An Arachnid Alternative

I consider myself a nature-lover, for the most part. An appreciation for wildlife, birds in particular, is something I was raised with and, all in all, I’m fond of animals. I fall short of vegan- or vegetarianism, largely because I lack the self-discipline, but nevertheless nature and I rub along quite well together.

There are exceptions. Some things in nature I just cannot be doing with. Stinging nettles for one – they marred many a childhood countryside walk. Luckily a dock leaf would always be nearby but still, stinging nettles are among the most needlessly dickish of plants. I ain’t trying to hurt you. I’m just trying to have a nice walk along this woodland path in peace. I’m tangenting now, so I’ll stop on the nettles. They’re just an example of the kind of nature that I have issues with. My main adversary in the natural world, as you’ll know from the title, is spiders.

Spiders are the most common of all animal fears. They have haunted nightmares for generations. In fact, I believe my fear stems from a nightmare I had as a child wherein I was being chased by a particular large an hairy arachnid. I’m very much not alone in my aversion to these creatures but still I feel the need to explain myself.

Now, I know about spiders. I appreciate all they do. They have an important place in our ecology and we’d be pretty buggered , and buried in insects, without them. Spiders have a vital role to play. However, all this remaining true, there really is no call for them to be so extra. It’s not enough to look incredibly disquieting, they have the move in the most terrifying manner possible as well. All that scuttling. This is what comes from having far more legs than they have any right to. There’s no excuse for it. Arachnids, specifically scorpions if I remember rightly, were among the first creatures to make their way out of the oceans and onto land, long before our vertebrate ancestors. They’ve had a good few hundred-million years of evolution to dispense with the unnecessary extra limbs and learn to move in more comforting manner. They haven’t. They continue to insist on the scuttling, on that horrible arching-legged locomotion. It makes me shiver so.

What I wish is that we could have an alternative. A redesign, if you will. Why couldn’t the creatures that keep our houses free of flies be fluffier, and cuter, with four legs? Don’t try and tell me that spiders are fluffy. Many are hairy, or the arthropod equivalent there of, but that’s entirely different to being fluffy. I’m not to fussed on the eyes front. They have an excess of that too but you can’t normally see it. You wouldn’t want to get close enough. If I were given the job of redesigning the spider, it would probably end up looking something like a hamster. I could deal with seeing those running across the room, or along a shelf from time to time. I think I’d let them keep the webs. Imagine a tiny minute hamster-like fluff-ball spinning a web? Adorable. The ability to climb up walls I might remove though. Definitely no ceilings. No matter how cute something is, you don’t want to be lying in bed and see it crawling along the ceiling towards you. Exhibit A: that scene in Trainspotting.

In all probability, I’m being ridiculous. Spiders, like all of us, are just trying their best. Their neural functions are too limited for them to purposely be so hideous and terrifying. I can appreciate that many of them are evolutionary marvels; I’ve seen enough documentaries of various species doing amazing things to know that. They deserve to make the best of their time on Earth as much as the rest of us. I don’t believe in a creator, so natural selection is the only one I cam blame on periodically being terrified out of my wits, (most often when those damn huge wolf spiders come out of nowhere at you). Any creature, however monstrous, that lives to take down irritating buzzing insects, is a creature I have to give my begrudging respect.

Spiders are truly incredible, fascinating creatures. I just wish they’d keep damn clear of me, especially when I’m trying to sleep. (You might have guessed what prompted this rant against spiders by now).

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