What Lurks in the Storage Room?

An employee at work claims to have seen a roach in the storage room. Our storage room is large and quite lively for what it is. It’s well lit, people come and go, dry foods and supplies are in there, as well as a walk in cooler. I use it for a place to “hide” and actually get some work done. It’s not uncommon to find me with a cup of tea sitting in a fold out chair with my feet up on a box typing away at something or other. I have seen centipedes, ants, the occasional beetle, and of course, spiders, but I have NEVER seen a roach in the storage room. Regardless, the roach sighting was taken seriously and the pest control was called in.

One day, while I was hiding out, the Orkin man came by. He was setting out small, cardboard sticky traps with the date on them. He’s the one that told me about the roach sighting. “Hmmm”, I said, “I’ve never seen any roaches in here”. “Well, we’ll find out”, he replied. And that was two years ago. Since then, I’ve been checking the traps and rescuing spiders like this one…

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A beautiful female wolf spider from the Trochosa genus.

Ahhh, the lovely Trochosa. I’m guessing Trochosa terricola for species. There is another Trochosa species that could be found around Western PA, Trochosa ruricola (the Cola twins), so I could be 50% right! These are harmless spiders, about 10mm long (not huge). When I first encountered this spider years ago, I was easily able to ID it to the wolf spider family by its eye arrangement. What stood out beyond that were the light mid lines, especially on the abdomen. I learned that the two dark, parallel lines on the head are a key indicator that the spider is one of the Colas. When I was keeping my first Trochosa  female, I got lucky and found a male spider matching the description. I introduced them and they hit it off. A few weeks later, the female was in a silk tent with an egg sac. I reared the spiderlings for a while and then set them free. Like a proud, hopeful mom, I watched them prowl into the great wild with my hands folded under my chin. So, when I saw this lady stuck in the trap, I felt an instant affection. I got a toothpick and carefully freed her, all legs intact. This spider shouldn’t be considered a pest. It simply wandered indoors and would be much happier outside. The storage room Cheerios are not at risk, nor are any humans!

The storage room is home to a population of harmless cellar spiders, Pholcus phalangioides, whom are perfectly fine in an indoor habitat. These spiders are web builders, not wanderers so they laugh at the sticky traps…HAHA! In fact, they are a much more natural alternative for sticky traps. They eat the crawling insects that would be considered pests. These guys should be on the payroll.

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Pholcus phalangioides, resident pest control

Another non-pest that gets caught in the traps is the wickedly awesome SOW BUG KILLER or Woodlouse Hunter (Dysdera crocata)! These spiders are so cool! They were introduced from Europe a long time ago. Out of 284 species, North America has one! Our sole Dysderidae rep is a specialist. It prefers sow bugs AKA potato bugs, AKA rollie pollies, etc. Let’s just say they eat land crustaceans. As a result, they have protruding, powerful chelicerae (or jaws) that are able to puncture the armor-like exoskeleton of sow bugs.

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Dysdera crocata rescued from the sticky trap!
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Dysdera crocata in better lighting

Dysdera crocata does not like to be out in the open. These spiders are usually found under things like stones, outdoor tarps, and in woodpiles. The first thing they do when exposed is run towards darkness. They will defend themselves if necessary (like if you’re prying at their legs with a pencil to get them out of a sticky trap), but aside from what could be a painful pinch, their venom is not toxic to humans. They look dangerous, but they’re really not. If you’re a gardener, you may discover one or two of these this season. Don’t freak out. They don’t want anything to do with you. Again, this spider is not a pest.

I considered sharing my observations about the sticky traps with our facilities director. How much are we spending on traps for harmless, vagabond bugs? I wondered if the pest control company keeps track of what they find. And would they actually tell us there were no roaches? This is exactly the thing that distracts my thoughts at work. I have to stop myself before I begin creating a list of interview questions for the phone call I’ll be making to the Orkin company. At the very least, it would be an interesting conversation…maybe on an upcoming lunch break. In the meantime, I keep checking and saving the good guys. I think the only lurker in the storage room is actually me! Especially when a coworker doesn’t expect to see someone camped out among the boxes or bent over inspecting bug traps. Sorry guys! But I can say with confidence, we do not have any roaches!

 

 

 

 

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