You’ve probably heard the old wives’ tale that you eat two spiders a year in your sleep. Or four. Or eight. Or 16 a night. It probably depends on how big your mouth is.
This guy must be like a black hole for spiders
This is a problem, because many people are afraid of spiders. Like, a lot of people. While 3-7% of people have clinical levels of arachnophobia, up to 50% of women are generally afraid of them. Only 18% of men are, providing much material for hack comics.
Women can give birth, but are afraid of spiders, amirite men? My entire act is garbage.
People who are afraid of spiders actually think that spiders are bigger than they are, and closer, too. Arachnophobia is so engrained in our species that it may actually be present before birth, meaning some kids are born being afraid of spiders, despite never having seen one, unless spiders were in the womb with them, which is actually a horrible mental image now that I’ve thought of it.
Maybe the baby itself is some kind of spider-being. That would surprise the hell out of the midwife.
Sorry, I’m got off track there. Spider phobias may be evolutionarily-based, in that spiders were an actual threat to early humans, and early humans had enough to worry about, thank you very much.
Like where to get great rates on car insurance
That fear of spiders has stayed with our species, despite that fact that it’s no longer that useful. For example, of the 3400 or so spider species in North America, only 3 are poisonous, including one called the hobo spider. I’m sure the hobo community was thrilled with this addition to their reputation.
“Stop besmirching our good name, spider!”
Even if you’re not really afraid of spiders, you can see why some people wouldn’t like them. They’re pretty creepy looking, what with their eight legs, and eight eyes, and their web-building and blood-sucking. They can get pretty big, too. The giant huntsman spider can reach up to a foot in length, and the Goliath birdeater gets up to 6 ounces, and can literally eat birds.
Here’s some pictures of them, in case you wanted to see one.
I’m sorry I showed you those pictures. If it makes you feel better, the huntsman spider lives in caves in Laos, and the birdeater lives mainly in the Amazon, giving people yet another reason not to go to this year’s summer Olympics.
Rio 2016! Come for the Zika, pollution and corruption, stay because you’ve been captured by the world’s biggest spider!
If it makes you feel worse, there’s probably a spider within 3 feet of you right now. I’m sure you’ve heard the old tale before about how there’s a spider within 3, or 4, or 14, or some other number of feet of you at all times, no matter where you are. Neil Armstrong found one on his leg on the moon.
“I knew I should’ve shook out my clothes before packing”
Turns out that’s false, actually. The guy who started that rumour was a spider researcher called Norman Platnick, and what he actually said was “Wherever you sit as you read these lines, a spider is probably no more than a few yards away.” That got turned around by different media sources, as the media tends to do, but he didn’t really mean at all times. Think about it, would a spider really be a few feet away if you were, say, in a swimming pool? Or a plane? It’s not like spiders just tag along a behind you like an eight-legged Diddy Kong. You can escape them.
Unlike Diddy Kong, who never leaves you the hell alone
Anyways, I just re-read the title of this post and realized that I’m 700 words into this without addressing the original question. I’m pretty sure the key to great writing is to make a catchy title that has nothing to do with the content.
For instance, this book doesn’t even have a mockingbird in it.
So, how many spiders do you actually eat in your sleep? Is it 3? 4? 5?
Actually, it’s probably 0. In fact, the whole thing was made up by a reporter to show how people will just accept any old claim they hear.
Of course, this lack of spider chomping makes sense. First of all, why the hell would a spider ever crawl into your mouth? Despite all the panic they cause, spiders really don’t like being around humans. A sleeping human has a heartbeat, rolls around, and if their mouth is open, is probably snoring, all things that emit vibrations that would keep spiders away.
“Jesus, this guy sounds like a friggin’ chainsaw. I’m outta here.”
Even if a spider did show up on your pillow, it would have no reason to crawl into your gaping, morning-breath mouth, unless you had already swallowed a fly and he was going after it.
The other reason spiders don’t just casually force themselves down your esophagus every night is that, unless your unconscious from an inadvisable amount of booze, you would feel the spider crawling on your face. The face is one of the most sensitive spots of the human body, and even someone in a deep sleep would likely brush off a spider crawling around up there.
It’s the reason the old feather and shaving cream trick works so well.
Interestingly, you might be eating spiders while you’re awake. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows tiny levels of “defects” into food made for human consumption, and these defects can include minute portions of little itty-bitty creatures, possibly including spider parts. So there you go, you’ve probably eaten spider bits after all.
Throw a party for yourself
And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, eating spiders and bugs (though spiders aren’t bugs) may be the way of the future. Feeding the ever-growing human population is putting a huge strain on the world, with conventional livestock taking up more and more land and pumping more and more methane into the atmosphere, amping up climate change. Spiders and bugs are extremely rich in protein, and they produce 12 times more edible food than livestock from a single kilogram of animal feed.
Plus, they’re easier to farm
So, there you have it. You probably don’t eat spiders in your sleep, but some day, you might be eating them for breakfast. The branding writes itself.
Part of a complete breakfast!
Dan’s still thinking about the spider-baby. Contact him at Dan@scienceninjas.ca for a request to cover a topic.