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Big, hairy spiders not scary, says Royal B.C. Museum's entomology manager

A giant house spider is shown in this undated handout photo. Big and hairy spiders are persistent home invaders every fall, but their reputation for turning up in a favourite shoe or coffee cup and scaring people witless is completely undeserved, says a spider expert at the Royal B.C. Museum.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Royal BC Museum
September 22, 2014 - 5:03 AM

VICTORIA - Big and hairy spiders are persistent home invaders every fall, but their reputation for turning up in a favourite shoe or coffee cup and scaring people witless is completely undeserved, says a spider expert at the Royal B.C. Museum.

The creepy crawlies, some big enough to fit in the palm of your hand, are not looking for a warm cupboard to camp for the winter, they're looking for love in all the wrong corners, said Claudia Copley, the manager of the museum's entomology collections.

Every time an eight-legged creature crawls across a pillow or lands on your daughter's doll house, the spider's fear factor expands, she said.

But Copley is on a quest to dispel spider myths: they don't want to be inside your house, they're not scary and they won't hurt you.

In fact, Copley, said having spiders in your home should be viewed as a good thing because they hunt down other bad things, like ear wigs and wood bugs.

"People should just think of that spider as doing good work for them, keeping other things at bay," she said. "There's a lot of mythology around spiders in general. They are not wolf spiders and they are not trying to come in to get out of the cold. They are looking for a mate and they are actually called a funnel web spider and they were introduced from Europe."

Copley said another common myth is the spider in your bathtub or sink crawled up through the drain. She said the particulars of plumbing don’t allow this, and the spider has actually fallen into the basin and simply can’t get out because the of the slippery surface.

B.C., with its dense ancient forests and desert-like grasslands is home to the majority of Canada's spider populations. Canada has about 1,500 hundred different species of spiders, with about 800 identified in B.C., she said.

Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Royal BC Museum

Copley believes there are at least another 200 species of spiders in B.C. that have yet to be identified.

She acknowledged that spiders scare people, but all but one species of spider in B.C., including scorpions found in the Osoyoos area, do not possess a bite that can harm people.

"There's only one dangerous-to-people spider in British Columbia and it's called the black widow spider," she said. "All the rest are harmless and some are big enough to bite but they are not harmful."

Copley said spiders have a strange walk that may scare some people, but she downplays the fear of being bitten by a spider.

"People will handle a kitten with needle-like teeth and be bitten by it and survive, but for some reason the spider is the most terrifying thing they've seen," she said.

Copley said the best way to prevent these unwanted intruders is to make sure all doors have sweeps and all windows have screens, eliminating the easiest entry points.

She said to remove a spider humanely involves putting a glass over the spider and sliding a piece of paper under the glass and then placing the spider outside.

Some homeowners, however, are not as compassionate, she said.

"They just might use their shoe."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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