SHOULD ENJOY THEIR SPIDERS
Virtually all U.S. spiders have fangs and venom, although most are too
small to deliver a bite to humans. Below, I mention two incidents in
which people pick up large spiders, but I am not recommending anyone
handle spiders of whatever size.
Parker is captivated by spiders. Like snakes and sharks, spiders induce
a range of emotions from deep-seated fear and loathing to intense interest
and fascination. I used to dread them, to a point approaching arachnophobia,
the deep, irrational fear of spiders. Now I think they are fantastic.
I did not get over my fear of spiders until I was in college, several
decades ago, during a memorable encounter with one in the wild. Parker
has already accomplished this first step in elementary school. His appreciation
of these eight-legged animals is now tending toward arachnophilia.
are exquisite creatures; they get a bad rap from a few troublemakers.
Even so, threats to humans from the black widow and brown recluse are
vastly overrated, although either could potentially deliver a serious
bite. According to the entomology department at the University of California,
Riverside, despite all the hoopla surrounding the brown recluse, there
is still not one proven human death due to a brown recluse bite. Likewise,
I am not aware of the confirmed death of a single healthy person bitten
by a black widow. Nonetheless, when a friend called recently to ask
what he should do with one that had built a web on his doorknob, my
advice was to "remove it from the premises."
than viewing spiders as hazardous, we should welcome them as heralds
of environmental health. Spiders are top carnivores. So when spiders
are thriving, plants and animals lower on the food chain must also be
doing well. Spiders are a sign that at least some portion of the ecosystem
is operating properly.
to terms with spiders came when I turned over a rock while on a field
trip to the Southwest. An enormous, black, furry Texas brown tarantula
began crawling out. These spiders are actually large enough to eat small
mice. But they do not ordinarily bite people, and a colleague said,
"Pick it up. It won't hurt you and may help you lose your fear
of spiders." With an adrenaline rush akin to leaving the airplane
on a skydive or having the opening line in the school play, I let the
spider crawl onto my hand, which it was the size of. It walked up my
arm to my shoulder, and I retrieved it with my other hand. My friend
was right. I have not been afraid of spiders since, neither small nor
I really like spiders. Therefore, I consider it a good sign when a question
about arachnids refers to a "beautiful spider." Or when a
neighbor wants me to see her "pet spider on the breakfast room
window." The black and yellow garden spider's web, fully two feet
across and covering the window, could not have been better placed for
an all-day gladiator show from inside the house. These wonderful creatures
build the quintessential spider web of concentric circles with spokes
from the center. They and their webs are indeed quite beautiful.
who accept, or better yet appreciate, spiders have what I consider a
healthy enthusiasm for the natural world. I'm not sure why anyone would
want to get rid of a spider that is not inside the house. If you watch
them carefully you will soon see that a fascinating group of animals
lives right in your neighborhood.
suggesting you go around picking up spiders, regardless of whether you
are afraid of them, although that tactic did work for me. Last week,
I watched Parker pick up a gigantic wolf spider and let it scamper across
his hand. In the field of arachnology, he is clearly way ahead of where
I was at his age, and I am unlikely to catch up.
you have an environmental question or comment, email