Spiders, like me, are just hard to love


This article on spider researcher Maydianne Andrade struck a nerve.

Spiders are not exactly a charismatic animal in many people’s minds. Do you feel like you have a different experience than someone who works on tigers or cute birds like chickadees?

I have to spend quite a lot of time convincing people that studying spiders is actually important. They are one of the dominant invertebrate terrestrial predators, which means that they take down a lot of insects. And so understanding how they work in their environment is actually important for us, understanding how to maintain the health of those environments.

If you look at the distribution of the diversity of organisms in nature, insects and spiders make up a huge proportion of that diversity. And yet they make up only a tiny proportion of what type of work we’re publishing on, and so it really is the animals with the big eyelashes and the big eyes, you know, the cute mammals and the beautiful sounding birds that the people are studying disproportionately.

Oh yeah, and those bird scientists are just the worst.

She’s commenting on the fact that I added two whole minutes of bird footage shot from my office window to my last video because it’s really hard to find wild spiders in a Minnesota December. Just for that I’m going to have to record some of my lab spiders for the end of my next video, even though I know it’ll trigger squeals of protest, and my subscriber count will probably go down.

You know, some spiders do have big eyes and eyelashes, he says, defensively.

Comments

  1. rejiquar says

    I like your spider pix! I’m sorry they freak people out. I’m one of those boring people who tends to draw animals with eyes & eyelashes, but besides the fact that cats and horses are bigger & easier to see, there’s just more pix of them.

    I think showing us beautiful spiders would be delightful, and I will try to start drawing more of them:) p.s. I love that they eat bugs in my house, and try never to hurt them, though sometimes the harvestmen do get swept up when I’m cleaning…

  2. blf says

    What spider is that?

    The mildly deranged penguins notes that, perhaps with a few minor tweaks and ignoring the (never well followed) prohibition against “bug eyed monsters”, that could be a Doctor Who monster / alien. (Both she and I are aware spiders have been the “monsters” at least twice, most recently more as the victim that the baddie (Arachnids in the UK).)

  3. maireaine46 says

    Both yourself and the spiders are admirable creatures! I learned to love spiders from my husband, who wanted to be an guy who studied insects when he was a kid, until he learned that mostly they study ways to kill them. He became a mathematician then later a computer graphics programmer instead. We do not kill spiders, a tradition carried on by our adult kids. And I am fine with seeing pictures of them, ok with snakes too. Despite being an old granny lady. All living things have their place.

  4. brightmoon says

    I’m fine with snakes. Spiders? Kill it with fire! All my biology degree did was prevent me from screaming and flailing mindlessly when one crawls on me . Now I’ll just yell and brush it off

  5. PaulBC says

    That’s a cute spider. Muppet-cute.

    But it’s really not the kind that freaks me out. I have no idea what it is about the ones with giant bloated abdomens that terrifies me. I could blame J.R.R. Tolkien writing about Shelob, but I’m pretty sure I was already afraid of spiders. I like orb webs and can think of the spider in nice terms as long as I’m far enough away and (this is vital) know exactly where it is at all times.

    The ones lurking inside funnel webs creep me out even more. I mean, they’re cool. I just don’t want them crawling on me.

  6. Jazzlet says

    I like the spider photos. I don’t mind spiders that mind their own business, hanging out in a web or crawling up a wall. I do have a problem if they crawl too close to me – the comfortable distance varies by size – or on the ceiling directly above me or even on me, when I squeal and jump up, then feel embarrassed, but my amygdala does not like spiders crawling on me or just what it thinks is too close to me. sigh

  7. davidc1 says

    Hi ,Doc ,why was my comment deleted ? I meant what i said about it being a Littlie Cutie .

    @7&8 Yeah ,i know what you mean , as i have said before there is more horror in a house spider disappearing under a heavy wardrobe or bookcase than there is any number of so called horror films .

  8. miramis says

    PZ
    You do carry a pitchfork (A) along on your forays right? If the spider is hidden and you can’t locate it strike the fork and hold it into the net. The spider will come out and try to eat it. But you probably knew that already.
    Greetings from a fellow spider lover.

Leave a Reply