Spiders seem to elicit an emotional response like no other bug. My parents still torment me about the time a spider dropped from the ceiling of our station wagon, dangling before me on its silken thread and scaring the begeezus out of me. Apparently my screaming from the back seat distracted my dad or something. I bet he would have screamed, too, had the spider suddenly appeared a few inches from his face.
I'm not actually afraid of spiders, and find them fascinating to watch when they aren't sneaking up on me. Some people aren't so lucky. About 4% of the population suffers from arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. For people with true arachnophobia, just watching an exotic spider behind glass at the zoo can be terrifying.
People without a diagnosed phobia may still find spiders scary enough to avoid them, or even kill them. In truth, few spiders can inflict significant harm on something as large as a human being, and all are predators of other insects. That's no consolation to those who fear them.
We're having a lively discussion about the fear of spiders in the insects forum. About member Lahle says "I fear the bites, not the spiders." Charlie reports that his mother-in-law "is REALLY not a fan of the tarantula display at the local nature center." Members Sukhmandir and Lyndsey could not be farther apart on their feelings about spiders. Sukhmandir says "spiders are my friends," but Lyndsey admits to having "severe arachnophobia." So how about you? Are you afraid of spiders? Share your spider experiences and fears and vote in the forum poll.
Update on Stephen Colbert's namesake spider: East Carolina University biologist Jason Bond will appear on the Colbert Report this Wednesday to discuss Colbert's choice for entomological immortality. Bond agreed to give Colbert naming rights to one of the 27 new spider species he discovered.