Big Orange, big... spiders?

Walking around UT's campus, it is difficult not to notice this year's increase in cobwebs and their creators.

According to a WBIR report, both exterminators and spider experts have confirmed that this year's spider population is more vibrant than usual.

Junior English major Julie Mrozinski said she has noticed more bugs and spiders around her Fort Sanders house; one spider web persisted in the corner of her room for several weeks of summer.

"They're just everywhere," Mrozinski said. "On our front and back patios ... we have at least a dozen spiders."

Mrozinski, who has lived in the Clinch Avenue house for more than a year, said she has spied many more spiders in her junior year than she did in 2012, her first in Knoxville.

"I didn't even notice it last year ... I never had any insects in my room whatsoever," Mrozinski said. "And I've had three spiders in my room in the past two months."

Experts attribute the increase to an especially wet summer; according to the Powell/Knoxville weather station, 2013 is set to be one of the wettest years on record, with 45.59 inches of rain already recorded.

Knoxville's yearly average of 40.78 inches has been surpassed by nearly half a foot with three full months still left in the year.

Naturally, rain brings insects.

"Spiders feed almost exclusively on insects, and insects are really abundant when it's been raining a lot," said Susan Riechert, distinguished service professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "And so we have huge spider populations, and this time of year is when most of the spiders are maturing, so they're bigger, more visible."

Riechert has made a career of studying spiders, even serving as the president of the American Arachnological Society from 1983-1985. Through her research, she has realized that spiders pose no real threat to humans, but rather assist in the removal of insects around human populations.

"They control insect numbers, that's what they feed on," she said. "There's no spider that feeds on humans."

Riechert took The Daily Beacon on a tour through her lab in the Hesler Building, a room filled with plastic contains of spiders, both big and small. She said she does not see any sort of unbalance coming in the local ecosystem, as spiders themselves are a common source of food for other, larger species.

Riechert has approximately 3,000 spider in her lab.

"There is never going to be too much of one species – they are only abundant because of the insects," she said. "What feeds on spiders? Birds. Lizards. Bats, probably."

Despite the creature's harmless nature, Kendall Selsor, a junior in nutrition, admitted to a substantial fear of spiders.

After discovering two extremely large spiders in her home at The Retreat, Selsor posted a photo of one of the intruders to Instagram.

"These spiders were huge, I don't even know how to explain it," Selsor said. "It was just a very traumatic experience."

Selsor said insects have been a lingering issue this season.

"We have a lot of those sugar ants, stinkbugs ... and silverfish," she said. "It hadn't really bothered me too much until the spiders, because I don't deal with spiders very well, and these were the biggest spiders I had ever seen in my entire life."

Selsor is not alone.

According to Statistic Brain, approximately 30.5 percent of the population experiences varying degrees of arachnophobia.

From her research, Riechert has found that spiders are misunderstood, and that the stigma attached to them are mainly from misguidance in the media.

"This whole business about how whole awful spiders are is just trumped up," Riechert said. "It comes from movies ... The more spiders you have, the less problems you have."

Working in a lab that might fit into a horror movie plot line has not changed Riechert's mind.

"I've been working in excess of 40 years on spiders, and I have been bitten only once," she said. "It was because ... a spider was crawling up my arm."