Arachnophobia, it is real. Fear of spiders is widespread. Are you afraid of spiders? Perhaps it is a good idea. People say they bite humans. In an interview of 118 undergraduate students in London, 75% of them feared spiders. A long-standing spider perception is they are creepy. Their multiple long legs and their unusual appearance may contribute. Many spiders are web builders, webs are creepy, aren’t they? Someone said spider fangs are fearsome. Here’s another one; they are poisonous! Another one is the certain fact that they are sneaky. We mind our own business doing human things and BAM there is a spider. Do they actually sneak up on humans? Does ugly count?
Really, is a fear of spiders necessary? What if spiders are beneficial? What if they actually help humans more than harm?
My camera helped me to discover spiders today. In my experience, owning a camera provides a compelling reason to go outside. Nature is filled with an infinite number of magnificent subjects. One of my personal favorite times in a day is when I can see the photos on my computer screen. But this is about spiders. This my spider story, it happened today.
My photography goal for today was to take photos at sunrise. No chance, it was cloudy. Mid-morning photos became my goal. At first my eyes were drawn to colors. However, by mid-September in our latitude, color is largely absent. White asters were still in bloom. As I approached the edge of the city prairie a cold bumble bee snuggled into the aster flowers became my first subject. Walking into the prairie a 2-striped grasshopper on a gray-headed coneflower stem added color. The black of a blister beetle, again on the aster became my third insect subject. The prairie I was in was filled with rich luxuriant heads of Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans). The Indian Grass growing there in abundance was magnificent.
Then I walked searching for the next subject. The richly flowered prairie of July was now a place of ripening seed heads. The abundant bumble bees my eyes delighted in during a July trip were gone with the blossoms. My feet took me up the hill and then down. A stray cluster of stiff golden rod flowers caught my eye. It happened while setting the camera tripod for a photo of goldenrod yellow.
A large Argiope, or banded garden spider ( Argiope trifasciata) was working its orb web just to the right of the golden rod. Because of the spider, there are no golden rod photos. The spider was the most intriguing thing I’d seen so far. It had taken me more than 30 minutes to begin to notice the spiders in this prairie. Once my eyes witnessed this one it was possible to find 3 more within 10 feet of the first one. All were rapidly harvesting the small flying insects being caught in their orb webs. They were low in the prairie because of the strong north-east wind.
Another reality that happened while with spiders this morning, I was not bitten by any of the 4 I saw. Nor was I bitten by the many I never saw. Spiders are beneficial to humans. Consider this list:
- These spiders are quiet introverts. The Argiopes today wanted nothing of me. Their aim in life: consuming insects.
- Their orb web captures: aphids, flies, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, wasps and bees. Did you read humans in this list?
- They have a poisonous bite-but it is for disabling their prey. While a spider bite from some spiders can be painful, it is not fatal to humans-we are too large.
- Spiders control the world insect population. Without them we would be over our heads in invertebrates.
- Spiders are food for other animals, their venom may have medicinal uses, and their silk is strong as Kevlar.
garden spiders this morning have made their home in the prairie. This the natural habitat for them. But we can find them in our backyards too. They belong there. Actually, because they share the earth with us we benefit from their existence.
Do you still fear spiders? Perhaps the next time you see a beautiful garden spider you will not be as fearful. Instead stop and marvel. God made each one. They are His design perfectly structured to function in a prairie world by creating a balance for all living things-humans included.
Is there a cure for Arachnophobia? As you spend time observing what spiders do in their role in a food web, you may find them far less creepy. Perhaps you’ll even be awestruck.
Take a good look at God’s wonders—they’ll take your breath away. Psalm 66:5 (The Message)