Spider Myths

crab spider

A goldenrod crab spider captures a fly on a Shasta daisy, at once debunking the myth that all spiders make webs and proving the worth of spiders in controlling potential pests.

Every time I pick up something in my garage, I find a small spider under it, especially in winter. This is so routine that I don’t even flinch these days. While I don’t like to find spiders creeping through my hair or even across my office floor, I find them generally fascinating. Even more interesting is the huge number of myths that are associated with spiders and peoples’ unrelenting fear of them. It is time to debunk some of the most persistent ones.

Myth 1. Daddy-longlegs are the most venomous spiders in the world, they just have fangs too small to penetrate human skin. Not so! Spiders and daddy-longlegs are both arachnids, but daddy-longlegs are harvestmen, not spiders. A comparison might be that moths and beetles are both insects, but not closely related. The real truth about harvestmen is that they don’t even have venom at all. None. Nada.

Myth 2. All spiders make webs. While it is true that all spiders can produce silk, only about 50 percent of spiders actually spin webs. The purpose of webs is to capture prey and there are many spiders, such as wolf spiders, jumping spiders, and crab spiders, that hunt their prey.

Myth 3. If it has eight legs, it is a spider. Not so. All arachnids, which include spiders, crabs, harvestmen, scorpions, and ticks, to name a few, have eight legs. "Arachnid" doesn't just mean spider. There are 11 arachnid orders and spiders are just 1 order of class Arachnida.  It is also more correct to refer to them as four pairs of legs as a leg can be lost, but would still have a mate on the opposite side.

Myth 4. Spiders are everywhere. Usually this is stated that you are always within three feet of a spider. This myth actually started from an off-hand comment by a famous naturalist in 1995 when he stated that wherever you are, you are probably never more than a few yards from a spider. The media picked this up and soon, even among nature writers, it was “made into truth through verbal repetition”. If you are standing on a lawn or in a garden, this statement is likely true in spades. However, if you are in your home, on an airplane or on a cruise ship, you could be dozens of feet to hundreds of miles from a spider. The fact is, no one has ever done the research or calculations to prove this theory.

Myth 5. Spiders, like vampires, suck the juices from their prey. That is not how it works at all. Most spiders will disable their prey then when they are ready to eat, will vomit digestive juices into a hole in the prey. These juices go to work and the spider will chew the digesting food and slurp in the liquified muscle.

Myth 6. All spiders are dangerous. While most spiders CAN bite humans, few ever do. As far as danger goes, only the widow spiders and the recluse spiders really pose a threat. In fact, our world would be much more dangerous without spiders. They are predators and help to control insects, mites, ticks and other critters that could become pests.

Myth 7. The average person swallows an average of eight spiders a year while sleeping. This is the quintessential urban legend. It was started by a columnist as a demonstration of just what silly things people will believe because they read them on the internet. There is absolutely no basis to this myth.

If we take the time to study them rather than immediately squash them, spiders are an intriguing group of critters. Hopefully, debunking some myths might help some readers better manage their fear and appreciate spiders just a little more.

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from Nature-track.com!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho