A Spider’s Tale

By:

Robin Mountjoy

September 9, 2015

Let’s face it: spiders aren’t the most lovable creatures. And with Halloween just around the corner, we spiders must prepare. It’s only a matter of time before we’re portrayed as aggressive creepy-crawlers or used as decorations to scare away fairy tale characters, athletes, and astronauts asking for candy. But frankly, I’ve had it. I’m tired of the bad rep we spiders get, and it’s time to set some common misconceptions straight. 

For starters, you don’t actually swallow spiders in your sleep.

I don’t bite

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t like humans. Those bites you have aren’t coming from us, but are most likely from other insects in your home. We spiders prefer mosquitos and flies and only bite if we feel threatened. Even then, many of us are incapable of piercing human flesh.

Of the approximately 40,000 spider species worldwide, only about a dozen can cause serious damage to humans. In fact, there are only two groups of spiders in North America that can actually harm humans: spiders belonging to the widow group and recluse group. While these spiders can be dangerous to outdoor workers like farmers, gardeners, and construction workers, individuals can take preventive steps to further reduce the chances of being bit.

Keep me indoors  

If you happen to find me around your home, please don’t take me outside. It might seem like the obvious choice, but less than five percent of house spiders – that’s me! – have ever been outside. While some of my relatives do well outdoors, my poor eyesight decreases my ability to survive and, frankly, I don’t like the sunshine.

The same goes for where I make my home. I prefer to build my web in calm, undisturbed places usually located in darker nooks and crannies like garages, basements, attics, or under furniture. A sure sign I may be crashing in your home is the abundance of empty webs. Location is everything as they say, and I will spin webs throughout a home until I find the best place to catch my prey.

I’m not an insect

Finally, my kind and I are not insects. Even though we both belong to the same phylum – Arthropoda – I belong to the (better) class, Arachnida. Insects, however, belong to the class Insecta, and a few important qualities set us apart.

When in doubt, count the legs. I have four pairs of legs while insects have three. Insects also have three body parts, compared to the two spiders have. And while many insects can fly, spiders can balloon! We don’t travel high or far, but we pull out silk until the breeze lifts us into the sky.

And speaking of silk, a spider’s ability to spin silk sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Our silk is the strongest known natural fiber, made of durable strands of protein. While our webs may look the same, there are many different types and styles of webs. Because webs vary in shape and size among spiders, we’re grouped taxonomically according to the type of web we make.

We’re never far away

It’s been said that you’re never more than a few yards away from a spider. But even though common house spiders like me pose no threat to humans, I understand how a statement like that could make you want a different roommate.

The best way to control spiders is with an integrated pest management approach to include prevention, exclusion, and population reduction. To control house spiders like me, it’s important to clean dark places such as cupboards, attics, and garages. Avoid leaving clothes and shoes on the floor and seal off any cracks or crevices around your home to prevent different types of spiders from entering. And finally, remove any additional clutter both indoors and outside your home – a clean and clear space gives spiders the willies.

Now that I’ve debunked some common spider misconceptions, I hope you’ll view those ubiquitous spider rings and ridiculous Halloween decorations with some respect. Maybe you’ll even stifle a scream the next time you see one of my compatriots crawling around in your shower because we really are a sight to behold!