I LOVE watching wildlife in winter. By that I mean that I love slouching in my favourite comfy chair with the wood burner roaring while I enjoy a good nature documentary on the telly.

Recently I was doing just that, and coincidently it was Ryedale’s very own Robert Fuller that I was watching.

He was waxing lyrical about the fabulous stoats and weasels that

live in his garden when my living room proceedings were rudely interrupted by some real flesh-and-blood wildlife.

I jumped, my wife screamed and Tess the dog barked madly as a huge creature ran at great speed from behind the bookcase, right across our hearth rug and disappeared behind the waste-paper bin.

“How can a huge animal hide behind a waste-paper bin?” I can hear you asking, and my answer would be that size is relative and, for an English spider, more than 3 inches across is enormous.

I was dispatched to humanely relocate said spider, of course, but my usual slide-the-postcard-behind-the-glass technique didn’t work this time. Such was the size of the creature that I had to upgrade to a pint beer glass and A5 card, but I did eventually get him.

I can be fairly confident of his maleness for two reasons; firstly, at this time of year, male house spiders go walkabout in search of females so are much more likely to be seen away from their webs.

The other giveaway was his size. I’m sure that most readers have noticed, as I have, that house spider size is very variable - some are normal spider-sized whereas others are enormous.

It turns out that we have two species in Ryedale, the common house spider (Tegenaria domestica) which can have a leg-span of up to one inch and the giant house spider (Eratigena atrica) which can reach four inches across.

My spider, let’s call him Sid for convenience, was obviously one of the giant variety and, unusually for arachnids, in this species males are slightly bigger than females.

Sid’s web may well be behind the bookcase that he emerged from, most likely tucked into the corner of the skirting board.

House spider webs are sheets of non-sticky silk often constructed in a funnel-shape, hence their North American name of funnel-web spiders.

When other small invertebrates like woodlice, flies and earwigs blunder into the sheets it alerts the owner who then relies on that leg speed we are oh-so familiar with. They rocket out from the other end of the funnel to deliver the customary fatal, poisonous spider bite.

Incidentally, giant house spiders have fangs well big enough to pierce human skin but they rarely do. If distressed from rough manhandling they may resort to defending themselves and the result is on a par with a wasp sting apparently.

If I hadn’t caught Sid he would most likely have explored all the dark corners and crannies of our living room looking for a female. If he had found one that approved of him they would have stayed together in her web for a couple of weeks, mating frequently.

This sexual activity seems to take it out of the males so much that they soon die and are then eaten by their mate. At least he does his bit to help his offspring as the protein from his body will contribute to the scores of eggs that the female lays soon afterwards.

If you are wondering what happened to Sid – it was pouring with rain that day so I couldn’t bring myself to put him outside. He ended up pestering all the female giant house spiders in our garage.