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What are Some Common Myths About Spiders?

Spiders often evoke fear, but many beliefs about them are unfounded. For instance, the idea that all spiders are dangerous to humans is a myth; only a few species pose any threat. Also, spiders don't purposefully invade our homes to seek warmth. They're accidental guests, hunting other pests. Intrigued by these eight-legged creatures? Discover more myths and truths as we unravel the web of spider facts.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Myths about spiders abound and often add to our fear of these mostly harmless and rather beneficial creatures. Our misunderstandings often lead to not knowing exactly how to approach them, and how to consider them in light of their environmental importance. It’s fairly easy to quickly kill a spider, and we often do so without it truly being necessary.

The most common myth associated with spiders is that they are dangerous. This is decidedly untrue, at least for humans. They are very dangerous to insects; in fact we should be glad they are, since they help to keep other insect populations from overwhelming us. First, there are only a few spiders that can make humans sick, and second, very few of those that can make humans sick actually cause lethal bites. Even with “deadly” species like the Australian Funnel Web, or the Brazilian Wandering Spider, less than 10% of cases require antivenin. Contrary to popular belief, most tarantulas pose absolutely no threat to humans.

As big as they are, most tarantulas are nothing to worry about.
As big as they are, most tarantulas are nothing to worry about.

Some people don’t like to kill spiders, and that’s a good thing. However, they also don’t want to live with them in their house. Therefore, they carefully trap and leave them outside to hopefully “flourish.” The trouble with this is that most of those we find in homes are not really suited to outdoor living. They didn’t simply wander into our homes from a nearby bush. They came in from cracks in our home, living in unseen areas. Instead of saving them, you are probably actually killing them by placing them outside. To prevent having spiders in your home, consider sealing up as many possible access points to your house.

Putting a spider outside can end up killing it.
Putting a spider outside can end up killing it.

Another myth that plagues most North Americans is that Brown Recluses live in their area. This is particularly the case with people living on the west coast, who are sure that any violin shaped spider must be a Brown Recluse. Brown Recluses really do only live in the middle southern states, and in the last 20 or so years, only about 10 Brown Recluses have been found on the west coast. Further, many other species have a similar violin shaped body.

Black widows are not the only spiders with red markings.
Black widows are not the only spiders with red markings.

In fact it is a myth that you can identify spiders by their looks. We typically tend to think of black widows as the only type with a red hourglass shape on their abdomen. This is not true; many others have similar markings. Individual species can exhibit extraordinary variance in appearance, and many are almost impossible to identify without examining them under a microscope or evaluating their DNA. Therefore, just because your spider looks like a so-called dangerous one, it very well may not be.

A few more myths that malign spiders everywhere include the following:

  • You eat about four a year while you are sleeping.
  • Spiders drink from your mouth.
  • They nest in hair.
  • The worst spiders lie in wait under toilet seats.
  • They prefer to bite humans that eat certain foods.
  • Brown recluses do not live all over the country.
    Brown recluses do not live all over the country.

    Almost as many myths about spiders exist as there are species, so it’s important to realize that almost everything you hear about them is likely false unless you’re being given information from an arachnologist. You should definitely discard any information gleaned from movies, as these films are meant to scare with inaccurate depictions of these creatures. Most often, spiders you may encounter have no interest in you whatsoever, and they would much prefer to meet something of their own size that would actually taste good to them.

    Tricia Christensen
    Tricia Christensen

    Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent AllThingsNature contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

    Learn more...
    Tricia Christensen
    Tricia Christensen

    Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent AllThingsNature contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

    Learn more...

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    Discussion Comments

    anon300800

    I heard a myth that spiders can be possessed by the spirits of your dead loved ones! I guess this isn't too unheard of because I just saw a video sort of portraying this myth online.

    SteamLouis

    I personally like spiders, I think they're cute. If I see one on the wall or the floor, I just ignore it. I never kill spiders or throw it outside. I know the spider is doing pest control for me, so why would I want to get rid of it?

    I admit that if I were to see a really big spider around my house, I might get startled and not know what to do with myself for a minute. It can be kind of intimidating because we usually expect insects to be tiny. But I still wouldn't try to kill it. I think I would just wait for it to go back into the crack it came from.

    ZipLine

    @literally-- Yea. They would also say that all spiders are poisonous, if a spider bites you, you will die and spiders bite humans at night. I don't know who came up with these stories but it sounds like it's right out of a horror film. Poor children who must shiver at night in fear of being attacked by a spider.

    None of this is true! Spiders don't bite humans unless they're being handled and the spider feels threatened. They're not going to just jump on you and start biting you.

    Spiders mind their own business and they're scared of humans so the last thing they would want to do is go on a human. It can happen by accident if the person walks into a spider web. But even then, they will just want to get off you and return to their web.

    literally45

    I remember back when I was in school, people used to say all the time that we eat spiders while were sleeping. I remember getting really scared about that and making sure to keep my mouth closed while I slept.

    As I got older, I realized that this is just a myth. What would a spider do in our mouth anyway? They're usually just busy building webs and waiting for prey. So it doesn't make sense that they would find their way to our mouth and that too four times a year!

    It's unfortunate that kids are told such myths as if it's true because they really believe them. I believe that we need to teach kids to love all creatures. Spiders have the right to live just as we do.

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      • As big as they are, most tarantulas are nothing to worry about.
        By: Sebastian Duda
        As big as they are, most tarantulas are nothing to worry about.
      • Putting a spider outside can end up killing it.
        By: AndG
        Putting a spider outside can end up killing it.
      • Black widows are not the only spiders with red markings.
        By: peter_waters
        Black widows are not the only spiders with red markings.
      • Brown recluses do not live all over the country.
        By: Jason Ormand
        Brown recluses do not live all over the country.
      • Without examining spiders under a microscope, it can be difficult to delineate between different species.
        By: Vasiliy Koval
        Without examining spiders under a microscope, it can be difficult to delineate between different species.
      • One common myth about spiders is that they lie in wait underneath toilet seats.
        By: afxhome
        One common myth about spiders is that they lie in wait underneath toilet seats.