25 and 26.

Rather than ask the Cooperative Extension office to identify orb weavers and other spiders, a visit to www.arachnology.org might be more productive.



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