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The Surprisingly Helpful Spider

It's common for people to be afraid of spiders, especially when movies, television shows and comics have led us to believe that spiders bite and attack. But in reality, they rarely harm humans; less than .01% of the 43,000 spider species have ever killed a human being. In fact, spiders are surprisingly helpful.

Spiders are arachnids, a class of arthropods that also includes ticks and scorpions. Spiders and other invertebrates make up 98% of animal species, and the remaining 2% of vertebrates-- including humans-- depend of them for survival. Spiders have two-part bodies; the front is called the cephalothorax while the back is called the abdomen. Attached to the abdomen are finger-like appendages known as spinnerets, from which spiders produce silk. Though not all spiders build webs, every species produces silk. They use the strong, flexible fiber to climb, create egg sacs, wrap up prey, and complete other necessary tasks. Almost all adult spiders have eight legs; although, in some species, like the camel spider, their legs can grow large enough to take on the appearance of extra pairs of appendages. Insects make up a majority of spiders' food source, which keeps control of pests in and around homes, yards, gardens, and crops. Their webs are particularly adept at catching small flying insects such as mosquitos.

There are more than 45,000 known species of spiders, found in habitats all over the world, and 32 unique species reside in Maryland. Many of the spiders in Maryland possess venom, but the black widow is the only native Maryland spider that is dangerous to people. Although spiders are venomous, this venom has medical uses and is being researched as a safer alternative to painkillers, which could be used as antivenom in cases of harmful spider bites or to treat strokes, and muscular dystrophy.

If you would rather not share your home with spiders but don't want to harm them, there are several natural ways to deter them from visiting. Peppermint oil, cinnamon and vinegar are all affective spider repellant..

Are you a spider enthusiast? You can contribute to the growing library of spider pictures and educational information on or just check out some shots of the spiders identified in Maryland. Check it out here:

We hope you can join us this Friday October 1st at 7pm to learn more about spiders (and bats) at our First Friday Fire. There will be an evening hike, campfire and s'mores, too! Register online for this event here:

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