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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.
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.
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.
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:
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.