Opinion: Do you always kill spiders when you see them indoors? It’s time to stop.
I recently came across a headline that shook me to the core: “An invasive spider the size of your palm has invaded the United States.” My gut reaction was panic, but I forced myself to read the article. It turns out that they are found only in the southeastern states, they rarely bite people and prey on vermin. Pretty interesting, right? In many ways, the discrepancy between the headline and the body of the article is an allegory for how we view spiders in general. From a young age we learn to fear them and we forget to acknowledge all the important things they do. Killing spiders might be instinct at this point, but is that fair?
Before I become an exposed hypocrite, I have to admit that I’m more scared of spiders than anyone I know. As long as they stay a few feet away from me, I’m perfectly fine, but I freak out up close. The creepy, crawling feel of her scrawny legs on me is enough to make me kick, punch, and jump like I’m being tortured, and I’m sure it’s hilarious to anyone nearby. And spiders in my bedroom? Forget it. That’s enough to make me want to sleep in the hall. Despite my fear, you will never find me killing spiders that I am unfortunate enough to encounter.
In my eco-literature class last semester, we read a poem called “To a mouse‘ by Robert Burns. He likens mice and humans as “fellow mortals,” meaning that since they are living beings, they have a form of basic equality. There is no reason why this principle should not also apply to spiders. “It’s as scared of you as you are of it” is an annoying cliche, but there’s some truth to it. Try to approach spiders with some empathy.
If that doesn’t work, think of all the good things spiders do. Spiders are cool! They eat insects that would otherwise cause terrible harm to humans. In an environment without spiders, we would be widespread sickness and hunger. One of the main sources of food for spiders is mosquitoes, which transmit serious diseases such as malaria. The next time you’re about to smash a spider with a shoe, think about what it does for you. On top of that, they’re interesting to look at, and they have some pretty interesting abilities. For example, trapdoor spiders build caves in the ground to catch prey instead of nets. As you research spiders, they become a lot less intimidating. If I can face my fears and take the time to get to know them, so can you.
Of course, spiders don’t belong inside, but what to do when that happens? I know the knee-jerk reaction is instant murder, but take a moment to collect yourself. Imagine being crushed by a giant just because you got lost. no fun right? And it’s certainly not fair. That’s where a handy tool I like to call “the spider cup” comes into play. I’m certainly not the first, but I found out when I was about 12 and it’s pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. The idea of having a spider crawl on me makes me shudder, but it’s easy enough to catch it in a mug, slide the paper underneath, and dump it outside. Sure, it takes a little longer, but a big plus is that you don’t have spider guts to clean up.
Although killing spiders may be a reflex for you now, it’s worth trying to stop the unnecessarily violent behavior. Why should you decide whether spiders live or die? Even if they scare you, show some compassion. Make an effort for your fellow human beings.