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Wildlife: Spider freak out!

March 15, 2014


IF you are scared of spiders, please do not freak out as most spiders here, especially house spiders, are completely harmless

It is quite common for people, adults as well as children, to scream and run if they happen to see a spider inside the house. This fear of spiders, ‘arachnophobia’ as it is correctly known, is not without basis as even though there are extremely few poisonous spiders here in Pakistan, it’s always better to play it safe rather than get bitten by something venomous which could, in extreme cases and especially if a person already suffers from a serious heart condition, have deathly consequences. But, having said this, please do not freak out as most spiders here, especially house spiders, are completely harmless.

There are eight recognised spider families in Pakistan: Eiesidae, Hersiliidae, Oecobiidae, Oonopidae, Pholcidae, Salticidae, Scytodidae and Uloboridae, with each family having lots of different types or ‘genus’ in its ranks.

At the last known count, about five years ago, there were around 43,678 recognised species of spiders spread all over the world, except for in Antarctica, and these spiders belong to 109 known families although, it goes without saying, there could be many more as yet unclassified, unidentified spiders around but the eight spider families we have here are, one expects, more than enough for most people to have to tolerate.

Spiders are classified, surprisingly, as animals rather than insects as insects have antennae and spiders do not. Additionally, insects can live in the air, in the ocean and just about everywhere else but spiders are earth-bound creatures, although some of them much prefer to be indoors rather than outside where they belong, which is where, on the whole, they come in to contact with and often terrify, human beings.

Information about poisonous spiders in Pakistan is not readily available from reliable sources although reports indicate, these reports by word of mouth only as far as the author can verify, that there are some deadly poisonous sand-spiders in Balochistan which, especially if someone has a serious heart condition, can be lethal or, at the very least, the person they bite will be seriously ill for some time and is liable to require hospitalisation. But, as just mentioned, this is based on verbal reports only and these are desert, not house, spiders.

Spiders breathe air and are further classified as eight legged arthropods which are harmless or as chelicerae which have fangs and are venomous.

All spiders lay eggs, some species dragging whitish grey coloured ‘sacs’ of eggs behind them during the early summer breeding season and all of them weave the most intricately beautiful webs out of spider silk — this is exceptionally strong — and have been doing so for at least 386 thousand years in a variety of different ways.

Spiders are, if you study them, fascinating creatures but — this makes sense — in trying not to be afraid of them, at least keep a respectable distance.