How Far Are You From A Spider?
- 1 Spider Facts
- 2 8 Wildly Inaccurate Myths About Spiders (Plus the Truth)
- 3 You Are Within 6 Feet of a Spider Right Now
- 4 You Are Within 6 Feet of a Spider Right Now
- 5 Amazon Pauses Police Use of Its Facial Recognition Tech
- 6 Everything You Need to Know About the Coronavirus
- 7 3 Black Photographers on Capturing the George Floyd Protests
- 8 Android 11 Will Help You Rein In Zombie App Permissions
- 9 Georgia’s Meltdown Shows How Not to Run an Election
- 10 The Best Mouse for Every Kind of Gamer
Studies have shown that you’re never more than ten feet away from a spider, and one estimate puts you as close as three feet. To be «spider-free» you’d have to go into space in a fumigated capsule. Rather than flee, read these facts and appreciate our amazing arachnids.
Unlike insects, spiders cannot fly—but they can balloon! Young spiderlings pull out silk until the breeze can lift them into the sky. Most don’t travel high or far, but some have been seen at altitudes of 10,000 feet and on ships more than 200 miles from land. Most ballooners are very small spiderlings, but adult spiders have been captured by planes with nets.
Female wolf spiders carry their egg sacs behind them, attached to their spinnerets. After the spiders emerge, they crawl onto the mother’s abdomen and hold on while she actively runs and hunts. After about a week, the spiderlings molt to a larger size and then take off to live on their own.
While most spiders live for one year, a few may have more than one generation each year. Some spiders can live 3 to 4 years, and certain tarantulas are known to live for 25 years or longer.
Some spiders live underwater all of their lives. They surface to collect a bubble of air, which acts as an underwater lung. An underwater spider fills its bell-shape web with air bubbles and derives oxygen from them.
The fisher or raft spider is able to walk across the surface of a pond or other body of water by skating like a water strider. When it detects prey (insects or tiny fish) under the surface, it can quickly dive to capture its dinner.
Male spiders are almost always smaller than the females and are often much more colorful. Some males are so small that they actually look like they’re newly hatched.
Predators and Prey
Spiders eat more insects than birds and bats (combined) eat, so they should be considered another of human’s best friends. They play a big role in controlling insect populations.
Spiders are not only predators, they are often prey. Many birds and animals love to feed on them. The coatimundi, a relative of the raccoon, are fond of eating large tarantulas.
A few species of trapdoor spiders use their abdomens to «plug» their burrows to protect themselves from wasps. The abdomen is flat on the back end and tough enough that a wasp’s stinger can’t penetrate it.
Spider Web Facts
Male spiders are unique among all animals in having a secondary copulatory organ. While most animals spread their sperm in water or insert them into the female, mature male spiders weave a small «sperm» web. They place a drop of semen on the web, suck it up with their pedipalps (special structures on their first «arm»), and then use the pedipalp to insert the sperm into a female.
Hummingbirds use the silk from spider webs to weave together the sticks that form their nests.
The decoration in the web of some orb-weaving spiders serves a variety of purposes: It can be a warning so birds don’t fly into the web, an attractant so insect-prey fly in on purpose, or an «um-brella» to shade the spider from the hot sun.
Some orb weavers make very unusual webs. One variety greatly increases the area above the center, creating what is sometimes called a ladder web that extends eight feet above the spider.
Bolas spiders make webs of a single line with a sticky «ball,» or bola, on the end. These spiders can twirl the bolas in the air. Moths are attracted to the smell and fly toward the web until they hit it and stick. The spider then reels in its catch.
This article was adapted from «The Book of Incredible Information,» published by West Side Publishing, a division of Publications International, Ltd.
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8 Wildly Inaccurate Myths About Spiders (Plus the Truth)
You might know that spiders aren’t insects (they’re part of the Arachnida group, not the Insecta) but many other spider myths still persist. Chances are you’ve called any old web a “cobweb,” thought you were being nice by putting a spider outside instead of killing it, and made wild claims about how many spiders people swallow in their sleep each year. Read on to learn what’s real, what’s fake, and where the most persistent alternative spider facts got their start.
1. ALL SPIDERS SPIN WEBS, WHICH ARE WHERE SPIDERS LIVE.
Webs are not houses—they are made to catch food. And not all spiders spin webs: some get their dinner by hiding inside flowers or hunting. Their silk production isn’t limited to webs, either: Spider silk comes in seven different varieties, from durable draglines and parachutes to the kind used to wrap up prey.
