Arachnids are essential for biodiversity and we are only starting to understand the medical and scientific benefits they could bringMost ecologists talk about saving the worlds wildlife from the animals perspective, which is a public relations…
“Most ecologists talk about saving the world’s wildlife from the animals’ perspective, which is a public relations mistake. Humans – one of the most wildly successful species of the Cenozoic era, which began about 65m years ago – have trouble empathising with polar bears, tropical frogs and dolphins as those animals sink toward extinction. A better way is to appeal to a human’s unstoppable desire to forward his own self-interest. This is how Norman Platnick talks about spider conservation.
“If spiders disappeared, we would face famine,” says Platnick, who studies arachnids at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, where a live spider exhibit debuted last month. “Spiders are primary controllers of insects. Without spiders, all of our crops would be consumed by those pests.”
“Using the word “famine” is a good way to get an otherwise indifferent person’s attention. Although the magnitude of the insect apocalypse that would occur without spiders is not clear, the importance of spiders to agriculture certainly is. Predation and chemical control are the only ways to limit herbivorous pests, because there’s so much food available to them in our amber waves of grain.
“Spiders are excellent at this task. And there are many of them prepared to apply themselves. A 1990 study found 614 species of spiders in US croplands, representing 19% of the spider species in North America. Spiders are particularly crucial in organic farming, which relies heavily on biological pest control.”
GR: Allowing web weavers indoors by the windows and doors, and in the corners of the rooms keeps flies and mosquitoes in check. Indoors and out, I only remove black widow webs.