This Halloween — Show Spiders Some Love
This Halloween, we’re featuring spiders on the blog! But not to scare you. In fact, we thought Halloween would be the perfect opportunity to shed some (not-so-spooky) light on these creepy crawlies.
Our eight-legged friends (yes – you read that right) top the list of the most misunderstood helpers and are labeled as pests. Entomologists are working hard to change the public’s perception of spiders through education and outreach. After all, we are less likely to be afraid of something that we are familiar with and spiders have an important ecological role as the top invertebrate predator.
Spiders evolved 380 million years ago (long before the dinosaurs) and are believed to be the first animals to live on land. They are living fossils that evolved from an underwater ancestor that makes them closer cousins to a horseshoe crab than an insect.
Spiders are often lumped together with insects even though they are very different creatures. Spiders are in the same phylum (Arthropods) as insects, because they have a segmented body. To put that in perspective, humans are in the same phylum (Chordata) as hagfish, and obviously, other than a hollow nerve cord, we are nothing like a hagfish. The differences are that big!
Without spiders, we would be waist deep in other insects!! Spiders eat an astronomical amount of bugs – somewhere in the range of 880 million tons of bugs a year!
Fear and loathing
You can Google hundreds of news articles about car wrecks and house fires caused by people’s fear of spiders. Just a few days ago, there was a house fire in California where a man burnt down his parent’s house trying to kill a black widow. While there is research that shows some people are born with an innate fear of spiders, other people raise them as pets.
However, spiders are not the fearsome predators that they are made out to be. They have a bad rap for being dangerous and aggressive when really, they are just trying to get away from us on their search for more bugs.
Most bites are caused by accident or when the spider feels threatened. Spiders don’t go around nibbling humans while they sleep to find the tastiest parts.
In fact, more people are killed by cows than spiders every year! Cows are responsible for the deaths of 20 people a year whereas spiders are only responsible for 7. Shouldn’t we therefore be more afraid of cows than spiders?
Here in Utah, we have two venomous spiders: the Hobo and the Black Widow. The Hobo spider is often mistaken for a Brown Recluse, but Utah doesn’t have a Recluse population. The Hobo spiders are so docile that they have been taken off the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of venomous spiders. The Black Widow’s venom is so precious to the spider that she will play dead or throw her silk before she bites in defense.
Give them a corner or keep them outside
Let’s appreciate spiders and their appetite for disease-carrying insects, like the mosquito!
So what does that mean when you find a spider in your house?
We are disrupting the natural ecosystem balance and biodiversity with every spider we squish. If you need a little nudge in the appreciation direction, The Natural History Museum of Utah has a Bug Brigade program that offers people a chance to learn about the important role of Arthropods in our ecosystem.
The worst way to deal with spiders is to spray your home with pesticides. Pesticides kill everything without a central nervous system! Most pesticides are only sprayed along the cracks and baseboards of homes, and how many spiders come in on the ceilings and walls?
If you don’t care about the spiders’ life, then do it for the bees! Innocent bystanders in the insect world also suffer from spraying our homes. Also, it is very important that we reduce our exposure to harmful chemicals that we come into contact every day, especially in our homes.
It may be impossible not to jump at the sight of a spider in our sink, but it is worth working through our fears (and near heart attacks) to peacefully coexist with our little helpers.
A few of us here at SLCgreen have adopted what we call the “quarter rule,” if spider buddy (as he is affectionately known) is bigger than a quarter (legs included) he has to go back outside to live. The smaller guys are welcome to stay and eat the annoying little fruit flies that come home with the bananas.
If you can’t stand the sight of them in your house then take them outside. Keep in mind that even big spiders can squeeze through tiny cracks and holes. Caulking cracks and installing door sweeps is a great way to keep the spiders happy and healthy outside of your home!
If the idea of putting them outside makes you break out in a sweat, then please check out our Pesticide Free Guide for alternative pest management.
Do yourself a favor today while you are looking at the cute animal feed and add a few cute spider (and bug) pictures!
Or perhaps you have a new idea for a not-so-scary Halloween costume? Thanks for spreading the spider love!