Most people are scared of spiders at some point in their life. Some grow out of it and others are terrified for life.
I want to tell you why I decided to discuss spiders for this blog. It was a culmination of events. First, not to long ago a big spider was headed towards my personal trainer at the gym. I "did my best" to catch it and save it to no avail and ended up squishing it. To this day I feel bad about my choice and acknowledge I could have come up with a safe way to catch it and release it (It looked like a venomous Brown Recluse). I picked the easy way. This week several people have mentioned that they love what I do and all my pictures "as long as I don't post any with spiders". The final straw was when a friend of mine on twitter chronicled her drowing a spider in the sink. It came back up and she did it again until the spider was dead and gone. Now let me start by saying I really like this person, however, this is why I have a problem with it. Not only did she kill a harmless spider, we only have two dangerous ones in California, but she wasted gallons of water doing so, and most importantly spiders are very very very good for our environment. No, even I don't care for them in the house, and yes, it was a learning curve to go from running to killing to relocating, but it is worth it! Let's not forget to mention if you put them outside, you know they are outside.
I like big spiders, I think they are facisnating. I don't have a passion for them like I do with reptiles & mammals, however I do find them intelligent, interesting, and valuable.
Lets start with BIG spiders. People usually fear these the most when the majority of them are harmless. In the pictures above and below I am holding a Tarantula. Fuzzy spiders found all over North, Central , and South America as well as a variety in Australia and Africa. The come in all colors and usually range from about the size of a quarter up to the size of a dinner plate. I think I like them because their line of defense is similar to snakes. First they sit still and try to hide. Then they try to run away. If hiding and running don't work then they fight back. Fighting back does NOT involve biting (with the exception of the Bird-eaters). They use their hind legs to remove their fuzz and fling it into their attackers eyes. When successful this temporaily distracts them and gives the tarantulas enough time to get away. It does not cause any permenant damage to the attacker just itchy eyes for a bit. Generally these spiders are laid back and calm. I have never know anyone to have been bitten by a tarantula. They are popular in the pet trade. NOTE: If you want one for a pet Do Not Collect A Wild One! It's illegal and messes up the ecosytems balance. There are plenty of them that have beeen bred in captivity. Did you know there are Pink Tarantulas? Awesome Go Google Some Pictures.
AUSTRALIA. One of my dream destinations and home to some of the worlds most deadly and beautiful spiders. I'm going to cover four below. Two are among my favorite spiders.
The Redback Spider is a cousin to North Americas Black Widow. Similar in shape, size, and appreance. The only difference is the red hour glass is seen on its back (Black Widows have it on their stomach). They are common and their bite can be deadly. When you live in an environment with these spiders it's important to shake out your boots, watch what you grab, and respect their presence. These smaller venomous spiders keep down the disease carrying insect population. Thinks like cockroaches that survive most other predators and conditions can snapped up easily as a yummy meal by the Redback Spider.
The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider. With highly toxic venom produced in large amounts and large fangs to inject it, earns the title of most venoumous spider in the world. "Found in New South Wales, AU, in forests as well as populated urban areas, they burrow in humid sheltered places. They can wander in backyards and sometimes
fall into swimming pools, and though they're not often encountered, they can be quite aggressive when threatened. One in six bites causes a severe reaction, but since the antivenom has been made available in 1981, no fatalities have been recorded." [Australian Geographic http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/view-image.htm?gid=12006&index=0]. As Scared as you may feel reading these facts please remember even the scariest creature has a place in our environment and encounters are not as common with them as you might think.
The Bird Eating Spider. One of my favorites. A type of Tarantula, also known as the Whistling Spider and Barking Spider, is one of the largest venomous spiders in Australia and possibly the most famous. While their venom can make humans very sick, it is not deadly, however, it is deadly to smaller pets like cats and dogs without treatment. Native to Northern Queensland, AU this spider lives in burrows on the ground. A web "trip wire" alerts it to any passing meals such as rodents, small reptiles and amphibians, and the occasion bird. In the Tarantula family the Bird Eating Spider (along with the Goliath found in South America) has the longest fangs.
The Golden Orb Spider. One of my favorites and very beautiful, is the largest spider in Australia. It can grow to be the size of a small dinner plate. Golden in color they weave a golden colored web as well. This thick silk-like web gets suspended between trees to catch dinner. The strength of their silk is so strong they have been known to catch and eat birds, bats, and even snakes, along with their insect fare.
