UBCO lecturer is crawling with spooky spider knowledge

UBCO lecturer shares his enthusiasm for all things arachnid

Fake spider webs paired with eight-legged freaks decorate many homes at Halloween and are essential for scare tactics.

While living, breathing spiders may cause spine-tingling shivers for some, UBC Okanagan spider expert Matt Nelson claims this fear is misplaced.

Despite commonly held beliefs, the biology lecturer with the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences said spiders rarely bite and are essential players in the world’s ecosystem.

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The fascination with spiders began at a young age for Nelson.

“As a kid, I was a rock turner,” said Nelson. “I flipped them over to see what was underneath and almost always, I found spiders.

There are more than 45,000 species of spiders, ranging in the size from the micro to macroscopic, with some reaching the size of a football.

According to Nelson, they are also resistant to environmental changes such as heat and drought and have adapted to every terrestrial ecosystem except that of Antarctica.

“Some arachnids even reside on humans, they are commonly found in people’s eyebrows,” explained the biology lecturer.

Spiders are something humans can’t live without, stated Nelson.

“Spiders eat insects. I would say that is their primary role. Some, like the Okanagan’s native sheet-web spider, do this through passive hunting with their funnel-shaped webs. Others, like the wolf spider, actively hunt. Spiders also kill other spiders, sometimes even their mates.

“If there are spiders in your house, they are there for a reason,” said Nelson. “The same strategies that you would use to energy-proof your house, will keep spiders out. For example, make sure there aren’t cracks in your doors and close your windows properly. If you see a spider, put it into a jar and take it outside.”

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