Happy Halloween – Hug a Spider!

Spiders are a common feature of Halloween decor spreading a very inaccurate reputation of being scary and dangerous.  Spiders offer far more benefits than threats to humans so today we will use Halloween to help right the wrongs of spider-fear.

Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) - female

Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) – female

  • All spiders are predators and, as such, are essential to control of insect populations, helping to protect food supplies from herbivory and related damage plus limiting the spread of insect-borne disease from ticks, mosquitoes, etc.
  • Some spiders act as pollinators, so are important in maintaining populations of wild and agricultural plant species.
  • Most spiders are too small to bite humans.  Of those large enough to break human skin, only a fraction of species are dangerous. In the Great Lakes Region, only two are cause for concern (Black Widow and Brown Recluse) and both of their populations this far north are rather small.
  • Many bird species depend upon spiders as a source of food and/or use spider silk for nest material. Many fish species also rely on spiders and/or their eggs as a food source, as do amphibians, lizards and some small mammals.
  • Spider silk is one of the Earth’s strongest materials and its characteristics have been studied by many scientists and engineers bringing numerous beneficial uses to human society.

So next time you see a spider, instead of stomping the poor fellow, perhaps you should say, “Thanks, Legs!”  But we don’t suggest giving the creature a “high-five”.

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