Irrational Fear: Spiders vs Mosquitoes

25 Feb

Is fear ever rational? You tell me! The more I learn about spiders, however, the more I am convinced that there is no rational basis for the vast majority of people’s fear of spiders. Let’s contrast them with mosquitoes to set things in perspective.


Human-seeking No known spider hunts humans. They all avoid them actively, and can tell by simply touching our skin that we are a large, dangerous animal. The idea that they crawl into our mouths at night is a silly old myth! The females of most species actively seek out humans to suck their blood. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide we emit through our breath and perspiration, and can detect it over a 30-metre distance
Risk of painful bite Most spiders are incapable of piercing human skin. Most of those that can only inflict about as much pain as a mosquito bite. Female mosquitoes have a proboscis specifically adapted for piercing human skin and accessing blood from the capillaries just below the skin. Their survival depends on successfully biting you.
Toxins and venom All spiders are able to inject venom, but few do when they bite humans. Only about a dozen of the approximately 40,000 spider species worldwide can cause serious harm to the average healthy adult human. Mosquitoes always replace the blood they extract with their own saliva, which contains enzymes and anticoagulants (which keep the blood flowing). This isn’t toxic but the human body’s immune system becomes gradually more sensitive to the foreign proteins, which is what causes the swelling and itchiness.
Risk of death Bacterial infection Very low from spider bites, about 0.9%. Less than 7 people each year dies from a spider bite in the USA. It’s estimated that around 700 million people every year are infected through mosquito bite with a harmful virus, parasite or bacteria, and around 2 million of them die as a result. It’s by a large margin the deadliest insect on the planet!
Usefulness Spiders are some of the best critters to have around in the garden and, to some extent, in the home. Keeping their population under control is helpful, but their presence is important to avoid the proliferation of more dangerous and/or annoying insects like house flies and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes’ only redeeming quality is that they are around is such vast numbers and are such sluggish fliers that they provide a good food source for other insects, birds and other small animals.

So after reading that, it should be clear to you that your fear of spiders is not based on their danger to you, but perhaps on their appearance and behaviour.  Or perhaps it’s entirely irrational and you just need to grow some love for our arachnid neighbours 🙂


Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Life


2 responses to “Irrational Fear: Spiders vs Mosquitoes

  1. Tamara

    February 25, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    Yes, I love spiders and encourage them to live inside and around the house. They are great for eating mosquitoes and flies and are food in themselves for the frogs, lizards and mud wasps (pollinators).

  2. Tamara

    February 25, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    MOSQUITOES, however…. Their diseases scare the #$%^& out of me for my sake and my dogs’. Hence I have a metal strung racquet that produces an electrical charge and provides me with a satisfying SNAP and lightening effects as its body explodes and fries in the mesh. (cue: maniacal laughter).


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