200 Reasons to Get Over Arachnophobia

article image
Photo courtesy Bob & Suzanne Clemenz
Only a few North American spiders are venomous.

200 Reasons to Get Over Arachnophobia

If spiders give you the creeps, you’re certainly not alone — most humans instinctively associate spiders with spider bites. (Go ahead and admit it: The last time you found an unexplained and itchy red spot, you thought it might be a spider bite.) But if spiders were out to get you, you’d be gotten by now. There are at least 30,000 spider species in the world, and some scientists estimate there are as many as 200,000. Spiders also occupy virtually every sort of habitat — from tropical jungles and arctic tundra to the nooks and crannies of your own abode. The truth of the matter is, in other words, they’re everywhere. Arachnologists estimate that at any given time 100 to 200 spiders live in an average house; about 10,000 spiders live in one acre of typical forest habitat; and between 1.5 and 2.5 million spiders can be found in an acre of grassland!

Most spider species are venomous, but in North America only a few — primarily the brown recluse, the black widow and the hobo spider of the Pacific Northwest — have the potential to inflict serious harm on humans. (Also, the yellow sac spider — a recently introduced species from Europe that’s becoming increasingly common in the eastern United States — can inflict a painful “hornet-like” bite that can be serious.) Meanwhile, billions of harmless spiders consume vast quantities of insects — serving as one of our planet’s most important pest controls. Still, poisonous spider bites are no laughing matter. Fortunately, they’re also easy to avoid. Just follow these common-sense rules:

Be especially wary in little-used, undisturbed places such as basements, outbuildings, brush piles, crawl spaces, attics and closets. Look carefully before you reach into the back of that old dresser drawer!

Shake blankets and towels that have been stored or piled for awhile. The same is true for rags, laundry, shoes or old clothing.

Wear gloves, long pants and long sleeves when raking leaves, cleaning out a shed or basement, or fetching firewood from a woodpile. Knock one log against another before picking it up, and watch for any spider activity.

Remove any litter or clutter in basements, attics, garages and sheds that might provide shelter for spiders.

If you think a spider has bitten you, apply an ice pack to the area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for four to six hours to reduce the pain and itching. Over-the-counter anti-itch medications can help ease the symptoms, too. If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a poisonous spider, seek immediate medical attention.

But regardless of what level of arachnophobia you might or might not feel, you may as well go ahead and get to know the spiders that live all around you, especially those that share your home. Grab a field guide and poke around that habitat of yours. Once you start to look, every day is a nature-study day.