Okay, I guess I need a trigger warning here for those of you who are afraid of spiders. If you don’t feel comfortable looking at pictures of beautiful 8-legged critters, I understand if you need to skip this one. But for everyone else, I remind you that not long ago I was creeped out by spiders and now I find them fascinating and fun to watch. If someone as squeamish as me can make that transformation, I bet you can too. And there’s nothing really scary here anyway. So I hope you’ll stick around for this celebratory post, because Arachnids + October = Arachtober, aka spider fun for everyone!
Fun Fact #1: Spiders aren’t insects. Insects have six legs, spiders have eight. If you want to be afraid of something with eight legs, take a look at ticks. (Most spiders have eight eyes as well; two big ones and six smaller ones.) Spiders are in the class Arachnida, while insects are in the class Insecta.
Fun Fact #2: The vast majority of spiders are totally harmless to us. That’s right, most of them will run from you, not toward you. And even though they may bite in self-defense if they happen to get caught between your body and a hard surface, most spider bites won’t hurt you. Even though most spiders do carry venom, it’s meant to kill tiny insects, and can’t take down something as big as a homo sapiens. Of course there are some spiders that are very dangerous, but as long as you know which ones occur in your part of the world, you can take precautions to keep yourself safe from them.
Fun Fact #3: Not all spiders spin webs. A few years ago I was surprised to learn this. It was one of those things I’d never really looked into but just assumed that they all did, in the same way that I used to think that birds slept in their nests at night. (Most birds only use nests when they’re raising young; they sleep in trees or other sheltered spots at night.) So if a spider doesn’t spin a web, how does it catch prey? By chasing it down or lying in wait for it, that’s how. I often come across crab spiders tucked down inside flowers waiting for prey insects to stumble into their clutches. And spiders can run surprisingly fast, as you’ll discover if you ever need to try to rescue one from your bathtub or capture it in your “mercy cup” to take it outside.
Fun Fact #4: Spiders are very beneficial in your house. Allowing spiders to live in your house means that you get their insect-eating services for free. Remember when I showed you the jumping spider that caught a greenbottle fly on my sunroom wall last year?
I want to be clear that I’m not trying to make you feel bad if you’re afraid of spiders, and I don’t claim to be better than anyone else when it comes to irrational behaviors. You may remember in that same post last fall that I wrote a sort of confessional about my failure at overcoming my fear of spiders in certain situations. I just know that the more time I spend looking at photos of spiders or reading about them or watching them, the more comfortable I am around them. It’s my hope that by occasionally writing about spiders, I can help others to be more open to accepting these cool creatures who are such an important part of the ecosystem.
I’ve heard of extreme levels of arachnophobia before, and just read about a man who tried to kill a large spider with a blowtorch and set his apartment on fire. Apparently he torched the spider, but it was still able to run up onto his mattress, which then caught fire and it quickly spread from there. Don’t be that guy! A wolf spider won’t hurt you, but if you must relocate it, perhaps you’ll want to use your mercy cup** instead of a blowtorch.
And look at what good mothers they are — I found these two wolf spiders living on a rock wall along the Maumee River last year. The first one was dragging her egg sac around as she hunted for food for herself. She does this so that the babies will be able to climb up onto her back as soon as they emerge. And that’s what you see in the second photo, another female with her minivan loaded up with kids. Can you imagine how irritating that must be?!
I’m glad I discovered Arach-tober so I could share the fun with all of you. Thanks to those of you who made it through this one, and I hope you found something here to spark your curiosity about spiders.
And I’ll leave you with this photo of a beautiful dew-covered web I found on my patio one morning a few years ago, as a reminder of the amazing things that spiders can do.
** You might want to poke around the wonderful page of “Spider Myths” from the Burke Museum in Seattle — I learned a lot there just as I was finishing this post. In fact, they say that my practice of relocating spiders from indoors to outdoors (with the aforementioned mercy cup) is probably killing them, because most spiders that live in houses can’t survive outdoors. Not long ago I caught a big spider in my house and decided not to put it outside because it was too cold; I released it under my sink instead. Apparently that’s the way to go, so I think I’ll try to just let them go about their business in the house from now on.