SPIDER!! The mention of the word is enough to evoke a primal fear response in many folks.
Few creatures are held in lower esteem than the spiders. Most of us have had otherwise lovely
walks in our favorite natural areas rudely interrupted by a spider web becoming attached to our face. Or worse yet, the creature begins crawling in our hair and onto our neck. Perhaps the unwelcome creature made an appearance in your kitchen, shower, or bed. Unfortunately, most of these creatures met with an untimely, and usually quite violent, end. I like to call it the “Garfield response”. WHACK! SQUISH! And another spider’s life span has come to an end.
Far too seldom do we take a moment to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the spider. We too often are consumed by the tales of spiders crawling into our ears to lay eggs or crawling down our throat as we sleep. I have yet to see any documented evidence of that happening. But then, we saw it on the internet so it must be true, OUI?
Let me insert a disclaimer here. I am certainly not an authority on spiders so you may wish to
“fact check” this document before sharing it as gospel.
There are over 35,000 species of the class Arachnida (which includes spiders, ticks, mites,
scorpions, harvestmen, etc.). In Indiana there are over 400 species of spiders but only two are
venomous, the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. The Brown Recluse is a medium sized
spider with a fiddle-shaped design on its dorsal cephalothorax. It is very reclusive (get it?),
preferring to live in heavy cover such as lumber piles. It does have a bite that is likely to cause
severe tissue damage in the area of the bite. However, a human fatality due to a Brown Recluse bite is extremely rare. Nevertheless, you should take precautions when working in an area that may be used as a home by the Brown Recluse. The Black Widow spider, found mostly in southern Indiana and southern states, is another spider that can cause serious (sometimes fatal) health issues to a person who has been unlucky enough to be the recipient of her venom (yes, it is only the female Black Widow that poses a health threat to humans). Of course, almost all spiders are able to inject venom but the end result for humans is usually only minor irritation.
In perspective, worldwide the Black Widow and Brown Recluse together kill 6 people per
year (most young children who do not get medical attention) whereas mosquito borne diseases kill an estimated 3,000,000 people per year!
The next time someone says SPIDER, please don’t have the “Garfield Response” but rather take a few moments to see the beauty of the creature. Study the complexity of the web, be it orb weaver, funnel spider, trapdoor spider, or any of the hundreds of other spiders with which we share our habitat. Marvel at the maternal care needed to produce an egg sac that protects the developing young until they hatch. Wonder at the adaptation that allows the spiderlings to balloon away on the wind to establish a new home.
Let us all try to share our world with the spiders. Are we not all connected in the web of life?