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Why Are We Afraid Of Spiders?!

Why Are We Afraid of Spiders?

by Jeffrey Chitek

Being a kayak guide for over 7 years has taught me a lot about people.  You start to see trends in people; what makes them happy, what jokes make for a cheap laugh, how people communicate differently when working as a pair, and most of all, what people fear.  From my experience, what people fear the most, and are most open and vocal about…is spiders.  It became such a dominant and recurring theme in my misadventures that I started to develop my own theories and research on the topic.

Its funny to me that something the size of a thumbnail could cause something 10,000 times its size to scream, shake and overturn their kayak.  We once had a lady who upon spotting a spider in her boat, jumped into alligator infested waters, swimming towards the shore, before running off into the wild swamps of Southeastern Louisiana….to avoid a tiny, non-poisonous, member of the arachnid family.  The fear is real and undeniable.

I like to think that it is passed down through generations.  We are taught from a young age that spiders are poisonous or venomous and should be something to revere.  The truth is that out of over 43,000 species of spiders that inhabit our planet, only 30 of them are harmful to humans.  That is less than 1/10th of 1% of all spiders.  But still, the fact that their are SOME spiders that are poisonous, leads to a belief that all spiders are inherently dangerous.  This is taught and passed from generation to generation even though only about 38 people die a year from spider bites (less than house cats.)  

It reminds me of a study conducted on mice and their offspring.  In this study they would spray the mice with a citrus scented mist.  Upon spraying the mist, they would shock the mices’ feet.  Eventually the mice began to connect the smell with have their feet shocked.  They would repeat this regularly for months until the female mice became pregnant and gave birth to a new generation.  They then took the young mice and put them in a cage separate from their mother.  Interestingly enough, when they sprayed the young mice, that have never had their feet shocked, with the citrus mist, they produced a panicked response.  This proves to me that fear is something that can theoretically be passed down through genetics.  

I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here… food for thought I guess.