Hey, this is the same thing I tell everyone: spiders are mostly harmless, and they’re there whether you like them or not.
Spiders are not out to get you and actually prefer to avoid humans; we are much more dangerous to them than vice versa. Bites from spiders are extremely rare. Although there are a few medically important species like widow spiders and recluses, even their bites are uncommon and rarely cause serious issues.
If you truly can’t stand that spider in your house, apartment, garage, or wherever, instead of smashing it, try to capture it and release it outside. It’ll find somewhere else to go, and both parties will be happier with the outcome.
But if you can stomach it, it’s OK to have spiders in your home. In fact, it’s normal. And frankly, even if you don’t see them, they’ll still be there. So consider a live-and-let-live approach to the next spider you encounter.
The author of that article is also one of the authors of a paper I’m citing in something I’m working on now, in which he and colleagues did a thorough, room by room search for all arthropods in houses in a North Carolina region. One of their observations is that 100% of the homes had Theridiidae (common house spiders, like the Parasteatoda I’m studying) living in them. They’re kind of unavoidable. In my own much more limited survey (we only examined garages and sheds, and only arachnids, here in the harsher environment of Minnesota), we saw some similar results: almost all garages housed spiders. The one exception was eerily meticulous, everything stored away in tidy boxes, and no cobwebs or even dust. There are people who dust their garages! Unless you are that thorough, though, they’re there. And even if you are, they’ll sneak in — later that summer, we did find a few spiders in a shed on that same property. They looked terrified. Don’t worry, I didn’t rat out that they were there.
(Note: we were pretty strict about confidentiality, all locations are encoded in a file separate from the data on spider populations. You’d have to go through two sets of paper records matching addresses with spider counts to pin an identity on the houses with the most, or least, spiders.)
By the way, I have in mind proposing a workshop to Skepticon this year, an effort to counter arachnophobia. What I was thinking is a series of staged tables, where the beginning is something like 1) coloring pages of spider drawings, with explanations of anatomy; 2) a table of photos (maybe in trading card format?) of real spiders; 3) some small, caged spiders where we could observe feeding and courtship; and 4) a few harmless spiders, like Pholcidae, where people could actually let them clamber around their hands. Participants could ease in gradually and stop where ever they feel comfortable, and see people actually interact harmlessly with spiders.
What do you think? Would you actually participate in such a thing, if you had the opportunity? What number would you stop at?