Eight Legs, No Respect: Why Spiders Have Such a Bad Reputation
Humans have been fascinated with spiders for centuries – the contrast of their strange, alien-like bodies with the intricate beauty of their shimmering webs. Like most things, we judge spiders based on their looks, and even if you’re an entomologist (or more specifically an arachnologist), you have to admit that they’re not what we’d traditionally think of as “cute.” Fairly or not, people have come to fear spiders for their appearance and the dangers they can cause – real or imagined.
At Anderson Pest Solutions, we want our customers to stay as informed as possible, so we’re taking a closer at why spiders have such a bad reputation as pests, and whether or not that reputation is deserved.
With their eight spindly legs, compound eyes, and what look like large fangs (called pedipalps, which are actually sensory organs), it seems like spiders were destined to become the creatures of nightmares. Pop culture took this idea and ran with it; you can find evil spiders in everything from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” novels to B-movies from the 1950s. Indeed, Hollywood is a big reason why spiders seem so terrifying – featuring them as antagonists in countless horror and monster movies.
Are people really that scared of spiders? A full third of the U.S. population would say yes, though based on simple statistics; they’ve probably never been harmed by one before. Urban myths and legends do more damage than any spider has ever done. Surely you’ve heard the one that says the average human swallows up to 8 spiders during sleep in their lifetime? According to Snopes, that’s all hogwash. This “fact” is believed to have originated from a 1993 PC Professional article, where the author attempted to make a point about not believing everything you read by publishing her own list of made-up facts. Ironically enough, that one stuck like a fly in a spider’s web.
People in western civilization weren’t always afraid of arachnids. There are plenty of anecdotes as far back as Victorian times that seem to suggest we coexisted much more peacefully. For instance, it used to be considered bad luck to kill a spider! Other cultures also treat them differently: In some Native American tribes, spiders and their webs symbolize the cycle of nature and passage of time. And perhaps you’ve heard the tales of Anansi, the storytelling spider, from the Ashanti people in Ghana?
There’s reason to suggest that people are starting to change their perceptions of these previously feared creatures. Organic farmers have begun to utilize them as a form of pest control instead of using dangerous pesticides. A 1990 study found 614 species of spiders in U.S. croplands, representing 19% of the spider species in North America. And if you’re one of the 70% who isn’t stricken with arachnophobia, spiders can be just as effective in your home as well. Some insect pests are known to abandon an area once spiders move in.
We hope that by shedding a bit more light on the subject you just might gain a new appreciation – or at least a begrudging acceptance – of the poor, misunderstood spider. However, that doesn’t mean you need to leave all your doors open and let your new friends rush in. If you’re still not comfortable keeping these arachnids around your home, the experts at Anderson Pest Control are here to help. Contact us to schedule your residential pest control service today!