Scientists explained: spiders are safe and afraid of us more than weare of them

By Jurassic JennApr 2, 2024 12:38 PMScience
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Spiders are safe and afraid of us more than weare of them
Spiders are safe and afraid of us more than weare of them. Source: smarterpestcontrol.com

Spiders are known as "masters" of effective survival strategies that allow them to thrive in the most unfavorable conditions, and there is only one thing these arthropods do not do well: they cannot make friends with humans.

SSPDaily asked the question: "How do spiders perceive humans when they settle next to them? In particular, the publication reports: "We don't know what the insects think about us, but research has revealed some surprising facts that indicate that they are especially cautious in the presence of people."

Playing dead

Take, for example, the Jorō spider (Trichonephila clavata). It is originally from East Asia, but over the past decade, Jorō has settled in the United States following its close relative, the golden silk spider Trichonephila clavipes, which appeared in America about 160 years ago.

So, observations have shown that Jorō are very afraid of people and try to avoid meeting them. If this happens, the spiders skillfully pretend to be dead. This technique is known to scientists as the state of thanatosis (imaginary death). This is a reaction to a threat, a technique used by many animals, including other arachnids such as scorpions.

Spiders usually do this in response to potential danger or even as part of their mating strategy. But what is unusual about the Jorō spider is how long it continues to play dead. A study of ten species of spiders conducted in 2023 showed that most of them freeze for about a minute in response to a few air vibrations. But Jorō lie still for more than an hour.

This, of course, comes at a cost, for example, in lost prey, but "playing dead" probably pays off because it protects insects from predators more effectively than aggressive behavior.

Who is more afraid of whom

It is unclear why people are prone to arachnophobia. However, studies show that we experience similar emotional reactions to different animals (wolves, crows, snakes, mice). Scientists suggest that this is due to our need to control the environment.

In addition, the Internet and television actively stir up fear of these insects, and the "panic" mood in society is reinforced by seasonal invasions of "large" spiders that settle in our yards, apartments and houses.

It should be noted that some of them, such as American hermit spiders, are indeed poisonous, and medical attention may be required after a bite. But even in this case, the threat to human life is exaggerated.

For comparison, the WHO's list of dangerous animals does not include a single spider, but rather domestic dogs and cats. According to the same media, tens of millions of people are injured by these animals every year. At the same time, it is the isolated cases of spider bites that attract much more attention and cause considerable fear among people.

We are more dangerous to them than they are to us

At the same time, science says that humans are more dangerous to spiders than vice versa. This is because our food production systems use insecticides that kill insects and contribute to their widespread decline.

And this is a problem for us because spiders play an important role in maintaining the natural balance by eating insect pests. If this continues, their decline will have serious consequences for agriculture and for the human diet, which will become much poorer as a result.

As for the spiders themselves, they show wonders of ingenuity to survive in this world. For example, they build complex silky structures - from giant webs with jewelry to cunningly disguised hatches in the ground. Spider silk allows them to live everywhere - in the cold depths of deep caves, underwater and high in the mountains.

Small spiders can travel thousands of kilometers downwind using silk sails. Just as our life experiences shape us, a spider's journey also shapes its future. This is because the conditions in which young spiders are exposed to during development, such as temperature or the amount of food available, influence their future life strategies, such as when foraging for food or deciding whether to stay in a new location or "move".

How did Jorō end up in the United States?

Jorō is also capable of flying through the air, but its recent appearance in the United States is most likely the result of human activity. The spiders must have been transported with luggage or goods. And our concern about their spread is better focused not on the spider itself, but on the potential disruption of the ecosystem down the food chain.

The fact is that invasive species, including Jorō, successfully compete with native species for food and can have unexpected effects on other plant and animal species. For example, in Florida, invasive Cyrtophora spiders, with their huge number of webs, create serious problems for crops in the fields and reduce their yields.

This example is a reminder that the consequences of spider actions can be more complex than they seem at first glance. And we will only benefit from improving our understanding of the behavior of these complex insects. And it will certainly be easier to do so if we stop looking at spiders through the prism of emotion.

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