Why so many of us are casual spider-murderers

It’s officially arachnicide season in the Northern Hemisphere. Millions of spiders have appeared in our homes – and they’d better be on their guard. Why do we kill them so casually?A

As I opened the front door, I mentally prepared myself for the obstacle course ahead.

First I needed to fetch something from the shed – the domain of monstrous spiders the size of baby mice, who lurk in corners with just their furry, gangling legs protruding. Then I moved some old paving slabs, carefully side-stepping the scuttling, scorpion-like forms of woodlice spiders, who had made their home beneath them. Finally, I guided the new fronds of growth on my jasmine plant up the fence, trying not to get covered in the wiry daddy longlegs who stalk its vertical plains.   

Eventually my journey ended on the patio – and here there was a shock. Lying on the paving, legs splayed out wildly, as though he had fallen from a great height – was the pallid corpse of Stripy. This talented web-artist had reigned over my garden for three years, and over that time something strange had happened: I had started to like him.

Seeing him there, dethroned from his latest two-dimensional creation between my bins, he seemed somehow less blood-curdlingly alien – and more like any other animal, with a heart that had just stopped beating.

But not all spiders meet such peaceful ends. The moment we sense the pitter-patter of their tiny feet across the living room floor, or catch a glimpse of movement in the corner of an eye as they abseil down from the ceiling, they’re likely to end up squashed, poisoned, vacuumed up or simply flushed away from our homes. Why do many of us kill spiders so casually, swatting out their lives with our god-like power, almost like it’s a reflex?

Of course, humans routinely kill animals when it’s convenient – many activities, from farming to laboratory experiments, wouldn’t be possible without this unpleasant reality. But the practice of arachnicide is often described in oddly victorious terms. 

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