It seems spiders are right up there in our Top 10 of phobias. But was Miss Muffet overreacting? True or false? We have the answers to some big arachnid asks…
1. Spider bites are extremely common
FALSE. Perhaps not if you’re another insect – but for us humans, bites are rare. With a few exceptions, spiders are very shy. They’d almost always rather run away rather than bite us. In addition, misdiagnosis of insect bites as spider bites is very common.
2. If you throw a really large spider out of the window, it won’t survive
FALSE. The spider would almost certainly live to spook you another day! A spider isn’t heavy – even a large one – so though all falling objects accelerate as they descend, they’re much less likely to splat than a heavier object. And, if you throw them onto a garden, grass or plants provide a soft(ish) landing.
3. Spiders are good parents
TRUE. Many spiders are – for example, a female wolf spider, above, may carry an egg sac containing her young for weeks. Once the spiderlings hatch, she hauls as many as 100 or more of them on her back for another week or so.
4. Spiders always run towards you
FALSE. The critters have very poor sight and can see for only about one or two meters. But they are, however, very fast. If one of them runs towards you, it’s probably safest just to step swiftly out of the way!
5. Every spider sheds its exoskeleton, the inflexible outer shell, several times during its life
TRUE. Most stop molting once they reach maturity, though females from some relatively primitive families of spiders continue to do so throughout their lives. One question that occurs is… where does all that surplus spider outerwear go?
6. There are more spiders in autumn
FALSE. There aren’t actually any more spiders around in the autumn, it’s just that we’re more likely to see them, either because some of the ones who’ve been living outside might come in as it gets chilly, or because it’s the mating season and males can be seen hurrying around looking for a lady lurve…
7. Spiders come into the house by climbing up drainpipes and out of the plughole
FALSE. They don’t particularly like baths – and definitely not getting wet – it’s just that they fall in and usually can’t climb out. This is especially true of large spiders, which can’t scale smooth surfaces. Just like Incy Wincy, water will wash them away – but they may climb up the overflow again.
8. Spiders are not aggressive
TRUE. Spiders don’t seek us out just to terrorise us for fun. Nor will they bite us – even when they have the opportunity to do so. They only kill other insects for food and even the most venomous of spiders are not usually aggressive.