It seems that all things creepy (and crawly) tend to appear at this time of the year. Seeing that summer is just about in full swing, I have decided to write about the creepiest crawly of them all – spiders. The mere thought that there might be something waiting for me in the dark, ready to pounce and crawl all over me is enough to ensure a sleep-free night. In fact, since I had a nightmare about swimming through a river of spiders last night, I feel the need to get this off my chest. As they say, it is always better to get things off your chest, even if it is figuratively – I hope!
Not only do I have an avid imagination when it comes to the thought of arachnids attacking me, but I have heard stories about spiders. Very creepy stories. Recently, I came across an article about a lady that bought bananas at a supermarket (imported from areas such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia) and then spotted a white lump on the bunch. After inspecting the mouldy-looking lump and deciding to open it up, she discovered a cocoon with dozens of tropical eggs. It turns out that these spiders (Brazilian spiders aka Banana spiders) have the tendency to hide away in banana bunches. Not only is the idea of a spider hiding away in something edible scary enough, but the fact that this particular spider can cause paralysis which can possibly lead to suffocation is downright terrifying!
All in all it ended on a good note; she sucked them up with the vacuum-cleaner and then incinerated all traces of the spider eggs. Talking about incinerated, I heard of a woman in Kansas who set her house alight with flaming towels trying to kill a spider!
However much spiders seem scare me, I still feel that they play their part in the ecosystem, catching all sort of bugs that are much more of an inconvenience than these eight-legged critters. From my research it would seem that people have gone on all sorts of extreme missions to kill spiders, but the actual fact is that although they give us the heebie-jeebies, they aren’t actually half as bad as we think they are!
Below are some spider myths that we all seem to believe, but are fictitious (you can breathe a sigh of relief now):
Myth no 1: Spiders lay their eggs underneath human skin
We have all heard the story about someone who visited a foreign country, came back with a spider bite and then tons of tiny spiders hatched their way out of the wound. Did you know that spiders are very particular as to where they lay their eggs, and prefer to lay them in protected, hidden areas and not in places where they see a direct threat? Furthermore, they also have no means of injecting eggs into us humans.
Myth no 2: We swallow an average of 8 eight spiders in a year
According to Bill Shear, the former president of the American Arachnological Society, spiders have absolutely no interest in humans, and “regard us much like they’d regard a big rock… We’re so large that we’re really just part of the landscape.” This in turn busts another myth (one that I was fearful of!) that spiders crawl all over us while we are asleep. When we sleep, we snore, titter and breathe – causing vibrations that warn spiders of imposing threats. So, to think about it – we are actually scaring them and they are not scaring us!
Myth no 3: Didn’t see what bit you? It must have been a spider!
Poor spiders are always getting all the brunt for any possible rash, itch or bump. Although it is possible that spiders may bite people in bed, Rod Crawford, curator of arachnids at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle says that this doesn’t happen often. Burke further says that as opposed to insects, spiders do not feed on human blood, so they don’t have any reason to venture near us while we sleep (another reason you can rest easy!).
Myth no 4: Spiders are aggressive
According to my research, spiders are misunderstood little critters, and as mentioned above, they do not really try and come into our space. If they do, then biting us is not on their priority list of to do’s.
Lizzy Lowe, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences says that she collects a lot of spiders (all by hand) and that very few will try to attack you or are going to do you any harm if they do accidentally bite you. She also says that spider bites take place when they are threatened or surprised, but they are actually very much unaware of us humans. Crawford also says that of all the thousands of spiders that he has dealt with, he has only been bitten twice, with only minor effects.
Although there are some spiders around whose venom can cause side effects (as the one mentioned previously), it is very unlikely that a spider bite will result in death. Now that I have done a fair amount of research, I have realised that although spiders seem very creepy, they are actually not as scary as I initially thought, and tonight I will rest easy knowing that they are much more afraid of me than I am of them!
If you are still not convinced that spiders are our friends, David Cross, head of technical Training at Rentokil has the following advice to offer in terms of keeping spiders out of your home: “Keep the doors closed, keep the windows closed and exercise good housekeeping. Also be sure to regularly clean cobwebs and vacuuming is usually enough of a disruption to keep house spiders away and drive them into their quieter corners – or even out of the house in the garage or garden shed where they are not a problem to anybody.”