Seattle’s real Spider Man sets us straight: They’re not out to get you

Meet Rod Crawford, spider expert at Seattle’s Burke Museum, who works to dispel all those libelous myths you think are true. Those big guys in the house now? They’re just trolling for mates, they’re harmless and they didn’t come from outside. What else are we wrong about?

With more than 170,000 glass vials containing spiders pickled in alcohol, yes, it is cramped in this room in the basement of the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.

This is no place for those fearful of spiders — a condition that affects a third of Americans, with arachnophobia afflicting four times more women than men.

Sure, most of the vials are only a couple of inches each in length, but they crowd drawer after drawer, cabinet after cabinet.

Rod Crawford, who’s been the spider man (“curatorial associate”) at the museum for the past 46 years, doesn’t like overhead fluorescent lighting.

The dimly lit 12- by 24-foot room looks like it’s out of a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” set. Light is provided by some table lamps on the World War II-era wooden desks that go along with the old wood and surplus-look metal cabinets.

This is the time of year that Crawford starts getting the phone calls and emails.

“What can I do to get rid of them?” is typical.

“Them” usually being two spiders that reach maturity in the early fall: The Giant House Spider that can have a leg span of 4 inches. And the Cross Orbweaver that’s considerably smaller, about an inch in size, but is “as commonplace in Northwest fall as clouds.”

Right now, what you’re seeing is adult males “wandering around at random” looking for mates, says Crawford. Remind you of anybody?

Once again, Crawford can only answer spider-illiterates as he has for over four decades. Don’t go off killing these harmless creatures; they prefer eating bugs to you.

“Without them,” he tells these people, “your house would be so overrun with insects that you couldn’t even live there.”

Give spiders some credit. They are one of the most natural enemies of insects worldwide, killing 400 million to 800 million tons of prey a year, which means a few billion bugs, since individually spiders hardly even register on the average scale.

Yet they sure do frighten us.

Research shows we attribute a number of frightening features to them.

In order of fright, they are: Legginess, sudden movements, speediness,…

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