Arachnophobia is an intense and debilitating fear of spiders. It commonly starts in childhood due to a traumatic incident. Approximately 30% of the US population suffers from this disorder. I am not one of those people.
When I was little, around 7 or 8, I developed a bond with spiders. I was assisting my mother with some yard work and found a spider’s egg sack. While I was inspecting it, it burst open in my hand and I found myself covered in hundreds of tiny baby spiders. My mother freaked out and hosed me down to get them off. Given the location of the sack my mothers panic was understandable, it was highly likely that these were highly venomous baby black widows. The baby’s were all washed away easily and I was left completely unharmed. Not a single bite. You could say this was my bat cave moment.
Spiders are one of the most misunderstood creatures in the animal kingdom. This is part of why I identify with them so closely. People seem to think that they are scary and dangerous and gross. In reality they are creative and beautiful and beneficial. Here are some facts you may not know about my favorite little critters.
I’m speaking here about average and basic benign spiders which make up about 98% of the spider species on the planet. There are some highly dangerous ones like black widows, brown recluses and Sydney funnel-webs, you should avoid those guys.
While not every species of spider builds a web many of them do. If you have ever stopped to watch one of these in progress I’m sure you understand the amazing feats that these webs truly are. It would be like you building your whole house by yourself while hanging in mid-air like a cirque de soleil performer. With materials you literally pull out of your butt. And that house also gets take out for you.
There are more types of webs beyond the classic orb web. There are funnels and trap doors and specialized fishing lines or nets. Some spiders use their silk as a tether in case they fall and others make little balloons and fly.
To learn more fascinating facts about spider webs and silks check out this site.
Spiders have often been a source of inspiration for horror movies and urban legends, but they have also inspired positive stories. Most American students were required to read Charlotte’s Web where an intelligent spider saves a pig from slaughter. There are more stories from around the world.
In Africa and the Caribbean there are many tales of Anansi, a mythical figure who takes many forms and appears in many tales. He is sometimes a spider and sometimes a man or somewhere in-between. Depending on the culture the characteristics of Anansi vary. Basically Anansi is a wise and cunning figure who keeps all the worlds stories/knowledge and created the sun, moon and stars. He also appears in modern novels, comic books and music.
In China spiders are seen as good omens. It is thought that wearing a spider amulet will help you gain and keep wealth. If you find one in your house you should never kill it, you should put it outside.
Some Native American tribes saw the spider as the creator of the world known as Spider Grandmother.
Thanks to an old European folk tale of the Christmas spider people world wide put tinsel on Christmas trees.
Check out this link for even more cultural depictions of spiders, though not all are as positive.
Spiders are one of the best forms of natural pest control. Without them our homes would be over run with cockroaches and mosquitos. This not only helps keep our homes clean and pest free, but helps control the spread of deceases like malaria. They even eat centipedes which are awful vial creatures that need to be eradicated. (I happen to hate/fear centipedes. I see no redeeming qualities of them outside of being spider food.) Also, without spiders, our food crops would likely be non-existent having been ravaged by grasshoppers and other herbivorous insects. Some forms of spider venom is also being studied as a new form of commercial insecticide.
For some reason that I will never understand people think spiders are ugly and gross. Their bilateral symmetry makes my OCD feel warm and fuzzy. Speaking of fuzzy, jumping spiders are tiny, fluffy and just as cute as little bunnies who sometimes where water droplets as hates. How can anyone fear all those big eyes? Happy face spiders each have their own unique smily face design on their backs. They live in the tropics so of course they are happy.
They Are Terrified of You
Spiders do not want to be near you or on you. They enjoy living in our comfortable homes and in return for our hospitality keep the pests away. They don’t want to be any closer to you than the shadowy corners in which they hide.
I recently heard that some people think spiders feed on people when they bite. Spiders do not hunt or feed on people. They do not derive any nutrients or pleasure from biting us. If you are bitten it is because the little guy felt threatened and needed to defend himself. It’s the same reason honey bees sting, out of fear.
Despite the random statistics that people spread it is highly unlikely that you eat spiders in your sleep. The wet loud windy cave you call a mouth is exactly the type of environment spiders hate, they aren’t going to crawl in there. If they end up on you it is purely by mistake and they don’t want to be there any more than you want them there. A simple flick will make you both feel better.
Bottom line: spiders are awesome, but I can understand if you don’t love them. Please respect that they are misunderstood introverted artists just trying to help keep the mosquitos out of your home in exchange for a dry place to sleep. So give them a break instead of breaking their exoskeletons.