Why Do People Fear Spiders So Much?

I’ve become fairly immune to the banality of Facebook, but once in awhile, a post rubs me the wrong way.  One particular post, a few days ago did just that.   One female member of a local trading post group uploaded a photo of a spider on a wet car spider-01surface.  She asked if anyone could identify what kind of spider it is. Right away, I recognized it as a run of the mill barn spider.  It was a particularly attractive specimen, too.  I replied to the question and mentioned there was nothing to fear.  A few minutes later, I put my laptop into “sleep” mode, and went outdoors to enjoy the pleasant afternoon weather.

An hour later, I came back to my Facebook page and saw that there were a dozen other replies to the spider question.  All of them were derrogatory statements, many of the posters expressed extreme fear.  The originator of the question wrote that she had smashed the spider with an old sneaker. I was so upset, that I was tempted to post “facepalm”. Thankfully, I didn’t.

The homely little creatures are the target of a disproportionate amount of fear and loathing in society. I actually like spiders and have long advocated in favor of their preservation.  I frequently remind my friends that spiders are much more afraid of us than we should be of them.  Besides, spiders help control harmful pest insect species.

Spiders have very good reasons to fear us. We tear down their carefully constructed webs. We shriek when we encounter them.  We stomp or smash them, sometimes with old sneakers. Meantime, the little arachnids are merely minding their own business. To add insult to injury, many of us misidentify them as insects.

spider-03jumperPersonally, I think spiders and daddy longlegs are quite interesting and entertaining.  The ones I like the most are jumping spiders.  I laugh as I watch their jerky movements.  I’m amazed how they can leap in any direction on my vertical garage door without falling to the ground. In fact, I think jumpers are really quite cute.

Certainly, there are a few species of spiders that can cause real harm to us.  Here in North America we might rarely encounter a black widow. Black widows only bite in self-defense. Their bites rarely result in death. The only considerations being very young children, the elderly, or severely ill people. spider-02brownrecluse

Brown recluse spiders have gotten a lot of bad press. First of all, there have been no recorded human deaths from brown recluse spider bites. Additionally, the risk of loss of limbs via a brown recluse bite is next to nil. Also, brown recluse spiders only live in all or part of 14 “bible belt” US states.  Here in Nebraska, only the extreme southeast part of the state is home to the little creatures.

So, what’s with all the fuss about spiders? Ask different people, and you get various answers. Some folks think that spiders will attack and kill people because they’re venomous. Some people don’t like spiders because they have more legs than insects.  Many people cannot really pinpoint a specific, logical reason for their fear.  Most of us might get startled by the surprise of suddenly seeing a spider, but soon relax moments later, when we realize the surprise is only a little bug.

Some experts think that many arachnaphobic people acquire their intense fear through socialization. Perhaps a parent or close acquaintence expressed anguish upon finding a spider.

Oftentimes, parents purposely teach their children to be afraid of spiders.  The reaction then was “imprinted” onto the child. Also, our culture demonizes spiders. The critters are often depicted as scary accomplices in horror movies and are found in Halloween scenarios.  A few fairy tales and childish songs say that spiders are awful things.

One school of thought says that people sometimes suffer “nature deficit disorder”.  That is kids who spend more and more time indoors become detached from the normal, natural world of outdoors.  There are many creatures found outside that are not normally found within the home.  Spiders are among the small creatures that are then seen as invaders from the outdoors.

Many children are initially fascinated or even indifferent to the various worms, bugs, and spiders found in nature, but acquire a fear of these things as the kids grow older.  There is no logical reason for these fears to appear.

One hypothesis states that humans have an inate instinct that triggers arachnaphobia in some people.  This view is highly controversial, though. This might be linked to studies that have shown we tend to dislike angular shapes, dark colors, and unpredictable motion. We’d rather have rounded shapes, lighter colors, and animals that seem more like us. The science is still out about human dislike of spiders.

Because I respect and like spiders, I don’t kill them. If one is in an inconvenient place spider-04in my house, I practice catch and release.  I have a plastic cup and thin cardboard set aside in order to capture insects and spiders.  I quickly place the cup over the creature.  Then slowly slide the cardboard or paper under the lip of the cup so as to create a “lid”. I slide the cardboard slowly so as to prevent harm to the bug’s legs.  Without causing a gap between the cardboard and the cup, pick up the cup. Bring it outdoors and release the creature onto a tree or shrubbery.

In the meantime, I hope more people will lose their fear of spiders and nature.  Appreciation and respect for our fellow sentient beings leads to more wholesome, happy life experiences.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes what Donna Lynn Hope had to say about spiders. “Spiders are anti-social, keep pests under control, and mostly mind their own business, but they somehow summon fear in humans who are far more dangerous, deceitful and have hurt more people. Of the two I’m more suspicious about the latter.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Environment, Health, Science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why Do People Fear Spiders So Much?

  1. soulsynchronicity says:

    Great post – Spiders do scare me and I often wonder why… but I would never kill one, I always pop a towel over the side of the bath so they can climb out. 🙂

  2. Doug says:

    Spiders don’t bother me. We also have our share of scorpions in the desert southwest. They don’t bother me, either. Snakes………that’s a whole other subject. I scream like a little girl and run away from a snake.

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