Stop Hating on Spiders; They're Important Too

Some animals don’t get much respect from people, and spiders are one of those creatures.

(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

Just like other animals with more than four legs, spiders have their fair share of haters. Some of the hatred of spiders is rooted in fear, with arachnophobia ranking as one of the most common fears in the world. And some people just don’t like anything that creeps and crawls around, especially indoors. Spiders also sometimes have that element of surprise — suddenly crossing your path when you least expect it.


While it may be easy to understand why spiders don’t get much love from people, hating them isn’t doing anyone any good, especially the spiders. As a group, spiders aren’t going anywhere, so we should appreciate — or even celebrate — them.


If you need a little help appreciating spiders, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn why spiders deserve our respect.


They mean you no harm


Are some spiders venomous? Yes. And do spiders sometimes bite people? Also yes. But here’s the catch. Spiders have no interest in humans, and they certainly don’t feed on us. When people are bit by spiders, it’s a last resort to protect themselves.

 

Words to know

Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders.

Arthropods: Invertebrate animals having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. This includes insects, spiders and crustaceans.

Carnivore: Animals that eat flesh of other animals.

Eradicate: To destroy completely.

Spinneret: An organ that produces silk.

 

And even in the rare chance you do get bit by a spider, it’s even more rare that it could cause you harm. Of the more than 50,000 known spider species in the world, only 25 have venom capable of causing human illness. That means only 1/20 of 1% of spiders can harm humans.


In fact, most bites attributed to spiders are not actually caused by spiders at all. Instead, so-called spider bites are most often caused by insects or other arthropods or are simply skin reactions and irritations.


They eat lots of other things we love to hate


Almost all spiders are carnivores, which means they eat other animals. But even the largest spiders in the world aren’t all that big, so they mainly eat creatures smaller than them, like insects and other arthropods.


You know what that means? Spiders eat a lot of the creepy-crawly things many of us don’t like – including the world’s most dangerous animal. Yep, spiders feast on mosquitoes, and hard as it may be to believe, mosquitoes are the deadliest animal in the world. So really, we have spiders to thank for keeping the population of mosquitoes in check.


They produce one of the strongest fibers on Earth


If you’ve ever walked face first into a spider web you know just how sticky spider silk can be. Sticky is just one property of this unique fiber, though. Spider silk is also strong – stronger than steel.


The strength of this unassuming fiber is the subject of research by scientists who would like to duplicate its strength-enhancing properties for protective gear such as body armor and bulletproof vests.


Some of them are exceptional parents


In the animal kingdom, it’s mammals and birds that are most often celebrated for their parenting skills. Some spiders, though, would definitely make the short list when it comes to best in parental care.


Take wolf spiders. Female wolf spiders attach their egg sacs to their spinnerets — the organs that spin silk — to carry around until they hatch. When the babies are born, they climb up on their mothers’ backs until they are old enough to live on their own.


And some female jumping spiders provide more parental care than we usually see from arthropods. These moms will feed their babies a nutritious milk-like substance even after they are old enough to hunt for food on their own.


Some female spiders give their lives for their offspring. Some spiders from the Stegodyphus genus of spiders actually eat their mothers alive. After the babies hatch, the mother spider and any sisters that did not reproduce will feed the babies a nutritious liquid by mouth. After they’ve grown, the spiders eat their mother. In the animal kingdom, offspring eating their mother is rare, only known to occur with a few species of spiders, insects and nematode worms. It is thought to be a strategy that allows the species to survive.


We need them


As much as we may despise some animals, we can’t just eradicate undesirable creatures from existence. The health of our habitats relies on well-functioning food chains, and spiders play a key role in food chains.


Spiders are both predator and prey, so while they eat some creatures to keep populations in check, they are eaten by other animals, ensuring spider populations don’t grow too large. Without this delicate system of checks and balances, species populations can become unstable, threatening our environment and even our own livelihood.

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