Spiders are simply misunderstood. They are a major phobia for many people, and are one of the most common fears to hold. But as we know phobias are irrational; they just don't make any logical sense. As we are much more likely to harm them than they are to us. Arachnophobes cannot bear even looking at a picture of an eight-legged freak. From tiny spiders to gigantic tarantulas, people’s fears know no bounds. But what if they’re really not that bad? We take a look at the research to find out if spiders really are a friend or foe.
- There are 670 species of spiders found in the UK
- For every person in Britain there are an estimated 500,000 spiders (that will do arachnophobes no favours)
- Despite the above truth, in relative terms very little spiders actually live in our modern homes
- They tend to live in gardens, sheds, garages and outside
Why do we fear them?
According to research by Professor John May at Plymouth University, humans are pre-programmed to fear the dark and jerky unpredictable objects. So that explains why so many people fear them, they tick all the boxes unfortunately. So it’s not their fault really.
Another theory that adds to the rooted fear of spiders many of us experience has been suggested by Professor Graham Davey of the University of Sussex. He thinks that our feud with the hairy crawlers started in the Middle Ages. Back then people assumed that spiders could absorb poison and therefore carry the plague. Making them the butt of a mythical terror that grew through the ages, passed down from generation to generation. So maybe, it’s not a matter of genetics, but more a learnt fear that is passed on early in life.
Why do they help us?
Spiders are an important part of nature and your local ecosystem, if not the most important predator in your neighbourhood. Without them we would be overrun by flies and insects as they hunt and eat thousands of these pests every year. They are not specific with what they eat and therefore can help control most flies and insects from coming into your home. Some spiders will even go after larger insects like bees. So having spiders in your home will act as a natural deterrent from other smaller and more annoying insects from bottle flies to bed bugs. All they require is to be left alone. So maybe you’ll think twice the next time you find an incy wincy spider.
The different housekeeping spiders and where you might encounter them:
A common site you might have come across is a spider just minding his own business in your bath tub. And it’s no coincidence, large brown male spiders are a common bathroom dweller between August and October, but can be seen all year round. They are drawn to water, which is why you will find them around your plugholes, and they’re simply looking for a drink. Many get trapped and all they need is a helping hand. They are brilliant at dispatching flies, beetles, earwigs and cockroaches.
False widow spiders are commonly found in high up spaces, which may mean you come across them in your bedrooms or second floor spaces. False widows get their name due to their resemblance to the more dangerous and venomous black widow spider. They are in fact, mostly harmless unless you are prone to allergic reactions. They will build webs high-up in corners or along beams where they can catch prey at a height. They will catch anything and eat it, cleaning your bedroom of any unwanted visitors.
Living room spiders
Orb weavers are beautiful, small creatures and expert web spinners. These ground dwellers can make the most intricate webs in under an hour and often make a fresh web each day. They build webs to catch flying insects and will eat anything that gets stuck.
The daddy long legs are the most common creature you may find living in your garage. These long-limbed happy chappies will often come in pairs as they are communal dwellers. And a common misconception is that they have wings, but the winged long-legged impersonators are in fact insects and not arachnids. So this team of crack catchers will help control pests large and small and may even take on other spiders. They tend to leave large silky webs, so don’t be alarmed if you find these in your garage, they’re just doing their job.
The last of the house-keeping, house dwelling spiders are the Zebra spiders. These little clever creatures may scare you at first, as they are jumping spiders. Meaning they do not leave webs to catch their prey. They use their super focused vision to pounce on unaware victims. As they don’t leave any webs in their wake, they are some of the cleanest of the spider world. And they will help keep flies and mosquitoes at bay in your kitchen.
But don’t we swallow spiders in our sleep?
No. This is a common myth, that along with the unexplained fear of arachnids has been passed down from our parents. Scientists have disputed this myth as fiction. Bill Shear, a biology professor in Virginia believes spiders have no interest in humans. Saying “spiders regard us as just part of the landscape”. Rob Crawford, an arachnid curator at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture believes swallowing spiders is a highly unlikely event as “a sleeping person is not something a spider would willingly approach”. Spiders have no interest in humans, and they usually would not crawl into a bed because there is no prey there.
So there you have it, spiders aren’t that bad after all. They actually help to keep our environment cleaner and pest free. So if you don’t like little insects or flies, then you have more in common with our eight-legged friends than you first thought.