UBCO professor says spiders are good to have around

Spiders are your friend

They are a Halloween favourite with many homes adorned with fake spiders and their eight-legged inhabitants.

But for those with arachnophobia, spiders can cause grown men to scream like little girls.

However, UBC Okanagan professor Matt Nelson says that this fear is misplaced.

Despite commonly held beliefs, Nelson said spiders are getting a bum rap as they rarely bite and are essential players in our world’s ecosystem

“There are more than 45,000 species and they range in size from the micro to macroscopic, with some reaching the size of a football. They are amazingly resistant to environmental changes like heat and drought, and have adapted to every terrestrial ecosystem, except that of Antarctica,” said Nelson who has had a life-long fascination with spiders. “Some of their fellow arachnids even reside on humans, they are commonly found on people’s eyebrows.”

Eeek factor aside, Nelson said spiders are vital to the planet.

“We can’t live without them. Spiders eat insects. I would say that is their primary role. Some, like the Okanagan’s native sheet-web spider, do this through passive hunting with their funnel-shaped webs. Others, like the wolf spider, actively hunt. Spiders also kill other spiders, sometimes even their own mate. This helps keep their own numbers under control. Also, spiders are an important food source for other animals, including birds, lizards and other insects,” he said.

Do all spiders have fangs?

“Almost all spiders have fangs that are venomous. Yet, very few are dangerous to humans. In fact, there are more dog bites yearly, than those from spiders. They are actually pretty chill. They don’t want to bother you and really won’t bite unless provoked,” said Nelson.

“If there are spiders in your house, they are there for a reason. They are eating something, perhaps insects? I would caution against using pesticides, which may affect non-target species. The same strategies that you would use to energy-proof your house, will keep spiders out. For example, make sure there aren’t cracks in your doors and close your windows properly. If you see a spider, put it into a jar and take it outside.”

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