Bees play a vital role in our own survival by pollinating our crops and currently there is a worldwide plight for the halt of bee extinction from pesticides. However, most people do not realise that the humble spider, often so feared and loathed, is also just as important to the survival of mankind. And in fact, it is not the bee alone but a powerful teamwork effort between bee and spider that provide us with the food we eat and the future of modern agriculture
Norman Platnick, from New York’s American Museum of Natural History, explains, “If spiders disappeared, we would face famine. Spiders are primary controllers of insects. Without spiders, all of our crops would be consumed by those pests.”
Basically bees pollinate our crops and the spiders then protect the crops in a natural way without the use of harsh pesticides that can kill both the bees and taint our food sources and the environment. Without the spiders, we can’t protect the bees from pesticides and we can’t protect our food crops from pests.
Spiders are amazingly good at catching vast quantities of insects. In fact spiders eat more insects than birds and bats combined. Considering the average insect eating bat can consume over 1,200 insects per hour puts into perspective just how many insects spiders get rid of. Spiders are also the ultimate pest control as they can be added to an ecosystem with relatively little to no effect to safely control large populations of insects and/or remove evasive species of insects.
Spiders also actually help in pollination as well as bees as they travel between plants. They aid in the decomposition of dead plants and animals by eating insects that prohibit the process of decomposition which helps to create fertile soil. Overall, spiders are hugely important to providing us with healthy and bountiful crops.
This fact alone is a good reason to see spiders in a whole new light but not many know that many species of spiders are also under threat of extinction mainly from habitat loss from humans. Furthermore, as humans develop and fragment the land, it leaves small numbers of spider populations stranded and isolated, leaving them vulnerable to dying out.
And if saving our crops wasn’t good enough, spiders are doing a lot of other good things for mankind. Spider silk which is stronger than steel is being studied to create powerful new materials. Spider venom is of special interests to scientist and could be key to finding the cure to many different illnesses. A powerful new painkiller is being developed from tarantula venom that does not have the addictive qualities of current painkillers.
“Scientists have identified almost 45,000 different spider species,” says Platnick, “and that’s at best one-half of what actually exists. When we lose a spider species, we may lose a compound that could have cured epilepsy. We may lose a silk that could have produced a strong and lightweight material.”
Hopefully in the future mankind can learn to value spiders as much as our bee friends. I can only do my humble part of building awareness and appreciation through running the Spider Courage Experience.