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Spider Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction

spider myths

The truth about spiders is that they are more closely related to ticks, scorpions, and fleas than insects. Nearly all spiders are poisonous, although some species’ venom is barely toxic. The silk spiders produce to make their webs is the strongest-known natural fiber on the planet. The tensile strength of a single strand is more significant than bone and about half as strong as steel. Many misconceptions and urban myths exist about spiders. Which are true and which are not?

Spider Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction

For many of us, spiders are creepy crawlies we’d much rather avoid. This may be why there are many myths about spiders. Let’s look at some of the more common superstitions about these eight-legged animals.

Are Brown Recluse Spiders Deadly?

Of the 4,000 known spider species found in America, there are a few many of us are familiar with by name. One is the brown recluse spider, probably because it is one of the most common species and is one of the most poisonous spiders in the U.S. Perhaps this is why there is a myth that brown recluse bites are fatal. The truth is there has never been a verified reported death linked to the bite of a brown recluse.

Just because no one has died after being bitten by a brown recluse doesn’t mean their bite can’t be painful and even dangerous. In extreme cases, the wound can produce a lesion that takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal. In many cases, spider bites are misreported, mainly brown recluse bites, either because a spider didn’t cause the irritation a person experiences or because it was a bite from another type of tiny brown spider. The best way to tell if a spider is a brown recluse is to count the number of eyes it has, which you won’t likely do, as many people don’t observe the animal but notice the irritation after being bitten.

If you’re worried about brown recluse spiders sneaking up and biting you, that is highly unlikely. Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive and usually only bite when handled, disturbed, or crushed. As their name implies, these spiders are shy and prefer hiding from humans rather than biting them.

Brown Recluse Spider

Are Tarantulas Poisonous?

It’s easy to understand why you might assume that tarantula bites are deadly. After all, these giant, hairy spiders could star in a horror movie. Although tarantulas have fangs and venom, their bites are as painful as a bee or wasp sting. Contrary to rumor, there have been no recorded deaths from tarantula bites, although in some cases, tarantula bites can trigger an allergic reaction that requires medical attention. Sometimes, even if a tarantula doesn’t bite you, you can experience an allergic reaction as the spider’s urticating hairs brush against your skin and cause irritation by your lips, tongue, and eyes. This irritation can sometimes lead to rashes, swelling, and even breathing problems.

Tarantulas Poisonous

Do Spiders Lay Eggs When They Bite You?

You’ve heard the story about a friend of a friend of a friend who knows a girl whose sister got bitten in the face by a spider. Weeks later, this identical sister was walking around the mall when that swollen zit on her face exploded and hundreds of baby spiders came hurrying out. The same story that always ended with your friend saying, “I swear it’s TRUE!”. Well, it’s not. This urban legend has been around for years and has no basis in reality. So don’t worry, teenagers. That bump on your forehead is just a pimple.

The truth is that spiders typically lay their eggs in a silk-wrapped cocoon which they guard until babies emerge. The human body is not a place spiders want to lay eggs. Moreover, spiders don’t have the necessary anatomy to inject eggs into bite wounds.

Most importantly, spiders don’t seek out humans to bite, nor do they feed on human blood, as mosquitoes and bed bugs do. So it’s improbable that a spider will bite you as you sleep unless you move around and bother one. Even in that case, a spider’s fangs don’t stick up. Since they point downward, you are likelier to squish a spider than to have one bite you accidentally.

Spider lay eggs bite

Can You Swallow a Spider in Your Sleep?

Many spider myths involve sleeping, and one is that the average person swallows eight spiders while they are sleeping every year. As with the other urban legends about spiders, this is highly unlikely. First of all, spiders avoid humans if they can. To a spider, the movements and sounds of a sleeping person would be enough to keep them away. For a spider to enter your mouth, you’d need to be sleeping with your mouth open, which probably means you are snoring, which would very likely scare a spider away. Lastly, many of us would wake up if a spider crawled into our mouths and over our faces.

It is possible that a person could unknowingly eat a spider, but the chances of this happening more than once are very slim.

Swallow Spider in Sleep

Are Camel Spiders Dangerous?

During the Iraq war, rumors circulated about gigantic spiders chasing U.S. troops around the country. Camel spiders are fast (a few have been clocked around ten mph), but none are in danger of violating the speed limit in a school zone. The urban legend also purported that these creatures ate camels’ stomachs and sleeping soldiers. These myths were perpetuated, thanks to chain emails.

Camel spiders can grow six inches, although photos circulated on the Internet made them appear much larger. These nocturnal animals feed on bugs, lizards, small birds, and rodents but pose little threat to humans. Camel spiders avoid the sun during the day, so what was interpreted as chasing soldiers may have been camel spiders attempting to enjoy the shade of a person’s shadow. Similarly, this type of spider might be associated with a camel because it finds shade under its stomach, not because it jumps up and eats a camel’s stomach.

Camel Spider

Are Daddy Long Legs Fangs Too Small To Bite?

Another urban legend is that Daddy’s long legs are the world’s most poisonous spider. First, we need to clarify a misconception: two completely separate animals with similar names exist. Daddy-longlegs in the order Opiliones are usually called harvestmen and can generally be found under rocks and logs. Humans don’t usually run across these spiders because of their preferred habitat.

The second type of animal belongs to the Pholcidae family and is also known as a cellar spider to reflect where you are most likely to find them. Harvestmen do not have fangs or venom, so they cannot be poisonous. Cellar spiders have short fangs because of their anatomy, resembling how a pair of tongs come together. Brown recluse spiders are similar and of course, that species can bite humans. Although there are no recorded cases of cellar spiders biting humans with ill effects, it may be possible, although cellar spiders wrap their prey, and brown recluse spiders need more developed musculature to subdue their prey. Therefore, this myth has no scientific basis.

Daddy Long Legs

Do All Spiders Spin Webs?

Many of us grew up thinking that webs protect spiders, but this isn’t true. Only about half of the known spider species spin webs, and these structures help spiders attract food. Some spiders, like the brown recluse, hunt their prey; others, like the Goldenrod spider, hide in flowers and await their dinner.

Spider Spin Webs

Should I Put a Spider Outside?

When many see a spider inside, we do what we assume is best: relocate it outside. We expect any bugs that make it inside to do so by accident, which isn’t true. About 95% of the spiders in our homes have adapted to life indoors. These house spiders have likely been cohabiting with humans since the Roman Empire. Since many of these creatures don’t threaten you much, you could leave the spider alone or seal any entry points to keep them out of certain parts of your house, such as your bedroom.

Put Spider Outside

Are Spiders Within Three Feet of Me?

Perhaps the most unsettling theory is that there is always a spider within three feet of us at all times. No studies have confirmed or denied this hypothesis, which was initially established in an article by arachnologist Norman Platnick. The truth is probably less satisfying: it depends on where you are. If you are on an airplane, it’s less likely that a spider is that close, while it is much more likely if you are standing in the grass at your favorite park.

Spiders within three feet

When It Comes to Pests, ABC Has the Answers

Many of us have questions about the insects and bugs we find inside our homes and the risks they may pose. ABC Home & Commercial has been working with homeowners for decades to provide answers to pest control problems and to help protect families and pets from any potential dangers. If you are concerned about spiders or any other type of pests on your property, contact the spider exterminators at ABC to help identify what you are dealing with and to work with you on a plan to discourage any uninvited guests from making your home theirs.


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