Protecting nature through research, education, and outreach

Araneus diadematus

Spiders – Our eight legged friends??

There tend to be many misconceptions when it comes to spiders; they are considered to be evil, scary, and a nuisance. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of spiders we have in New England, or in North America for that matter, are harmless to humans. The species to watch for is the Brown Recluse, which is found in the southeastern part of the United States, and the Black Widow, which can be found in Massachusetts but is more prevalent in the southern regions of North America.

A common fallacy about spiders is that they fall in the realm of insects, but they are actually within the arachnid family. Arachnids have two body parts, four pairs of legs, eight simple eyes and no antennas. Insects have three body parts, six legs, two compound eyes, antennas, and may have wings.

While the majority of spiders are venomous, they are not detrimental to humans. The venom paralyzes to subdue their prey, which works similarly to an insecticide. Spider bites do occur but bee and wasp stings are considered more dangerous. Of the 50,000+ species of spiders, only about 25 arachnid species could cause illness or death.

You may ask yourself then, what makes a spider so special besides its intrinsic value? Spiders are very important to our ecosystem because they eat those pesky insects: ticks, mosquitoes, flies and ants. Without these “eight-legged freaks”, one can ponder on how many more of those pesky insects would be around.

Do yourself and spiders a favor, and don’t “squish” them. If you are a little skittish about spiders, admire from afar. Inspect the intricate web design and imagine the amount of hard work that spider did to catch one fly.

If you are curious or brave and want to look at a hardworking orb weaver, the Cross Spider, check out this month’s Creature Feature at the Lloyd Center – it’ll be “hanging around”!