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House Spiders (Tegenaria species)

Tegenaria saeva
© G.C.Slawson

There are five species of 'House Spider' - the big hairy ones that come out at night and occasionally end up in the bath. These large, long-legged, brown spiders produce a sheet web that leads to a tubular retreat.

  • Tegeneria domestica (Common House Spider), body size up to 10mm
  • Tegenaria atrica body size up to 18mm
  • Tegeneria gigantea (Cobweb Spider), body size up to 18mm
  • Tegeneria parietina (Cardinal Spider), body size up to 20mm
  • Tegeneria saeva, body size up to 18mm

Closely related to these is T. agrestis, with a body size up to 15mm, which is found on waste ground and open grassland.

Tegenaria domestica is the smallest of the four and is found throughout Britain. Although virtually reliant on people's houses, this species can be found in cave entrances and inside hollow trees. Like the other Tegenaria species, they spin a sheet web that leads to a tubular retreat, in a corner if a room or behind a piece of furniture. Strands of silk extend beyond the main platform of the web forming a tangle of lines. Females hang their dirty-white egg sacs from ledges using a few strands of silk.

Tegenaria gigantea (= T. duellica) produces a quite small web. It occurs in houses and out-buildings as well as outside. This species is more commonly found in southern England where it can be found in crevices, under stones and logs, and holes in banks.

Tegenaria saeva is the northern and western British equivalent of Tegenaria gigantea and can be found in similar circumstances.

Tegenaria parietina gets its common name 'Cardinal Spider' from the story that the spiders living in Hampton Court used to terrify Cardinal Wolseley. This species has longer and more hairy legs than T. atrica, which it matches in size. The sheet web is larger than that of T. atrica and they occur in the south of England, being absent from some counties. Because of their size, some consider T. parientina to be the most frightening night prowler.

Tegenaria species very rarely bite and if they do it is painless. What gives them a bad reputation is their size, speed and nocturnal habits. Females can live for several years, but males, who live for a few weeks with the female, die after mating and are sometimes consumed by the female. Like all spiders living in houses they can withstand the very dry conditions and survive for months without sustenance.


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