I’ve always done right by spiders. I hate them, but I’ve never knowingly killed one. I always thought they were useful at catching flies and things but I didn’t know how good they were for the environment until I did a little research. I’d had quite a few run-ins with giant spiders at our allotment and I wanted to be sure of how useful they were, not that I was planning to get rid of any of them of anything…
So it turns out spiders are very good for the environment. They may look like a heinous crime against nature, but beyond their grotesque exterior lays a tender loving heart, full of kindness for humanity. Probably.
Spiders are a homeowner or gardener’s best friend. They get rid of insects that would decimate plants in our gardens or run riot in our homes. One expert (Norman Platnick from the American Museum of Natural History), goes so far to say they’re so beneficial for the environment that there would be famines without them.
All this is very interesting, but you won’t find any more useful facts in this blog post. I was too scared to click on most of the search results in case there was an up-close shot of a spider’s many, many glassy black eyes.
So instead of writing about spider-related environmental information, I want to show you the world from the point of view of someone who has arachnophobia (me), clearing out an allotment.
We finally got the end of a waiting list for our allotment 18 months ago and, due to the pandemic, I only got round to clearing all the rubbish off the allotment last week.
The shed on our allotment was almost purpose built to be invaded by spiders. There’s rotten wood, old plant pots, holes in the floor, holes in the roof, (holes in the walls as well, actually) – it would be top of any spider’s Rightmove wish list.
Thankfully, clearing out the shed wasn’t something I had to do. Andrew had done it the week before on his own, knowing that he if didn’t do it solo, the following conversation would have been on repeat:
Me: Look! There’s a giant spider!
Andrew: I know, I saw it.
Me: But did you see how big it was?
Andrew: Yes, I saw it.
Me: It was massive though, did you see how big it was?
Andrew: Yes, I saw it, it was big.
Me: Yes but did you see how. big. it. was?
Andrew: Would you like a divorce?
I just like him to appreciate the true horror of spiders with girths the size of kiwi fruits.
As the shed was done, that meant I was left to clear the rest of the allotment alone. Stacks of plant pots, wood and bricks look harmless to non-arachnophobes. But to those in the know (or the fear) they are hotbeds of spider activity. As I approached every discard plant pot my muscles tensed, my heart raced and I prayed no one on the allotment could see my facial expressions.
Arachnophobia makes doing the simplest jobs way more stressful than they should be and take a lot more time. It took me hours to clear the rubbish into the skip as every time I saw a cobweb, I threw the item it was attached to onto the floor in horror. Then I had to compose myself, pick the item up again (using a long stick wherever possible), knowing that there could be a spider, egg sack or other arachnid delights attached to it.
I got off lucky. As it’s spring, most of the spiders I did see were small and sleepy, they’d not yet geared up in size and energy for the annual spider gymkhana that happens in autumn.
Although I didn’t get far with the research for this post, I did get as far as the search results. A quick scan of what people are Googling shows it’s not just me who can’t handle these eight legged, eight eyed traumas.
Google’s search results is an insight into what goes through most arachnophobe’s heads when they see a spider:
“Can spiders remember you?” In case they want to come back hell-bent on revenge for being hurled out of a window.
“Do spiders get cold?” And if they get too cold outside, will they come back in?
“What do spiders hate?” Me, throwing them out of the window.
And, I feel this one speaks to my very soul “Do we need spiders in our world?” The answer is, of course, yes. But I only need them in my world if they are very, very far away from me.