2. ALL WEBS ARE “COBWEBS.”
As far as scientists are concerned, “cobweb” isn’t just a synonym for a spider web. It’s a specific kind of web made by spiders from the Theridiidae family. Unlike the ritzy orb webs you might be more familiar with (like the one above), cobwebs are messy, three-dimensional webs that look more appropriate in a creepy house than a garden, though some Theridiidae species live outdoors.
3. SPIDERS WILL BITE YOU WHILE YOU SLEEP.
Sorry, but they’re just not that into you. Spiders can tell the difference between a person and something they want to eat, and human sleeping sounds, like breathing and snoring, are pretty scary. Even if you roll directly onto a sheet covered in the critters, you’re more likely to make a mess than get hurt: spider fangs don’t stick up like dinosaur spikes. They’re on the other side, pointing down.
4. PUTTING SPIDERS “BACK OUTSIDE” IS NICE.
We all have that friend who makes a face when we kill a spider. They would never do that. They put spiders outside, usually using some stressful combination of a glass and a piece of paper. While there are outdoor spiders and indoor spiders, however, many species can’t survive in both environments. If you want to be nice, put the spider in your neighbor’s house.
Spiders don’t “come inside” in the fall, either. Those are just male spiders—who already live in your house—running around looking for a mate.
5. THERE’S ALWAYS A SPIDER THREE FEET AWAY.
It depends on where you are. If you’re at a spider exhibit, sure. If you’re at the top of the Eiffel Tower, chances are pretty slim. This false fact is actually an arachnologist’s fault: In 1995, Norman Platnick started an article with “Wherever you sit as you read these lines, a spider is probably no more than a few yards away.”
There are over 40,000 different species of spider in the world, so it’s not totally bonkers to assume there’s one around you somewhere, but science doesn’t have a precise estimate for how close they are to you at any given time.
6. IN FACT, THERE’S ONE UNDER YOUR TOILET SEAT.
One of the most famous spider hoaxes involves an “allegedly deadly South American spider, Arachnius gluteus”—and that name should be enough to clue you in. While the original hoax, which began circulating in 1999, had obviously fictional elements—like a non-existent Chicago airport and a totally made-up scientific journal—recent versions sound more plausible. There still isn’t a venomous spider under your toilet seat, though—and if there were, it would be much more scared of you.
7. SPIDERS ARE JERKS.
Spiders’ reputations precede them: They’ve been blamed for everything from regular old aggression to eating their mates and laying eggs in the cheeks of little girls. Contrary to popular belief, some spiders can be quite charming when the mood strikes. Both male fishing spiders and male nursery web spiders who treat their ladies to silk-wrapped snacks experience more reproductive success than spiders who show up empty-handed; a study led by Dr. Maria Albo found that nursery web males with gifts were allowed to mate nearly ten times longer than their unromantic counterparts.
8. YOU SWALLOW EIGHT SPIDERS PER YEAR WHILE SLEEPING.
We don’t swallow four spiders a year, eight spiders a year, 20 spiders in our lifetime, or any such number—unless, of course, you are a professional spider-swallower. “For a sleeping person to swallow even one live spider would involve so many highly unlikely circumstances,” Rob Crawford, Arachnid Curator at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum, writes.
You Are Within 6 Feet of a Spider Right Now
You Are Within 6 Feet of a Spider Right Now
dRMM’s House for a Deaf Child has an exterior with adjustable pieces to give color expression on the outside and control of light and views from the inside. Image: Thomas Butler
If you don’t follow UK news, you might have missed the entire island going completely bonkers over an invasive spider species. The False Widow Spider, Steatoda nobilis, was introduced to England about 100 years ago from the Canary Islands.
I’m not entirely sure why, but the British media suddenly decided that these little cobweb spiders are terrifying. After a month of frenzied headlines, a school was actually closed due to spiders this week.
Really. Dean Academy completely shut down because of suspected False Widow spiders found in an IT classroom. The entire school will be fumigated, and all athletic events are cancelled.
It’s difficult to convey why this is so incredibly silly without using a lot of four letter words, arm waving, and spittle. These spiders are NOT that dangerous. Headlines have used words like «rampaging killer spiders» and «flesh-eating,» but those claims are ridiculous and false.
These little spiders are related to black widows, but other than genetics and web structure, that’s about the end of the resemblance. They do not have venom that dissolves your flesh. They are not «flesh eating,» unless you are a fly or a cricket. They can’t «kill humans with a single bite!»; and there is NO record of their ever having killed anyone in the UK (or elsewhere, best as I can tell).
The headline above claiming there were «50 spiders racing» towards a mom is bogus. I don’t doubt that the woman in the headline above felt like there were 50 spiders charging at her, but that isn’t how these spiders work. This species is described as «notably sluggish, ponderous, solitary and non-aggressive.» They don’t live in groups or nests, they don’t hunt communally, and if you tried to make them charge someone, they would collapse. Spiders simply don’t have a respiratory system built for racing around after prey, much less terrified humans.
