What's with the common misconceptions of spiders?
If you've ever visited Reddit, mainly the sometimes gory-infested lair of r/wtf, you will sometimes see pictures of spiders, like the much maligned picture of the female Huntsman and her babies found in the corner of a house. Click to open the comments, and you see a tandem of "nope" all the way down the page and "kill it with fire" or "looks like you have to burn your house down now."
Admittedly, I have been guilty of mashing a spider or two back in the years I was a teenager. In the nights of rigorous PC gaming, a shrill scream would echo through my house and my sister would demand that I remove the hapless arachnid from the room by violent nature. Without a thought, I would grab a paper towel and mash it between the walls and the paper and dispose of it like nothing.
Looking back, I took a beneficial creature's life. Sure, it's hairy. Sure, it has four times the legs as I do. It also has two fangs that protrude from the bottom of it's mouth that sometimes may be tainted with venom. The misconception is, that this 8-legged friend is not scrambling on my walls to wait until I sleep so it can suck the life out of me. Perhaps it is a male searching for a mate, like the very speedy Eastern and Western Parson spider that are found scuttling on your walls at night. They pay homage by eating small pests like beetles and anything else their sheer speed lets them.
Perhaps it is a commonly found cellar spider, living in a messy web in your corner catching all of the flies and mosquitoes that happen to make it in your house. Either way, you don't see it in the news that any man, women, or child has been found wrapped in a web where hundreds of barbaric spiders feast like bloodsucking vampires on them until they're sucked dry.
The fact is, thousands of these critters die every day and they merely are ridding us of the pests that we cuss and swear at for annoying the living hell out of us daily. I can't find an empty web in my house that is home to an arachnid friend. They certainly pay their rent by cleaning out the things you don't want in your house.
The fact of the matter is, not only are they incredibly beneficial to us, they sometimes can be a sight to behold. Orb weavers, for example, weave massive webs with such intricacy that when you spot one you almost have to stop and marvel at it for a moment or two. Some orb weavers, such as the golden-silk orbweaver have vibrant, bright colors that stand out along with the sheer size of them.
Jumping spiders are probably the most popular spider. Up close, they resemble 8-legged teddy bears with comical faces. They are known for being curious, especially when you're aiming a camera at them. I have let tons of these guys in the wild hop on my arms and while peering at them closely, they have stopped to study me as they twitch about frantically. They are as equally fascinating to me as we are to them.
There are two spiders in the US considered medically significant; that being the Recluses and the Widow. Recluses can be found scattered across the midwest, with some species being found as far west as southern California. Unless they are introduced, they're not found in the northern part of the US/Canada and they're also not found in states that are humid such as Florida. They are also called recluses for a reason. They do not want anything to do with humans as they hide or run away when spotted.
Black Widows are found just about everywhere south of West Virginia. They have been found in New York, but generally like warmer states. They're a lot more aggressive than recluses are. Their cousins, such as the brown widow and the rare red widow, do not have as much toxicity to their venom and are not considered medically significant. Does that mean you should go outside and pick one up? You absolutely should not. Male black widows also do not have as much toxicity to their venom as well.
Spiders that we're wrong about include the hobo spider, yellow sac spider, wolf spider, and the mouse spider. The hobo spider has been rumored to possess venom that can cause necrosis, similar to a recluse. This is not true, and there are no documented cases of any bites by a hobo spider causing necrosis. Their danger is merely an urban legend. Pacific Northwest residents, you can rest easily now.
The yellow sac spider is abundant in homes across the US, especially around August through October. Their bites have also said to cause necrosis, which is also false. They're easily agitated and will bite if provoked. The bite is a bit painful and can cause local swelling/itching, but that's about it. I have been bit by them numerous times, and so far I have all of my appendages and no tissue destruction.
Wolf spiders can have painful bites because their fangs are large. Other than that, they are not medically significant, just big. Mouse spiders are considered medically significant in Australia, but their cousins here in the US are not medically significant.
I may never be able to cure arachnophobia, but I hope that at least with general information that people will quit smashing spiders and gently use a conventional method, such as placing a cup over them and sliding a piece of paper underneath of the cup, and set them outside. Although in some cases setting them outside is a death sentence, it is better than taking the life of something that merely wandered into your house and poses no threat to you. So next time you see a spider in your corner, before you get the urge to smash it, burn your house down, or run away screaming nope, think of all the good that "spider bro" is doing for you. Instead of pointing out the hideous features of a spider, check out the patterns on its back or the nice web it lives in. It's easier to hate something when you're looking for the negatives. Don't hate our arachnid friends, embrace them.