Spiders are one of the most fascinating creatures in the world. They are classified under the arachnid family and possess some unique features that make them stand out in the animal kingdom. Their physical appearance coupled with their hunting skills have elicited varied reactions from individuals. It is common for people to wonder what spiders are good for. This article intends to explore the role of spiders in our ecosystem and highlight whether they are beneficial or not.
Before delving into the benefits of spiders, it is important to understand the anatomy of a spider. Spiders possess eight legs, four pairs of eyes, fangs, spinnerets, and an exoskeleton. They are found in almost every habitat on earth, including; forests, caves, and even the desert. That said, let’s explore the role of spiders in our ecosystem.
The Role of Spiders in the Ecosystem
1. Pest Control
Spiders are known to be excellent pest controllers. They feed on bugs, flies, mosquitoes, and even other spiders. Spiders can be found in almost every home, spinning webs that trap insects. By doing so, they help eliminate troublesome pests that could pose a threat to human health.
Believe it or not, some spider species are pollinators. They achieve this by feeding on nectar, and in the process, they transfer pollen from one flower to another. Research has shown that some spider species are more effective pollinators compared to bees and butterflies.
3. Soil Enrichment
Spiders play a vital role in enriching the soil. After they feed on insects, their fecal matter is absorbed into the soil, thus providing nutrients to the ecosystem.
4. Prey for Other Animals
Spiders may be predators, but they are also prey for other animals in the ecosystem. Birds, lizards, and even some mammals feed on spiders. By being part of the food chain, spiders play a critical role in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem.
5. Medical Advancement
It is known that venom from some spider species can be applied in the medical field to treat various ailments. For instance, venom from some spider species is used to treat erectile dysfunction, while venom from another is said to have analgesic properties that are useful in managing pain.
Why Spiders are Important
It’s evident that spiders play a critical role in our ecosystem. Here are some specific reasons why spiders are essential to humans:
1. Ecological Balance
Spiders play a key role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. They help regulate the population of insects, birds, and other small animals. Should the population of certain insect species grow beyond control, it would have a ripple effect on the ecosystem, leading to vast changes that could have disastrous consequences.
2. Pest Control
We mentioned earlier that spiders feed on pests such as mosquitoes and flies. These pests, if not controlled, could lead to the spread of diseases such as malaria and dysentery. By controlling these pests, spiders help reduce the risk of diseases, thereby improving the quality of life for humans.
As earlier mentioned, spider venom is used in the pharmaceutical industry to develop drugs that help manage various conditions. Such drugs have revolutionized the health sector, leading to the treatment and management of otherwise complex and incurable conditions.
Should We Be Afraid of Spiders?
Despite the critical role that spiders play in our ecosystem, some individuals are still afraid of spiders. Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, affects approximately 30.5% of the adult population. While fear is a natural feeling, it is important to note that most spider species are harmless to humans. In fact, of the approximately 40,000 spider species in the world, only about 12 are capable of harming humans. Spiders avoid humans and will only bite when provoked, threatened or cornered. It is therefore imperative that humans learn to coexist peacefully with spiders.
Spiders are essential creatures in our ecosystem. They play a critical role in maintaining the balance of our environment through pest control, soil enrichment and acting as prey for other animals. It’s important for individuals to learn to coexist with spiders as they are essential to human life.
Most Common Questions and their Answers about Spiders:
- Do spiders have any benefits? Yes. Spiders play a vital role in our ecosystem, performing functions such as pest control, soil enrichment, prey for other animals and medical advancement.
- Are spiders dangerous? Of the approximately 40,000 species of spiders, only about 12 can cause harm to humans. Most spider species are harmless to humans.
- Will spiders bite if provoked? Spiders will only bite if provoked, threatened, or cornered. They will avoid humans if possible and are generally reclusive creatures.
- Are spiders useful to humans? Yes, spiders are useful to humans. Some spider venom is used in pharmaceuticals, which help manage various conditions.
- Can spiders pollinate flowers? Yes, some spider species are pollinators. They transfer pollen from one flower to another as they feed on nectar.
- Natural History Museum. “What is an arachnid?” (2020). nhm.ac.uk
- Bunker, E.C., Matheson, R.E. & Baluska, F. Characteristics and possible roles of spiderflower pollination in nature. Acta Biol Cracov Bot 49, 125-132 (2007).
- University of Illinois Extension. “Spiders in the Home” (2018). extension.illinois.edu
- The American Medical Society. “Venomous Spiders in Medicine” (2018). americanspidersociety.org