Backyard spider (David Macaulay)
We were the spotty nerds who inhabited the same living space for a while. He reluctantly allowed us to share the same air. But Matty had an Achilles Heel that showed itself one night when we were entertaining the girls from the flat upstairs in our grubby student kitchen. We heard a high pitched scream and saw a flash of rugby player torso moving fast down the corridor. Matty was quivering by the door with just a towel to cover his modesty, pointing and jabbering in the direction of the shower room.
We followed his sign and walked into the bathroom. The fan had cut out and there was a deadly quiet. Then we saw it; a large and venomous looking house spider sitting on the shower head.
We thought it best to leave if there for a couple of weeks.
British house spiders aren't harmful to humans but they can get big and certainly look unpleasant. If any creature is likely to instil fear, it's the spider. Studies suggest 10 percent of men and 50 percent of women suffer from arachnophobia. I'm sure the figure for men is higher than this.
Spiders are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. If you are really keen to avoid them you might be out of luck. There are 43,678 spider species out there.
They also vary a lot in size from the tiny Patu digua Colombia which reaches 0.39 mm, to the big tarantulas such as the Goliath Bird Eating Spider which can have body lengths up to 90 mm (3.5 in) and leg spans up to 250 mm. They are certainly big enough for you to know about it if one is crawling on your chest at night.
Chicken tonight ? The Bird Eating spider is the biggest of the bunch
As in most species, but particularly in spiders, the lot of the male spider is not a happy one. Male spiders have a wide array of a courtship rituals which are intented to avoid being eaten by the females. They are not always successful.
Males of most species survive a few matings,before they become a quick post coital snack. Females weave silk egg-cases, each of which can contain hundreds of eggs.They may care for their young by carrying them around or by sharing food with them. A few species of spider hang out in large communal webs which can house as many as 50,000 of them but the communal gig is not the accepted pattern.
Spiders have been around for 400 million years and are among the most successful carnivores in the history of the planet. Spiders are a good reason for not being reincarnated as a fly; that and having to eat poop.
Despite their fearsome reputation spiders kill far fewer humans than snakes and scorpions. Although tarantulas look creepy, their bite is unlikely to prove fatal unless you have an allergy. The Brown Recluse is one of the most deadly spiders, although most people who claim to be bitten by them in the United States, have been attacked by something else. Alarmingly the black widow, a little black critter with a sinister red hourglass marking, poses a bigger threat to humans. Every time I see a spider in the garage I managed to convince myself it's a black widow, thus leading to a cancellation of the lawn mowing.
The Sydney Funnel Web Spider is more aggressive than the brown recluse and the black widow. However, since funnel-web antivenin arrived on the scene in 1980 nobody has died from a bite. Like most of the world's deadliest creatures, this spider hangs out in Australia. The Brazilian Wandering Spider is another one to watch for - if you are in Brazil at least. As its name suggests, it tends to wander.
Interestingly, the venom of the Brazilian Wandering Spider is being studied for a possible cure for erectile disfunction. As well as pain and cold sweats, men who have been bitten by this spider end up having erections. Sooo if he appears to be pleased to see you, but isn't feeling so good, it may be he has been bitten by a wandering spider, if you are anywhere near Rio...
Spiders have spawned numerous depictions in literature and film from the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet to J.R.R. Tolkien's hideous Shelob in The Lord of the Rings.
In Greek mythology Arachne was a weaver who wove a tapestry featuring 21 episodes of infidelity amongst the Gods of Olympus, which made Athena a trifle miffed. The goddess destroyed Arachne's tapestry and loom and cursed Arachne to live with extreme guilt. Out of sadness, Arachne soon hanged herself. Athena took pity on her and brought her back to life as a spider, making sure that the spider forever after retained Arachne's weaving abilities.
Spiderman, took the web spinning qualities of the spider to a comic book level, whereas there are numerous horror flicks of spiders or giant spiders on the rampage, such as Kingdom of the Spiders and Arachnophobia.
A recent email hoax described attacks by the South American Blush Spider in public toilets. The alleged spider's scientific name Arachnius gluteus translates as "butt spider."
Tarantulas are eaten in parts of south east Asia. They taste like chicken.
When in Cambodia and all that...
Useless Fact About the Spider
Spiders often have eight eyes as wel as eight legs. The jumping spider has a telephoto-like series of lenses, a four-layer retina and the ability to swivel its eyes and integrate images from different stages in the scan. However, its scanning and integrating processes are relatively slow.
What not to Say to a Spider
Bite me you eight legged freak