Slime time! Why slugs, snails and spiders are invading your home

28 October 2020
Animals are coming out of their winter hiatus
Heavy rain across Eastern Australia is driving garden slugs, spiders and mozzies indoors. What can you do to humanely remove these visitors from your home? Professor Dieter Hochuli shares his tips.
photo of a snail sliding along a footpath in the rain

Snails are sensitive to drying out. They love to forage in the rain. Photo: Pixabay

Why are we seeing wildlife coming into our homes?

“A lot of animals are doing exactly what we're doing, trying to avoid the rather inhospitable conditions at the moment. Animals take shelter in the same way that we do, or in the case of some animals like funnel web spiders, it could be because their burrows are getting flooded.

“It's also that time of year when nature really starts to get going. The increase in temperature combined with the rainfall we’re getting are signals to a lot of animals to emerge from their winter hiatus and get their lives up and running again. It's a really critical time for breeding.”

Which creatures are we likely to see?

“You've probably heard the phrase ‘It's great weather for ducks’. But when it comes to wet conditions it's also great weather for slugs and snails. These animals are particularly sensitive to drying out, so rainy weather is ideal for them to get out and forage, and even hook up with each other.

“We’re also likely to enter mosquito season pretty soon. The ecology of these animals is strongly tied to climatic conditions, so water and warmer temperatures are ideal for them. We will start to see them in our homes as the females look for the blood meal they need to develop their eggs. 

“There are also some well-founded concerns that you are likely to encounter funnel web spiders, particularly in certain parts of Sydney. Males regularly come into our homes searching for a female.  Their intentions aren't really nefarious.    

“This is the time of year when the animal and plant worlds start to become a bigger part of our lives.  For some this means air allergies playing up, or nuisance animals making their presence felt but it also means that animals that spark joy start turning up nesting in our garden, or pollinating our plants.

“It's a great time to be a biologist and it's not surprising that some of these animals and plants make their way into our homes.”

photo of a red waratah flower in the rain

Spring is a time when "nature gets going" for plants and animals. This beautiful waratah is blooming in the rain. Photo: Dieter Hochuli

How do we humanely remove them?

“My first advice would be to try to live with them. Most spiders, slugs and snails are part of our wonderful urban ecosystem and pose no threat to life, liberty or happiness.

“If you really don't want them around you can squish them or do something relatively quick. Snails, slugs, mozzies and spiders live in a pretty challenging world and sudden death is a pretty normal part of their lives.

“But I would recommend a ‘live and let live’ policy. For instance, nearly every spider you encounter is absolutely no danger or threat to humans, and even for those that are dangerous like the funnel-web the risk is vanishingly small. No one has died from a funnel-web bite since the early 1980s because of the development of the anti-venom. That's not to say you wouldn’t want to remove them but if you do, consider catching them in a container and sending it to the Australian Reptile Park so the venom can be extracted.

“I'd also strongly recommend not using most of the everyday pesticides available to you. There is increasing evidence that this just leads to us killing beneficial insects as well as introducing unnecessary chemicals into our home. One of the best things you can do is learn what critters you're sharing your home with and work out ways to only manage the problems that are genuine.”

Professor Dieter Hochuli, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, is an expert in insects, spiders and birds, and a naturalist encouraging citizen scientists to observe wildlife they see through The Urban Field Naturalist Project. Top photo of leopard slug by Pixabay.

Elissa Blake

Media Adviser (Humanities & Science)

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