Important Facts about Spiders

For centuries, spiders have been given a bad rap. Over two thousand years ago, people in Abyssinia were so scared of spiders that they moved to a different region because of a spider infestation. In the Medieval times, people feared spiders because they thought they transmitted the Black Death. In fact, Medieval people actually believed that if a spider fell into a bucket of water, it would poison the water. The same with food. If they saw a spider crawl across a plate of food, they’d throw the food away. In modern times, things haven’t changed much. Today, psychologists have coined the term “arachnophobia” for people who have an abnormal fear of spiders. The entertainment industry stokes our fear. The Lord of the Rings novels scared readers with the giant, evil spider Shelob that attacked Frodo, and the movie Arachnophobia scared viewers with poisonous spiders that began killing everyone in a small country town. You can probably come up with other examples of Hollywood playing on our fear of spiders. So let’s set matters straight about spiders by considering two important facts about them. After all, spiders aren’t really the bad guys – they’re the good guys.

All Spiders Are Poisonous -- So What?

Many people are afraid of spiders because they believe spiders are poisonous. Are spiders poisonous? Yes -- and no. It’s true that almost all spiders are poisonous -- but not necessarily to you. Spiders use their venom to kill or paralyze their prey or to defend themselves. But most spiders pose no threat to humans because their fangs are too weak or too small to puncture your skin. If a spider should succeed in puncturing your skin, the bite would feel like a bee sting. And just as some people might have an allergic reaction to a bee sting, a person might have an allergic reaction to a spider bite. Still, spiders rarely bite people, and when they do, it’s usually in self-defense because someone disturbed them or tried to pick them up. The bites of a few spiders, though -- mainly black widows and brown recluse spiders -- can be painful. The black widow’s bite can be dangerous, too. But these spiders aren’t aggressive. If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.

Spiders Actually Protect Us

Spiders protect us from insects we consider pests. When people complain about spiders’ being around their homes, just think about where the spiders are hanging out: around porch lights and windows that attract mosquitoes, and near bushes, flowers and shrubs that attract pests. If you kill off the spiders, the number of pests will increase because their natural enemies -- spiders -- aren’t around to eat them. Eventually, though, the spiders will return because their food source is still there.

How to Eliminate Spiders Effectively

Let’s say you do want to eliminate spiders in certain areas of your home or yard. Don’t spray them. Not only will you kill off the spiders, but you’ll probably kill off other natural enemies of the pests the spiders feed on. So the number of pests around your home or garden will actually increase. Eliminate spiders the smart way: by getting rid of the pests they feed on. With their source of food gone, the spiders won’t have an excuse to hang around. If you simply want to eliminate spiders from around a light or other location, knock down their webs with a broom or spray them with a hose. The spiders will go someplace else -- hopefully to a place you find more desirable -- and build new webs to continue trapping pests. Spiders serve an important function by reducing the number of pests in your home, porch and yard. So have pity on them. They’re usually the good guys.

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