October 29, 2013

In defence of spiders

This is a guest post by @minibeastgirl.

I will start by saying I have no beef with people who have a spider phobia. I can’t really judge when gorillas, porcelain dolls and the Foxy Bingo Fox all send chills to the very heart of my being!Some phobias are completely harmless – I think everyone will agree no bad will come from me hiding behind a cushion when a Foxy Bingo advert comes on – but I would argue that a phobia of spiders is far from harmless.

Where does this fear come from?

I was in the park recently with my 14 month boy. A spider crawled over to him and he pretty much ignored it. This observed lack of innate fear is backed up by slightly more robust scientific studies. It seems we are not born with a fear of spiders but it we do more readily develop this fear.

Our inbuilt disposition to fear spiders is aggravated by a society that continually associates spiders with scary or negative images. From horror movies to Halloween decorations as a society we are teaching ourselves to be scared of spiders.

If this was somewhere like Australia, where spiders are often both dangerously venomous and aggressive, this would probably be quite a sensible thing to do.

But this isn’t Australia. This is this UK – famous for our benign wildlife. Even our most venomous spider, the False Widow Spider, isn’t a danger to the vast majority of people. These spiders are indeed venomous and this year has been a bumper year for them and all spiders. But (and this is what the tabloid press has conveniently forgotten) in the 133 years they have been in the UK not one single person has died from a bite from one and the only reason some people have had bad reactions to them are allergic to them. Add the fact they are also non aggressive, Females will bite in defence but do not make unprovoked attacks, and you are more likely to seriously injured by a donkey giving you a good boot.

So what’s the deal? Is there actually any problem with people having a phobia of spiders?

Yes. Because we humans have a bad habit of believing because we have the power to kill any living thing we also have the right to. So people get out the bug spray and rolled up newspapers (probably the ones that told them to be scared of spiders) and commit mass murder.

Spiders are a key part of our natural systems. They consume vast amounts of small flying insects day and night. They are also food for many animals including frogs, shrews and bats. If we wiped out every spider in the UK the impact of it would be huge – for our gardens to our remote moorlands our country wouldn’t be the same again.

Not only that – but they are amazing. Have you ever looked at a close-up photo of a spider? Put aside those phobia and have a good proper look at them. They are beautiful. You might have to take my word for it.

A world without spiders? Now that is my ultimate fear.


3 thoughts on “In defence of spiders

  1. I don’t have a spider phobia, and am pretty much fine with spiders outside, but can’t stand them in the house. therefore Neil has become very good at extraction without harm. Relocation instead of extermination.

    Clair on October 30, 2013
  2. I had a panicky fear of spiders for years. I can still spot one indoors at a range of more than 10 feet away. D claims I can see them in the dark. All those legs. I can’t tell where they’re going. They might crawl on me!

    Then I started a garden.
    Spiders are wonderful.
    I will still escort them out of the house.

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