Settling into bed last night, pyjamas on, Netflix at the ready I climbed into bed pulling my covers over as I go. That’s when I saw it (him? Her? The devil in disguise?) as black as a total eclipse, hairy as a gorilla, as fast as a hurricane… That’s right, a spider.
Now you may think I over reacted when I tell you I jumped up, screamed and ran down stairs in search of someone to get it out of my bed! Now no joking but this little bed stealer was the size of a pint glass (ironically that’s also the glass used to remove said spider) but still as huge as it was, it was tiny in comparison to my human size.
That got me thinking, why do we as giant homo-sapiens get so scared by the humble spider?
I know exactly why I’m afraid of them. They have too many legs, too many eyes and they are really fast! (and that’s coming from a girl who once ran 200m in the South Wales athletes squad)
Now I know I’m not the only one afraid of spiders so I decided to look into it.
Did you know…
- There are approximately 40,000 species of spiders.
- Most spiders are not capable of penetrating human skin.
- Most spiders will bite humans only in self-defence.
- Most spider bites have no more effect than a bee sting or mosquito bite.
- Most researchers agree that the Australian funnel web spider is the one to avoid because of its aggressive nature, but even so, there are only two recorded bites (not deaths) a year.
- In western society, around 55% of women and 18% of men experience a fear of spiders to some degree.
All the facts I found pretty much told me that spiders are harmless unless you live in Australia (unlucky guys) but even then, the likelihood of you dying by the hands of a spider are extremely small.
So why are we so scared of them?!
Well, Psychology professor Jon May has stated in an interview with the daily mail that a spiders “angular shaped legs, dark colours and the fact they move unpredictably are all things we are hard-wired to fear.”
He also goes on to say, “studies have shown that people tend to dislike angular shapes and prefer curved ones, have bad associations with dark colours, and prefer creatures we feel we can ‘understand’.” You know, like puppies…
Arachnophobics tend to develop the phobia in childhood but find they tend to be able to deal with their fears by trying to sympathise with the insects and learn about the type of creature they are. There are some insects everyone tends to like. Honeybees, butterflies, ladybirds all have ‘cute’, ‘friendly’ reputation whilst others such as spiders have a bad reputation. And the truth is, no one knows why or how this reputation came about.
Even after knowing all this, it doesn’t particularly fill me with joy at the thought of sharing my bed with the little creature, but it does make me feel a little better knowing I’m not alone!
Now to finish off here’s some helpful things spiders do for us every day without us even knowing…
- They eat pests: Their diet consists of common insect pests you find indoors, like roaches, earwigs, flies, moths and pesky mosquitoes.
- They therefore also prevent spread of disease: Some of these pests can cause disease. Fleas, for example, can spread bubonic plague or typhus.
- Their venom can be used in medicines: The venom from a black widow spider may cause muscle aches, nausea, a paralysis of the diaphragm and potentially death, but it’s being used in inventive ways in medicine. Chilean scientists, for example, have explored its potential in erectile dysfunction treatment and as a male contraceptive pill.
- They’re traditionally symbols of good luck: The money spider has its name for a reason – they were meant to bring good fortune. In Ancient Chinese culture, spiders were called ‘ximu’, or happy insect. It was believed to be particularly lucky if they dropped down from the ceiling, as if they were dropping down from heaven.
Plus, they were the inspiration for Spiderman and he’s pretty cool also the theme for a cute nursery rhythm…
“Incy Wincy spider climbed up the water spout,
Down came the rain and washed the spider out,
Out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain,
And Incy Wincy spider climbed up the spout again.”
So how bad can they really be?