‘Tis the season of the spider — when creepy-crawlers literally come out of the woodwork, much to the collective gasp of humans who thought they had been living alone.
Many of the spiders that have always lived with you are suddenly developing an often-tragic case of wanderlust.
They’re abandoning their lonely posts in the dark depths of the basement or behind that portrait of your great aunt Hildegard and making a dangerous bid to do a little traveling. Others are coming in from foreign lands, like the driveway or garage or even the ditch across the street.
And what should tempt a spider from the lair it has occupied so safely for months? Why, the same thing that puts us all in harm’s way on occasion: the search for love.
Most of the spiders on the move are male, looking to couple with one of those females high up in the furthest corner of your attic ceiling — a Rapunzel in her silk-webbed tower, drawing suitors from all over the house.
“The females can be seen on webs in garages and windowsills, while the males wander around looking for chances to mate,” Adam Hart, an entomologist at the University of Gloucestershire, tells the BBC. “And of course our houses are nice places for them to come and do that.”
It’s actually rather romantic. Until some human starts shrieking.
Sadly, the quest for spider love too often ends in an unceremonious squishing. But new research may help spiders and humans avoid such fatal misunderstandings.
An app called Spider in Da House, which was created by ecologists in the U.K., has been collecting reams of spider-spotting data from its users over the years.
As a result, they were able to pinpoint a very specific time of day when spiders are most on the move: 7:35 p.m. That’s based on 10,0000 sightings at 250 sites across Britain.
It seems the scientists behind the app have tapped into people’s very strong emotions about spiders — emotions that compel them to take a time-stamped picture of the creature and send it to experts with a series of hysterical exclamations points.
Misplaced panic over spiders
What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive ourselves about spiders. One of the first myths we too readily buy into? They’re a menace.
We share this planet with 43,000 different species of spiders, at least. Among them the tiniest fraction are poisonous. And a still smaller amount — less than 30, according to Encyclopedia Britannica — have brought about a human’s demise.
Another bit of anti-spider propaganda? They’re invaders.
As MNN writer Russell McLendon points out, not only do spiders pre-date dinosaurs, but they’ve likely been living in our very homes undetected for years.
“It may feel like they’re encroaching, but they were here first,” he notes.
Indeed, spiders are the ultimate roommate. They don’t blast the stereo or leave empty dishes in the sink. They even get rid of other bugs, notably pesky flies, for us.
Of course, in the case of some spider sightings, you might be forgiven a shudder, or even a shriek — though never a boot. In the U.K., for example, after a particularly wet August, it wasn’t the males on a quest for a mate — but rather the much larger females, forced by rain to find new lodging in homes and maybe a mate or two along the way.
But far better than trampling a spider to death — thanks in part to that wide-ranging survey — is to make use of that information.
Why not leave the house during the hour of spider and give these lonely creatures a chance at love? Go out for dinner or the library. Maybe you too, will also find love.
And we can all live happily ever after.
October 3, 2018