A few nights ago I did a bad thing. I consented to the killing of a spider. Most people don’t consider this a “bad thing” but, killing spiders is not my thing. I’ve always felt guilty about killing spiders since the first time I ever got stoned when I was 14 and picked up a spider in the bathroom at my friend’s house (we bonded). Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t like spiders per se though there are some I find useful and appreciate. Regardless of this, I did consent to the killing of a spider that I did not recognize. It was large, very large. There has always been this web around the stairs, and I’d never seen a spider in it at all until this night. I spotted it hanging around on my way to the bathroom and immediately called Kevin down to take a look. I had never seen it before, and man, it was just, huge.
It’s kind of scary, right? It’s sheer size and reluctance to move when we blew on it really freaked us both out. And the fact we’d never seen it before made me assume that it spent most of its time roaming around trying to kill us. Also, it has bands on its legs, which to the amateur spider connoisseur, signals danger, I think. That was the thing, I had no idea. I think bands on legs can sometimes mean you can die from just looking at it. I didn’t know what to do, but Kevin did. He said it was just too big, and we had to kill it. We had to. And so I averted my eyes and Kevin took a shoe to the little fella. He happened to half miss and it lamely and quickly retreated under the stairwell where we assume it died as a result of its injuries.
I rushed up the stairs to begin my research. And to what specie did this colossal human-eater belong? Pholcus phalangioides. That’s daddy long legs to the layperson. I almost cried. I killed a daddy long legs!?!? The spider that for many years kept me company as an only child exploring my front yard as the sun set in the suburbs? How could I do such a thing? We both felt guilty. It didn’t look like the daddy long legs I was used to (the Opiliones, or huntsman spider), you know that little ball of a body with awkward, inch long legs protruding out–walking around like it was on stilts. But alas, my ignorance got the best of me (and the best of the spider). In order to prevent further thoughtless tragedies, I’m going to do my best to inform the public about how awesome these little creatures are (as well as other common house spiders), and why they should not be killed.
How cool is that? Pholcidae are also known as vibrating spiders, because when they are frightened or hunting, they do this awesome thing in their web where they vibrate. This is possibly to reduce their visibility so predators have a more difficult time finding them, or to confuse their prey. Occasionally they will go into another spider’s web, and do this crazy dance so the spider thinks they have caught something tasty for dinner, when lo and behold, the daddy long legs pounces, and kills the other spider. Pretty clever, huh? Daddy long legs eat other, poisonous spiders (even those much larger than they are), mosquitos, woodlice and other insects. They do not hurt humans except when threatened. It is an urband legend that the daddy long legs are the most venomous spider in the world, but are harmless to humans because their mouth isn’t big enough to bite. Neither of these statements are true. They are not very venomous at all, and they are capable of biting humans, but only a slight stinging sensation occurs. Looking back to my younger years, it is clear to me that it takes a lot to get one of these little friends to bite, because I handled them like crazy and never suffered a single injury.
So here’s another one of my favorite little friends.
I first spotted one of these little ladies behind my toilet. I had never, ever seen one before and I was taken aback by its beauty. Very pretty yellow and red. Very small, unassuming. Given its color I figured it was exotic and dangerous. I had hoped so at least. But, days and many google searches later, I discovered it was merely known as the American House Spider. Bummer. Not poisonous, doesn’t leave its web, and won’t bite a human unless it is literally squeezed. Oh well. I decided at that moment that I wouldn’t be the spider killing type any more, and I’m proud to say one American House Spider lives in almost every corner of my basement area, protecting my closet, behind the toilet, the book case, and the little spaces near the bed side table. I certainly am thrilled to have them around when I find one of these in a web, which is quite often and occasionally near the bed. And they keep the ant population in check. American House Spiders are just the best. I even saw one eating my least favorite kind of spider the other day, it was awesome. Don’t kill these spiders, they are pretty and beneficial. I’d certainly rather have one hanging out in the corner than a centipede in my bed. Wouldn’t you?
Here’s another that I find particularly interesting, the “cat faced spider.”
It looks a little menacing, they’re about the size of a quarter but they are assuredly harmless to humans. They typically live on the outside of houses in little orb webs and spend their time performing the thankless job of helping you in your garden. They are the natural enemy of garden destroying insects. If you love your garden, learn to love these. Aside from being super cool looking, they are a big help and they don’t hurt people.
Now this spider, I am very ambivalent about.
The Funnel Weaver. They make those creepy little “funnel” webs in the corner. These are the jerks you find in your bed, because they travel. They move around in search of prey but will usually flee if threatened. And, when threatened they will bite, but not always use venom. Apparently the prefer to save their venom for their next meal. Even so, I really dislike these. They’re just ugly and scary and gross! I still don’t like to kill them, but I tend to look the other way. I have even allowed one of their little funnels to exist behind my hamper. But, the good news is that I saw one of my favorites, the American House Spider, munching on one of these by my closet yesterday. So lets hope that particular funnel is now vacant.
Anyhow, the moral of the story is that I get why people hate spiders, but I don’t think they should be wantonly killed out of ignorance. They do a lot of good for the Earth, and if they were all gone, you’d notice. Even though they appear to be everywhere, spiders are very much vulnerable to extinction. And with spiders extinct, we’d see an exponential increase in insects which would then destroy our food supply. Seriously. They aren’t cute, but they play an important role in our ecosystem. And you know what? There is plenty of terrible shit in the world to be afraid of, so why are we afraid of these tiny, harmless bugs? I was watching a really graphic documentary about the history of snuff films, and I thought to myself, “these people are real, they are out there, and I’m afraid of a spider?” Really? I mean, look at this little guy…
All that being said, here’s a spider you should definitely kill.
The Loxosceles Reclusa, aka Brown Recluse, aka “fiddle back.” These can be identified by the fiddle on their abdomen, and the absence of bands on its legs. These can commonly be confused with the funnel weaver, but don’t be fooled. They are crazy dangerous. They can be found in Colorado, though they do not drive around in Subarus with a “Native” bumper sticker. They are certainly not native, but have found their way here via hiding in luggage, lumber etc. And this is what they can do to you:
That is fucked up. And avoiding this is essential, regardless of the environmental damage caused by this spider’s death.