1. Spiders all around us
There are about 670 species of spider in the UK, and like it or not, they are all around us. For every person in Britain there are an estimated 500,000 spiders.
Roaming the Earth for 350 million years, spiders have evolved to exist in our homes alongside us. An average-sized house supports about 100 spiders at any one time.
Despite this, few spiders are able to comfortably live in modern centrally-heated homes. The majority prefer to be taken outside where they live in garages and sheds, or in the clutter of outside spaces. Of the several species that do live in our homes, some stay year round, others just find their way in through open windows or gaps beneath doors.
2. Are we pre-programmed to fear spiders?
By weight, the average adult human is over a quarter of a million times heavier than a spider, and yet a large number of adults and children alike fear them.
Many people cannot explain their seemingly irrational fear of spiders, but recent research may provide an answer.
Experiments run by Prof John May of Plymouth University indicate that humans (and other animals) are pre-programmed to fear dark, angular, jerky and unpredictable objects. Unluckily, although almost all are harmless to people, spiders fulfill this criteria.
Middle Aged fear
Prof Graham Davey, from the University of Sussex, theorises that our hatred of spiders began in the Middle Ages. It was wrongly believed that spiders absorbed poison and carried the plague. This bad reputation stuck with Europeans and passed from generation to generation as a learnt fear. This explains why it’s mainly people of European origin that have arachnophobia.
Scientists now generally believe we are born spider-loving, but are pre-programmed to learn fear very quickly.
3. How do spiders help me in my home?
Left alone, spiders will clear your house of unwanted insects, from bottle flies to bed bugs, that have the potential to spread disease. Click around the house to discover some of the housekeeping spiders you might encounter in your home.
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From the garage to your bedroom, spiders are up to everything from weird sex to hippy living and cannibalism. All these natural pest controllers could be found anywhere in your home.
4. Venomous spiders in homes abroad
Zoologist Tim Cockerill compares the relatively harmless UK spiders to more venomous visitors to homes globally.
Australia is home to a group of spiders that have caused more human deaths from their bite than any other spider. There has never been a death from a spider bite recorded in the UK.
5. Be spider friendly
Top tips on helping spiders live among us