, arachnophobia is unreasonable in Australia. There have been no confirmed deaths from spider bites in Australia since 1979, while falling out of bed killed 523 people between 2007 and 2016.
This hails from an interesting little piece on fear versus risk from our ABC here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-...eality/9277098
If you do pick three things off the list that you think are dangerous, it will tell you how they compare to the actual death statistics for a recent decade in Australia. Will you pick the right three? Then you can compare how the creepie-crawlies go in those statistics.
, and well done!
We don't have too many spider stories - there's lots of spiders around and we photograph them sometimes, but they're generally not very interactive with humans.
The few that pop into my mind mostly involve huntsman spiders:
That's an example, but our West Australian ones are really hairy and about the diameter of a large mug. They aren't dangerous to humans but will bite to defend themselves if attacked.
I came to Australia from Europe at age 11, and there aren't any big hairy spiders like that in the part of Europe I grew up in. I wasn't aware of their existence in Australia either in the first couple of months, but then... Well, my father had bought a largely uncleared farming block and had this brilliant idea that we were all going to clear the land using axes and elbow grease. He organised four axes for the family members and handed them out to us with various exhortations. This phase was an unpopular phase and didn't last long; our neighbours had a good laugh and before too long he bought a tractor.
Anyway, it was during this axe-clearing phase that I was chopping down some prickly undergrowth near a large eucalyptus tree with really gnarly bark - a favourite huntsman habitat, as I was to find out. As I was chopping away, wearing shorts because of the summer heat, I suddenly felt something tickling my knee and looked down - and next thing I jumped about a mile high, because one of those saucer-sized hairy things was running rapidly upwards on my leg. On coming back to Earth, I launched myself straight into a hysterical sort of anti-spider dance, until I was rid of the beastie.
They're not dangerous, but they do tend to put the wind up people when making sudden appearances, especially on your bare legs. Many years later, a colleague at coffee-break recounted driving her car to work on the Perth-Bunbury Highway and having the same sort of thing happen to her: Dressed in shorts because of the summer heat, tickling sensation on leg, had a look and - eeeek! She told us how almost in a trance she calmly and safely pulled over onto the verge, came to a stop, exited her car and then, and only then, rapidly jumped up and down yowling and flapping at herself until she was rid of the beastie.
As a university student I once had a pet huntsman, because I felt the need to behave like a sensible biologist would behave and see these creatures through a bigger lens than mere cultural arachnophobia. The spider just turned up in my room, and I didn't chuck it out. Far from it, I bid it welcome, named it Freddy and saw to it that it had plenty to eat despite being indoors. My laboratory dissection kit had a lovely long probe with a nice handle which was excellent for catching flies and presenting them live as sort of wiggly shishkebabs to dear Freddy. When I had one, I located Freddy and brought the wiggly fly within about an inch of the spider's head. I always had to hold my breath and get really mentally focused so I wouldn't drop the probe when Freddy did his sudden and very spectacular pounce upon the fly.
And so Freddy and I had a happy association lasting many months. I'm sure you're interested in how it ended. Well, one morning I woke up to the sight of Freddy on the ceiling right above my bed, and initially I just marvelled at the amazing ability spiders have to cling to the undersides of relatively smooth surfaces. Their legs have a few helpful structures for these sorts of acrobatics and it's all terribly admirable. But then I asked myself the question: Do they ever make a mistake and fall off? And since none of us are infallible, spiders included, I caught Freddy by means of a carefully placed huge glass pickle jar and piece of cardboard to slide between the spider and the ceiling once I had him surrounded. I then carried him in his jar out to the garden and re-united him with the great outdoors, in which he was free to find his own prey and perhaps a lady spider. With any luck, Freddy's descendants are still out there.
You might be interested in a few more things I dug up for an article...
by Jean and Fred
, on Flickr
"The speed of various Australian Huntsman spiders was recently measured, and found to range from an impressive 40+ body lengths per second for a species from Queensland, to a respectable 15 body lengths per second for the slowest species tested. Many of them can also jump very well. No wonder people feel their hearts in their throats when one of these big spiders suddenly appears at top speed."
"Spiders, like sharks, are far more frequently harmed, and even eaten, by humans, than the other way around. There have been no confirmed deaths from spider bites in Australia since 1979. Also, few of us personally know anyone who has been attacked by a shark, but virtually all of us have eaten shark in the form of fish and chips. Spiders were firmly on the edibles list of nomadic hunter-gatherers throughout the world, and in South America and Cambodia, deep-fried tarantulas are still eaten as a delicacy. And why not, considering that spiders are closely related to lobsters, and few Westerners would think twice about tucking into those. Deep-fried tarantula fans describe these beasties as wonderfully crunchy on the outside and delightfully chewy on the inside; a texture contrast us ordinary folk enjoy in potato croquettes or falafels.
While researching this topic, I came upon a delightful story from the 18th Century. French astronomer de Lalande used to visit the naturalist d'Isjonville each Saturday, and there, to eat such spiders and caterpillars as he could find in the garden. Eager to be a good host, Madame d'Isjonville began to collect them beforehand so she could serve them to him on his arrival. Monsieur de Lalande, like many other spider-eating enthusiasts, reported that spiders taste of hazelnuts."
That 18th Century story came from an old zoology encyclopaedia. Doesn't that little snippet just make you want to write a novel based on de Lalande and the d'Isjonvilles? Madame d'Isjonville especially seems like a really fun character!