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Don’t like spiders? Here are 5 reasons to change your mind

Don’t like spiders? Here are 5 reasons to change your mind

Australia is famous for its supposedly scary spiders. While the sight of a spider may cause some people to shudder, they are a vital part of nature. Hostile reactions are harming conservation efforts – especially when people kill spiders unnecessarily.

Populations of many invertebrate species, including certain spiders, are highly vulnerable. Some species have become extinct due to habitat loss and degradation.

In dramatic efforts to avoid or kill a spider, people have reportedly crashed their cars, set a house on fire, and even caused such a commotion that police showed up.

A pathological fear of spiders, known as arachnophobia, is of course, a legitimate condition. But in reality, we have little to fear. Read on to find out why you should love, not loathe, our eight-legged arachnid friends.

1. Spiders haven’t killed anyone in Australia for 40 years

The last confirmed fatal spider bite in Australia occurred in 1979.

Only a few species have venom that can kill humans: some mouse spiders (Missulena species), Sydney Funnel-webs (Atraxspecies) and some of their close relatives. Antivenom for redbacks (Latrodectus hasseltii) was introduced in 1956, and for funnel-webs in 1980. However, redback venom is no longer considered life-threatening.

2. Spiders save us from the world’s deadliest animal

Spiders mostly eat insects, which helps control their populations. Their webs – especially big, intricate ones like our orb weavers’ – are particularly adept at catching small flying insects such as mosquitos. Worldwide, mosquito-borne viruses kill more humans than any other animal.

3. They can live to an impressive age

The world’s oldest recorded spider was a 43- year-old female trapdoor spider (Gaius villosus) that lived near Perth, Western Australia. Tragically a wasp sting, not old age, killed her.

4. Spider silk is amazing

Spider silk is the strongest, most flexible natural biomaterial known to man. It has historically been used to make bandages, and UK researchers have worked out how to load silk bandages with antibiotics. Webs of the golden orb spider, common throughout Australia, are strong enough to catch bats and birds, and a cloak was once woven entirely from their silk.

5. Their venom could save our life

The University of Queensland is using spider venom to developnon-addictive pain-killers. The venom rapidly immobilises prey by targeting its nervous system – an ability that can act as a painkiller in humans.

The venom from a Fraser Island funnel web contains a molecule that delays the effects of stroke on the brain. Researchers are investigating whether it could be administered by paramedics to protect a stroke victim on the way to hospital.

Funnel-web venom is also being used to create targeted pesticides which are harmless to birds and mammals.

Written by Leanda Denise Mason. Republished with permission of The Conversation.