Many people have mixed feelings about arachnids, but like many more popular animals they need our help
Much less visible for most of the year, spiders make their presence felt in late August and through the early autumn. This is the mating season of some of the most common varieties, when male house spiders come out of hidden corners to look for females, and garden spiders reach adult size and spin their biggest, most dazzling webs.
Yet while the spider is familiar, the star of one of the great children’s books, Charlotte’s Web, and a fixture of nursery rhymes and Halloween decor, its relationship with humans is complicated. Fear of spiders, arachnophobia, is common and has serious impacts on the lives of sufferers. Its prevalence appears unrelated to any rational assessment of risk. Spiders in the UK are almost all harmless. Farmland species perform valuable ecosystem services, by predating on insects that are our competitors for crops. But they have proved durable repositories of human anxieties – with a cultural association with witches and wickedness dating back to the middle ages.