Debunking Common Spider MythsMissy Henriksen
Thursday, November 8, 2012
The mere sight of a creepy crawly spider scaling a wall or lurking in a webbed
corner can give people the heebie-jeebies— but why? Over time,
myths and misconceptions about spiders have evolved throughout many
cultures, resulting in a multitude of terrified reactions to this
extremely common pest.
While spiders can be a nightmare for homeowners, especially
during the colder months, most species are nothing more than a
source of unexplained fear. From common myths to weird and wacky
misconceptions, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has
debunked a few well-known legends about this eight-legged arachnid
and detailed the truths behind them.
Myth #1: The average person swallows about eight spiders
a year when sleeping.
- This urban legend has become one of the most widespread rumors
on the Internet. But, fear not – it’s false. According to Snopes.com,
this myth was started when a columnist for a computing magazine
wrote an article in 1993 about a list of outlandish “facts” that
were circulating via email. In an effort to show that people will
believe anything they read online, the columnist made-up some of
her own ridiculous facts, including the myth sited above. In
reality, it’s highly unlikely for a person to swallow even one live
spider when sleeping.
Myth #2: People are never more than three feet away from
- This myth originated in 1995 when arachnologist Norman Platnick
wrote, “Wherever you sit as you read these lines, a spider is
probably no more than a few yards away.” With more than 35,000
described species of spiders worldwide and about 3,000 in North
America alone, there may be some truth to this statement. However,
many people argue that it depends on where you are. For example, if
you are standing in a grassy area, there is likely be a spider
crawling right next to you, but if you are on the top floor of a
skyscraper, the nearest spider could be hundreds of feet away.
Myth #3: All spiders spin webs.
- Many people associate spiders with webs, but the truth is not
all spiders spin these silk structures, which are used to catch
their prey. In fact, several species of spiders use different
strategies for obtaining food. Wolf spiders, for example, catch
their food by hunting, while jumping spiders pounce on their
Myth #4:Daddy longlegs are one of the most poisonous
spiders, but their fangs are too short to penetrate human
are the subject of many urban legends. This specific tale has been
lurking around for years, but it’s completely false. Think about it
– how can a spider inject venom into the human body if its fangs
are too short to pierce skin tissue? Arachnologists at the
University of California said, "There is no reference to any
pholcid spider [read "daddy-long-legs"] biting a human and causing
any detrimental reaction… Furthermore, there are no toxicological
studies testing the lethality of pholcid venom on any mammalian
system.” Simply put, there no facts to support this widespread
legend. If you’re still not convinced, Jamie Hyneman and Adam
Savage even debunked this myth in 2004 on their popular show, “
Myth #5: All spiders are dangerous.
- Spiders have lived amongst humans for centuries and most
species don’t harm humans; in fact, many species are beneficial to
the environment. Spiders are predators, feeding mainly on insects,
so they help to reduce the amount of pests in homes and gardens.
While it’s true that all spiders have a venomous bite, only a few
species are medically dangerous. In the United States, the widow
spiders and the recluse spiders are the only
groups that pose a health threat to humans. And, contrary to
popular belief, most tarantulas are harmless.
If you believed any of these spider myths, you’re not alone.
There are many misconceptions about spiders that give them a bad
rap. However, it’s important for homeowners to take preventative
steps to keep the more dangerous species from gaining access to
homes during the winter months. The NPMA recommends storing clothes
and shoes in plastic containers, sweeping away webs around the
home, and removing clutter from basements, attics and garages. If
you suspect a spider infestation, make sure you contact a licensed pest
professional to treat the pest problem. For prevention tips and
additional information on spiders, visit PestWorld.org.