The itsy, bitsy, spider…
We fear them, squash them, smush them, and love them on Halloween.
Humans have always had a fascination and a phobia of spiders, says UW-Green Bay Prof. Mike Draney, Natural and Applied Sciences and studier of creepy stuff.
“I think spiders are sort of interestingly creepy, especially up close, seeing them under the microscope,” says Draney, who went to Panama recently on a mission to discover new spider species.
At least 10 percent of the world’s population is afraid of spiders. Some of that fear is from cultural stigmas. Some may be genetic, Draney believes.
Fear, Draney says, might be caused by, “genetic legacies that go back to our primate ancestors that really had something to worry about with spiders and snakes.”
There are thousands of spider species in the world, living in all kinds of conditions. And there are probably thousands of species left undiscovered, Draney said.
All are poisonous in some manner (mostly for catching and killing prey), but very few are poisonous enough to seriously hurt or kill a person.
“Most spiders can’t even bite humans. Anything smaller than about my pinkie nail is too small to bite people and so there’s nothing to worry about,” Draney said.
In fact, spiders can help your own home be more habitable by eating other insects that may infest your walls, attic, basement or garage.
“They have to eat dozens, even hundreds of insects throughout their life cycle,” Draney said. “So if you can tolerate one spider, there will be 40 or 100 fewer insects around your house.
So this Halloween, enjoy them, and all of their eight-legged glory.
Their eight legggggggs are everywhere.
Even at UW-Green Bay…
The story of the itsy… bitsy… spiders…
Prof. Mike Draney
Studies creepy stuff
I’m Prof. Mike Draney. I’m a biology professor at UW-Green Bay. And I’m also an arachnologist. I study spiders.
I think spiders are sort of interestingly creepy, especially up close, seeing them under the microscope. They are, some people might say ‘ugly.’ I think they’re really beautiful and fascinating looking. They have all kinds. They’re a great predator and they take this unfair advantage with their silk to capture animals. I think they’re kind of neat Halloween animals.
I think our culture has really played up the creepy factor of spiders with movies like “Arachnophobia” or “Spider Man.” And people believe they’re really dangerous or poisonous. Fact is, very few species are poisonous to humans. Most spiders can’t even bite humans. Anything smaller than about my pinkie nail is too small to bite people and so there’s nothing to worry about.
The reason why people are afraid of spiders is partly culture. You know, we have this real bad feeling about them in our Western heritage. And they have real bad connotation. But it’s also partly genetic, I believe. About 10 percent of all people, no matter what culture they’re in, seem to be afraid of spiders or spidery things with long, skinny legs. And about 10 percent of people are afraid of snakes. These probably are genetic legacies that go back to our primate ancestors that really had something to worry about with spiders and snakes.
There’s really nothing to worry about with spiders, particularly in Wisconsin. They’re not even in the top 100 of anything to worry about. Even around the world, there are so many more animals that are more dangerous and a lot of other things to worry about. Spiders, essentially, are just not a threat to us here in Wisconsin.
Spiders are our friends, especially if you don’t particularly like insects or have problems pest insects because they eat insects. They have to eat dozens, even hundreds of insects throughout their life cycle. So if you can tolerate one spider, there will be 40 or 100 fewer insects around your house.
Myself and my colleagues in the spider world, one of our big tasks really is to decrease fear and loathing of spiders by increasing understanding. Once you understand them and really see them, you’ll see that they’re really beautiful and important animals and are not to be feared.