Why is there so much hype about these spiders?
This «Attack of the Spiders!» graph suggests spiders are practically storming the beaches from Normandy. Perhaps that is tiny Spider General Rommel in the photo?
Compare that map with this graph from a UK Natural History survey project, and it becomes clear this graphic has no connection to real, biological data.
It’s not just me that thinks the UK media coverage is over the top; the British Arachnological Society said:
*The media hype about ‘false widows’ (by which presumably Steatoda nobilis is meant) is beyond reason and irresponsible. Everybody in the coastal counties of Southern England has had lots of them in their house and garden for many years, whether they have been aware of this or not. They are now one of our commonest southern house and garden spiders. The fact that harm caused by them is very rare should tell you something about how dangerous they really are. *
So, there are lots of people and the media freaking out about spiders. And there are Arachnologists and people like me (insect pundits?) that are trying to get people to calm down and tell them a bunch of facts.
Guess which side is winning.
__Hey, Ms. Pot Kettle. This article’s headline is pretty alarmist too! __
It’s easy to write a story about spiders that will make lots of people share it. Many folks are afraid of spiders. Spiders regularly lead top 10 lists of human fears. But that doesn’t mean it’s ethical to play on those fears for page views. And that is why I hesitate to tell you that yes, you ARE probably near a spider, right now.
The «6 feet from a spider» saying is a bit of folk wisdom that actually has some truth to it. Want to fumigate an entire school for spiders? Great, go ahead. Within a week you will have plenty of spiders again. You can try to kill them, but they will come back. There is no such thing as «spider-proof» in a living, biological world.
Spiders aren’t invading our space because they like seeing us scream and freak out. They are just trying to make a living, and our homes happen to be places that are nice to live in. Heck, that’s why WE live there. It’s warm, it’s sheltered from extreme weather, and lots of other little animals are there for spiders to eat.
All those stories you see of «ZOMG it bit me and my leg fell off!11!«? Yeah. Highly unlikely. Spiders just take the fall for a whole host of other things that cause skin and circulatory problems because humans love to hate spiders. There just isn’t any data that backs up rampaging spiders attacking humans in either Europe or North America. Only about 4% of people seeking treatment for spider bites. actually have confirmed spider bites.
Six Feet? From a Spider? Right now? REALLY?
Yes. Really. A classic review of spiders from 1973 begins with this sentence:
«Where any form of terrestrial life exists it is safe to assume there will be spiders living close by.»
Spiders are common and all around you. In a survey of 33 different spider density estimates in that paper, ranges from 3 to 384 spiders per square meter was common. (I’d tell you the high estimates, but some of you might pass out.)
The UK freak-out over spiders is especially ironic since much early research on spider population density came from Britain. In classic work from 1958, Bristow estimated that there were about 2 million spiders/acre in a Sussex meadow, or a quite modest 49 spiders per square meter.
Now, about half of the readers of this article are going to need a little lie down after reading this. For those of you that are still with me, spider density varies widely depending on habitat. For example, estimated spider density in the Pacific northwest forest ranged from 6 to 10 spiders per square meter; that is about 40,461 spiders per acre.
Certainly, there is a difference between indoors and outdoors; and cultivated and wild habitats. One thing is quite clear, though: Spiders are here to stay, despite our best efforts. So there probably is a spider near you, right now. And you can’t see it, and it’s avoiding you.
If you’re afraid of spiders, my telling you all of this isn’t going to change much, and that’s ok. But do know that stories of death and dismemberment due to spider bites are not based on facts, and usually media hype along the lines of this bad reporting from the UK. If you are going to worry, worry about driving in a car, guns, or accidental poisoning, all of which are statistically more dangerous and real threats to your health and welfare.
Think you killed all your spiders? It’s unlikely, but you might have. Temporarily. We know thatsheetweb spiders can travel kilometers for a new home, and you might have seen the news that Houston was covered with spiders this year. Spiders travel by ballooning on the wind in beautiful ways.
I’ll let E.B White, author of Charlotte’s Web, have the final say here in a lovely letter describing how he came to write his book about a heroic spider mother. Spiders are part of nature:
*Once you begin watching spiders, you haven’t time for much else—the world is really loaded with them. I do not find them repulsive or revolting, any more than I find anything in nature repulsive or revolting, and I think it is too bad that children are often corrupted by their elders in this hate campaign. Spiders are skillful, amusing and useful. And only in rare instances has anybody ever come to grief because of a spider. *
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