Ok back to spiders in general. They range in all sizes from tiny (The smallest fully-grown spider in the world is the male Patu Digua, found in Borneo, which has a body length of just .37mm), to huge (South American Tarantula called The Goliath Bird-eating Spider, which has a body length up to 280mm or over 11 inches). Spiders can swim, some can jump, and others catch the wind and "fly". They are found in burrows under ground, trees, rocks, houses, deserts, forests, and cities. Yes spiders are everywhere.
They are everywhere for a reason. When I was doing research on this subject I found a very long research article that boiled down to this statement "If we took humans off the Earth, it would probably increase its life by a million years. If we took spiders off the Earth, we would all die in less than 5 years." [Maneka Gandhi] Extreme statement? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Spiders are Earths top predators. They maintain insect, rodent, and other species populations and keep every ecosystem in balance. Just like you can't have a healthy ocean without sharks, you can't have a healthy land without spiders.
OK NOW LET"S DISCUSS SPIDER FEARS
I help a lot of people get over their fear of snakes. So lets apply a similiar strategy for spiders. The goal is not to have you love spiders but to have you accept their presence without panic and overwhelming fear.
First. Ask yourself why are you afraid of spiders? Be honest with yourself. Was it a bad encounter? fear of a bite? or one to many movies where spiders are evil?
Let's discuss this for a moment. If you have made it this far reading there is hope!
Past bad scares, bites, or encounters may never be forgotton but take a deep breath and decide to leave it in the past.
Bites. Let's face it, being bitten by anything hurts. All spiders are venomous. It is the type and amount of venom that determines your reaction. For the non-lethal variety (Go to a Doctor immediately if bitten by a dangerous spider) there are a couple of things you can do. First identify that it is a spider bite. You may not alway see what bit you. If there are one or two small holes in the center of your bite it is most likely a spider. Don't Scratch! Apply ice. Later on if it itches, it still red, or swollen, applying white vinegar works better then most anti-itch bug bite creams and it's cheaper. (For The Record The Worst Bite I Ever Had Was From A Human Child)
Fear of a bite. With almost anything the fear of the unknown is scary. If it's known but still scares us that doesn't help much, however, You Hold All The Power. Have a conversation with yourself. Have your logical half talk to your emotional half about best and worst case. Then take a deep breath. Silly? Probably, but it works, and not just with spiders.
The Goal is to not be irrationaly afraid, and to respect a spiders place in our ecosystem.
Speaking of ecosystems...........What To Do To Get That Spider Out Of My House!
First lets talk about what you should NOT do.
*NEVER USE BUG SPRAY! This is toxic and takes a lot to kill a spider because they have exoskeletons.
*Don't vacuum it up. This can hurt the spider but rarely kills it and they usually just crawl back out later.
*Don't drown it. You're going to waste a lot of water. A spider can hold it's breath for a very long time and even if you think it's gone there is no guarantee that it won't crawl back up days later.
*Don't swat at it. Brooms, paper, pillows, etc. are going to frighten the spider and put it in a defensive mode.
What To Do:
Save The Spider Of Course!
Not all spiders can be saved, as much as by now I'm sure you want to! If you have a Black Widow, or Funnel Web in your home. the most humane thing for your pets and family is to give the spider a fast smoosh. flat bottomed shoes, paper towel, carboard etc. If you use T.P. or paper towels be sure to put in the trash and take it outside. Spiders are tough.
If You Can Save It:
*Recognise you are bigger, stronger, and smarter, but have a heart of gold.
*Try to find something to pick it up on on carry it outside to a nice bush or tree. Paper and dustpans work great.
*Put a jar or glass over it and slide a piece of paper under to trap it inside, carry outside and release to a nice bush or tree. Put said glass in dishwasher or wash it when done.
*Put a jar over it and wait for someone braver to come home and take it out for you
**Wildlife Warriors Only: If you know for certain it is a harmless spider pick it up gently and carry it outside to a lovely new habitat.
As with everything I encourage you to do some research. Ask Questions and Question Yourself. Find out what spiders you have in your area. Have a plan (it takes away the fear being surprised by a spider). If you can't say the word spider, or even look at photos without freaking out (well then you definitely didn't read this far) then start there. Say 'spider' every day. Google pictures of interesting spiders from around the world (try Pink Knee Tarantula). Spread the word that the worlds top predator is small but important. YOU CAN DO THIS!
Spiders Whoooo Hoooo!
Got you thinking huh? Rebecca