When conservationists talk about saving animals, we do tend to suffer from “vertebratism”, a preference for the cute and cuddly pandas, or the sleek tigers of the world. But conservation extends to all walks of life. As David Attenborough stated “If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world’s ecosystems would collapse”. Invertebrates are the most important of the animals, without them we would be overrun by pest species, our soil would be sterile, our food choice would be minimal. Many technological advances can be attributed to invertebrates.
Spiders are just one small part of the puzzle, some people don’t like them and find their behaviour and movement ‘alien-like’. But look a little closer, and spiders become fascinating creatures which live quite peacefully in our homes and gardens. Spiders are amongst the most important predators of pests in agricultural land and recent research is even looking at developing insecticides from their venom which is potentially safe to bees. Their venom is being investigated for medicinal uses as it has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-microbial properties and pain relief properties. The silk from Orb-weaver spiders (in the same family as our Garden spiders) has just started being used in human trials to regenerate nerve damage in burn victims.
In the US, the presence of House spiders is a great thing as they feed on other spiders such as the venomous Brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa). In the UK, we don’t have any venomous spiders which are a cause for concern, however they do feed on fly pests and some research has found that having spiders in the home can reduce gastro-intestinal infections spread by houseflies. Many spiders will live quite peacefully in corners – but it is only during the Autumn, when they are on the move and looking for females, do we really notice them.
There are many ways that we can look after spiders in the home, giving a spider a name and introducing young children to them is a great way to prevent phobias from developing (most arachnophobes learned their fear from their family members, and it is difficult to shift once it’s set in). Don’t use pesticides around the house and let the spiders stay in the warmth, where they will be able to live out their lives and find a mate. Try to only hoover up cobwebs which you know are unoccupied. If you do need to remove a spider, capture it with a glass and a piece of paper and put them in an outhouse or a garage where they will be able to overwinter. There are also some fantastic groups which help you identify and learn more about the creatures surrounding you.
Spiders are a worthy cause to champion, they might not be the most beautiful, or the furriest but they are definitely amongst the most important.
To learn more about spiders, please visit /love-spiders
~ Vanessa Amaral-Rogers