Arachnophobia. The fear of spiders.
This is the most common animal phobia – which goes to show how irrational phobias are, since dogs and horses kill way more people each year than spiders.
Spiders are creepy, I’ll admit. Those fangs, those eyes, the clicking of their little clawed feet, the way they drop from a web so suddenly, the speed with which they wrap up dinner. Ew. Giant spiders scuttle through centuries of human storytelling because we’ve seen what they do to their captives, and we can’t help imagining the horror.
Not-so-Scary Spider Fact #1: Almost no one dies from spider bites (especially since those Australians developed anti-venom for theirs). Most spiders can’t bite humans – their little fangs can’t pierce our skin. The spiders that can bite us do so surprisingly often but we usually don’t know it – their venom doesn’t hurt us. Even the notoriously deadly species have 99% survival rates.
I am always happy to see palm-sized dock spiders when I go to my cabin. (One stood guard over her hatchlings for almost two weeks, protecting them from other spiders.) They are terrified of humans. And of fish. But they’re not phobic – their fear of us is completely rational. Our fear of them is not so rational. (Which is odd, since we’re the ones with the big reasoning brains.)
Rumour has it that you’re always within a few feet of a spider – you just don’t know it. They live all over the world in every habitat – on the ground, in trees, on the water, under rocks, and most certainly in the dark corners of your basement.
Scary Spider Fact #1: Some spiders inject digestive enzymes into their live prey to soften it up before they tear at it and slurp it up.
But don’t be scared. As Charlotte told Wilbur, spiders help control insect populations. (Also, though Charlotte didn’t mention it, if you squish a spider you’ll make it rain.) So leave them be. Get therapy.
Scary Spider Fact #2: There are no vegetarian spiders. None. Not even one experimental black sheep trying out a cruelty-free lifestyle. Nope. Every spider you see is a killer.
Because spiders are not as cute as dogs or as photogenic as horses, exposure therapy won’t be fun. But you can do it. You are a strong human being. You don’t have to live in fear, freaking out every time an arachnid crosses your path. You’re bigger, smarter and you can run faster. The odds are in your favour.
Not-so-scary Spider Fact #2: The average black widow spider weighs one gram. Seriously, you could eat 40 of them and still not get your recommended daily protein. Maybe you shouldn’t be scared since you’re 50,000 times bigger.
Start your exposure therapy by looking at photographs. (Maybe not close-ups.) Read about spiders and how very few species are a threat to humans. Find out which species live in habitats near you. Get a realistic view of the danger, or lack of it.
With a friend to help keep you calm, watch a nature show about spiders. Eventually, maybe one day you can pop into an insectarium. (Or just go into the garden because, seriously, spiders are everywhere. You don’t need to buy a ticket to see one. Just look under a rock.) Good luck.
Feel free to share your eight-legged fears on this blog during February and maybe you’ll win a copy of the middle-grade comedy, 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6.
(Spider close-up photo credits: the spider on green and the one on blue are both by foto76, from FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Thanks.)