If thoughts of spiders have you reaching for the nearest shoe for squashing, I've got some facts that might surprise you.
Throughout history, spiders have been unfairly blamed for everything from plagues to "tarantism," a hysterical disorder in Italy about 500 years ago. Tarantism was a disease thought to be the result of a tarantula spider bite. If you had tarantism, you went mad and had an uncontrollable desire to dance. In fact, dancing off the tarantula venom was considered the only cure. The dancing was violent and energetic and went for days. But spider-scapegoating continues with doctors today. Australian scientist, Dr. Geoffrey K. Isbister, says spiders are often blamed when the cause of an illness is not known especially strange bites or sores. For example, bites from brown recluse spiders have been reported all over the U.S., but the brown recluse is only found in the South and West. And the hobo spider has been blamed for bites all over the North America, even though it lives in Europe, and was never harmful there.
In fact, around the world there are only a handful of dangerous spiders. Cars are far more fatal wasps and bees are too. In Australia, for instance, 45 people died of wasp or bee stings in the last 20 years, and cars killed 1,183 people last year. But only 26 deaths have been reported by spiders in Australia the past 100 years! Dr. Isbister says our web of fear is irrational. So we should give poor Charlotte and her web a break!