Learning to Tolerate Spiders

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20160203AMost people are uncomfortable around spiders. In fact, many even panic when they see one. I’d like to try and change that attitude. No, I’m not going to force you to hug one, but I would like you to better understand them and the role they play.

Spiders are the gardener’s friends. They eat a variety of insects and other arthropods, including many that are harmful to our plants. Okay, occasionally they’ll catch a beneficial insect, but many, many more pest insects than beneficial ones end up on their plate (or should I say in their web?). The wise gardener simply lets spiders be.

This is also the case of spiders that live in our homes. No need to be ashamed: there are spiders in every house and it has nothing to do with a lack of cleanliness. They are there because insects and other pests enter our homes or actually live there and they help to reduce their numbers. Which would you rather have? One or two spiders or dozens of flies?

The Universal Spider

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Domestic house spider

Did you know that there are even spiders that are specific to homes and almost never found elsewhere? That’s the case of the domestic house spider (Tegenaria domestica), among others. It is found in homes all over the world, including in your house, at least probably. This harmless spider is by far the species most often seen in the average home.

 

When You See a Spider…

What should you do when you see a spider? Nothing. Leave it alone. Especially when it is outdoors in the garden. Indoors, if it’s in a spot where you don’t want it to be, why not move it and place it among your houseplants? Spiders that live among houseplants are among the most useful of all, as they lay in wait for those nasty insects we don’t want to see. With a little luck, when that winged aphid wanders indoors and settles on your indoor greenery, the spider will be there to snatch it instantly, nipping the upcoming infestation in the bud.

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Spider-catching tool

To pick up a spider without injuring it you can use the traditional paper towel, but for those who are afraid of being that close to a spider, there are long-handled tools specifically designed to catch them (and other critters) without your having to get anywhere near them. And once you’ve caught them, you can release them wherever you want.

Superstitions

There are all sorts of superstitions about spiders, but most see the spider as an omen of good luck. And killing a spider is said to cause misfortune. So the superstitious have little choice but to like spiders!

Toxicity

Yes, most spiders produce toxic venom, but it is generally designed to immobilize tiny insects, not to affect large mammals, and is therefore harmless to humans. Besides, most spiders simply can’t bite humans: their mouthparts are unable to pierce our thick skin. But I can’t deny that there are a few spiders that are poisonous to humans.

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The poisonous black widow spider occasionally ranges to the North, but is more common in warm climates.

The further north you live, the fewer poisonous spiders there are. There are none where I live in Eastern Quebec, for example, nor in Scandinavia. And in general, they are very, very rare anywhere winters are cold. (Few poisonous spiders live indoors, unless they have wandered in by accident.) In regions with mild winters, though, there are many species that can be poisonous. Even bites from poisonous spiders are rarely fatal (perhaps one case in 100), although some can make you quite ill.

Even in the Tropics, though, surprisingly few people are bitten by poisonous spiders. Spiders normally have no reason to attack humans: we’re not their prey, after all. They will only bite if they feel threatened. So leave them alone and they will leave you alone, period.


Again, I’m not saying you have to get up close and personal with spiders, but I do hope this text will have taught you to respect them.

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