Autumn is that time of the year when the spiders start to come inside and take shelter in our homes. Spiders; we run from them, scream at them, stomp on them and kill them. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours and we fear them more than any other British garden inhabitant, but why?
Growing up as a child I did all of that, if ever I saw a spider I would shudder and lash out. Am I arachnophobic? Of course not, it’s what the majority of us do. We are taught to fear these creatures without even knowing why. You read about it in the press every year ‘Killer spiders invade Britain’ or ‘Cold weather forces Venomous spiders into our homes’. The fact is that spiders have been around for millions of years, they’ve been in our houses and gardens, all around us, and nothing has changed.
Spiders are an essential part of our ecosystem and perfect allies in your garden. Farmers and gardeners alike should love them. They control insect populations worldwide, they even control their own populations, often eating smaller species of spider or in some cases their mate. Spiders are also a natural food source for birds and other mammals, including humans.
Imagine a world without spiders, we would be over-run with flies, our plants would be covered in greenfly and other insects that are considered pests.
Still not convinced?!
Spiders also help in the medical world. Venom extracted from spiders can be used to cure diseases and spider silk is considered one of the strongest materials on earth, revolutionising and changing the way we approach engineering. In some cultures they have even made fishing nets from spider silk.
Yes, they may look scary. Yes, they move fast and, yes, some are a danger to us. However, like all wildlife, if we treat them respect the chances are we will get along just fine.
So next time, before you brush that cobweb off your plants, before you flush that spider down the drain, try and remember just how important and beautiful they really are.
My name is Matt Doogue, sometimes known as Macro Matt, I’m a macro photographer born in Salford but now living in Scotland. I have had work published with National Geographic and been interviewed live on BBC Autumnwatch. I love all wildlife, but arthropods are my speciality. I am also the proud father of two beautiful girls who are growing up to be more wildlife mad than me! I keep a blog of my own and you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter too.