15 Questions Spiders Need To Answer Right Now, Explained By Science
It's officially spider season. Some people are freaking out and some important questions need answers.
So autumn has arrived and brought along some eight-legged buddies.
This alarming interpretation of the facts by the Daily Star, for example, might have sent you to a panic room until Christmas.
But fear not! Here are some insights to help dry your eyes and/or knickers.
September is officially spider season in the Northern hemisphere. The babies born in the spring have matured to a more noticeable size. Males are on the prowl for mates too. "They're out looking for females and their wanderings bring them into our house," Professor Hart told BuzzFeed.
It's been a mild start to autumn in the UK without too much wind or rain for spiders to contend with. "They've probably not had to rebuild their webs as often, there's perhaps more flying insects around. It's quite possible that spiders are doing quite well at the moment and that's why people are noticing them a bit more," Hart told BuzzFeed.
Ok, don't freak out, but the biggest house spiders in the UK (cardinal spiders found in the South East) can have a leg span over 12cm. People just seem to forget that until autumn rolls around.
Scientists in Australia have discovered that orb-weavers grow larger in cities than in the country, possibly because it's warmer in urban environments.
But psychologists have also found that your perception of the size of a spider can be exaggerated by a strong fear.
Overall, it's pretty difficult to say if spiders this year are bigger than in the past without keeping detailed records of their size. Fancy volunteering? You can join the recording scheme.
Psychologists haven't yet agreed on a single explanation for why arachnophobia is such a widely shared fear.
In recent years scientists have found that 3-year-olds will quickly identify images of spiders and that adults rate images of spiders as more dangerous and disgusting than ones of bees and wasps. Another study has measured reactions to spider images versus scenes from Doctor Who. No, I didn't make that last one up – it was to test how our attention differs according to our interests.
It all boils down to the usual nature versus nurture debate: Did we inherit a response to dangerous animals from our ancestors, or do we learn the fear?
Flying in the face of the theory we evolved to fear spiders is the fact they only actually bite humans as a defence mechanism if they are surprised or provoked.
Of the 38,000 spider species in the world, only 500 can give a painful bite and just a dozen are considered dangerous according to the British Arachnological Society (BAS).
Only 14 species out of the 660 found in the UK are known to bite. Unless you have an allergic reaction, Hart says these bites are likely to be less painful than a wasp sting and far less common.
It's a garden cross spider and it eats flying insects including wasps. The Society of Biology have developed an app to help you ID common spiders.
And of course, there aren't actually any spiders that eat humans. The closest you'll get is a spider that eats mosquitoes that have snacked on human blood – now that's the stuff of nightmares!
You know that fact about how everyone swallows spiders in their sleep? Not true. Rod Crawford of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle, US, told Scientific American that our breathing alone would put them off since they rely so much on vibrations to help them navigate away from danger. That's also why if you tap near one it'll freeze in its tracks.
Spiders build webs to catch flies and unfortunately flies gotta fly.
Scientists have also found that some spiders build their webs higher in the autumn to get above plants that have grown taller over the summer.
"Spiders increase biodiversity," Hart told Buzzfeed, "they're an important part of the eco-system."
That means they keep annoying midges and mosquitoes under control and in turn provide a high-energy snack for birds and bats. You might not miss them if they went, but you'd miss what they did for the eco-system.
The advice is to keep your house clean and dusted, seal up any holes where spiders can get in, keep garden debris away from the house and turn outdoor lights off so the insects spiders like to eat aren't attracted to your home.
They're not, it's just an old urban myth that has been debunked by school kids on YouTube after the Royal Society of Chemistry asked for proof.
There's a tried and tested method handed down through generations: Cover it with a cup, slip a sheet of paper underneath, pick up the cup and hold the paper down as you carry it out to somewhere you can release it.
Or just hide until you can't see it anymore. Do not – under any circumstances – actually attempt to kill it with fire.
Spiders don't actually come into your house through drains. They get trapped in slippery baths and sinks, then crawl into drains to try and escape. The U-bend full of water makes it pretty tricky to get though, so they often crawl back out.
If you're feeling charitable you can do them a favour by putting a towel or cloth over the side of the bath or sink so they can climb out. Or you can use the cup and paper trick.
Hell yes. What else has got eight legs and trends for a month every year?