The fear of spiders is one of the most common fears amongst humans. Some say it’s because spiders are among the least human-looking animals on Earth, while others say it’s because those of our ancestors who were afraid of spiders were more likely to survive, and the fear is inbuilt in our genetics. Still others simply hate them because they’re icky-poo.
Whatever you believe, there are a lot of myths being passed out about spiders, most of them designed to make people even more terrified of them than they already are. Below are some of the most common myths and misconceptions floating around, that can hopefully be set straight in this article.
10. All Spiders Spin Webs
The whole web thing is one of these spider facts that we take for granted, such as their having 8 legs and eating flies. Surprisingly, only half of spiders actually catch prey using webs. Others prefer to actively hunt, such as wolf spiders, who stalk prey like other members of the animal kingdom. Then there are examples such as the trapdoor spider, which builds a trap door, under which it hides until it senses vibrations of approaching prey, at which point it will spring out and attack. Other spiders don’t spin webs, but will shoot either at their prey or into the air, and let the wind carry it until it catches something. We most likely assume all spiders spin webs since it’s more common to walk into a web than to come across a spider that tries to catch you by shooting a web at you. Unless you’re the Green Goblin.
9. There Are Spiders In Your Hair
This one is not so popular these days, although it is still often believed. It was most widespread when bouffant, or beehive, hairdos were in style, around the 1950′s. People believed that spiders would nest in the woman’s hair, which, since the style was so difficult and expensive to achieve, would be washed and combed less often. While many people think this means it would be easier for the spider to set up camp, how often have you combed your hair and found a spider there? Oh, never? Exactly.
In reality, spiders don’t like living in hair. Most of them are far too large to comfortably move around, and hairstyles such as the beehive would only make it more difficult, since the amount of hair product in place makes it even more difficult to move, not to mention constantly being sprayed in the face while you’re going about your spider business.
8. Spiders Can’t Get Caught In Their Own Webs
This one seems like it must be true. You see flies get caught in webs, but never spiders. Therefore, spiders are immune to their own webs. Simple! But no, in reality, spiders are not immune to their own stickiness. They just move extremely carefully along their webs so as to avoid getting stuck. Contrary to popular belief, not all of the web is sticky. Some spiders spin their webs with little blobs of glue dotted around them, which they can avoid stepping on. If they do step on one, it’s not a big deal, as it would usually take a few to hold something down firmly. So when a fly crashes into a web, odds are it will hit more than one of the so-called glue globules. Other spiders weave webs where only the “circular” threads are sticky, and the “spokes” of the web are not, so they can walk along them.
7. “Don’t Kill It, Put It Outside”
Anyone living with a sensitive animal lover has likely hard this one: rather than whack a spider with a rolled-up newspaper, just pick it up and put it outside. Everybody wins. You don’t have to think about the spider, and the spider gets to go back into its natural habitat alive.
Until it freezes to death, that is. Most spiders you find inside have evolved to indoor life, and can’t sustain themselves outdoors. This is especially true in Europe. While a lot of people are freaked out by any spiders whatsoever, house spiders are essentially harmless to humans, as they can’t pierce the skin. So as well-meaning as you may be by not squishing them, odds are you’re killing them anyway.
6. Spiders Lay Eggs Under People’s Skin
Most of us will have heard this as a story about a person who went abroad, got bitten by a spider, and then came home. The bite began to swell, until one day it trillions of tiny spiders exploded out of it. Unsurprisingly, this is not true. While some animals, such as certain types of wasps, can lay eggs inside other animals, spiders have no means of doing so. Apart from the fact they they have no way to inject the eggs inside you, spiders are very particular about where they lay their eggs, and won’t do so on, in, or near something that could be a threat. Generally, they tend to lay eggs in hidden places, so they are protected. As far is the mother is concerned, if she were to lay them inside you, as soon as they hatched, you’d dig right in and eat them.
5. You’re Never More Than 3 Feet From a Spider
This one is just plain ridiculous. We can’t even begin to imagine how many spiders there are in the world, but to suggest that you can’t even stand up or lie down without hitting a spider is laughable. This particular myth began when archaeologist Norman Platnick began an article in 1995 with “Where you sit as you read these lines, a spider is probably no more than a few yards away.” People took this as fact, when really he was just speculating. Eventually “a few yards” changed to 3 feet, and the “probably” was dropped altogether. By 2001, books were quoting this as fact.
4. Black Widows Eat Their Mates
This one isn’t entirely untrue. Rather, it is simply misunderstood. Female black widow spiders do eat their mates, which has given rise to the term “black widow” in society to mean a highly suspicious or evil woman. But in reality, while this does happen, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as people believe. There are many different types of black widows, and only a few of them eat their mates. Even then, they will only eat their mates if they are hungry, which is as good an excuse as any.
The male spiders are much smaller than the female, at less than 25% of the size; when they are mating, they have to be very close to the female’s mouth, which makes escape difficult, but not impossible. So while this one is true, it receives a lot more attention than it should as, out of the few black widows that even practice such habits, even fewer succeed. Not nearly as evil-sounding in reality as it is described in pop culture.
3. You Swallow X Spiders a Year
This is another one that most people believe as fact. Most people who do know it’s false, however, will say that there is no scientific basis for it. Well, there is; just not what you think.
See, this myth became so widespread because of a woman named Lisa Holst. She wanted to demonstrate that people are willing to believe almost anything they read online, so she circulated a number of fake facts via email, and has now demonstrated her point about a jagillion times over, as this has become one of the most widely accepted spider “facts” around. However, she didn’t invent the myth; she got the myth from a book called “Insect Fact and Folklore,” knew it was BS, wrote about it as if it were real, and accidentally became one of the biggest reasons the Internet is at least 90% lies.
2. Daddy Longlegs Have The Most Powerful Venom
This is one you hear quite often: That a daddy longlegs has the most powerful venom of any spider, but has no fangs to inject it. First of all, it’s worth pointing out that most people don’t actually realize that there is no real “daddy longlegs”. There are lots of different creatures that go by that name. Some of the most commonly confused ones, such as the Opiliones or the crane fly, aren’t even spiders. These, apart from being insects, don’t even have venom. The pholcid house spider is the spider most commonly referred to as “daddy longlegs” and, while it does have venom, it is considered completely harmless to humans.
1. Anything You’ve Heard About Camel Spiders
This is one most people will know from those ridiculous emails circulating a few years ago. They called the animal the Iraqi Camel Spider, and made a barrage of claims such as them being 1 feet in length, hiding on camels’ stomachs, running at 25mph, making a screaming noise when they run, and being extremely venomous. The email would also often claim that one had killed a soldier on service in Iraq.
In reality, the camel spider is not a spider at all, but a solifugid, which is an arachnid, like spiders and scorpions, but still not a spider. They rarely grow to be even 6 inches, can’t run over 10mph, and don’t do anything else that the rumors claim they can. All that aside, it would still probably be pretty frightening to run into one.