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What Tangled Webs We Weave

Many Floridians are needlessly scared of spiders, say the experts – largely because of old wives' tales.

The ubiquitous and unmistakable spinybacked orbweaver  (a.k.a. star or jewel box spider) can be found in and near homes as well as hardwood hammocks. It has been theorized that its spines make it hard for birds to swallow.

The ubiquitous and unmistakable spinybacked orbweaver  (a.k.a. star or jewel box spider) can be found in and near homes as well as hardwood hammocks. It has been theorized that its spines make it hard for birds to swallow.

Out of the 760-plus species of spiders that call the Sunshine State home, four get enough negative attention to give newcomers the heebie-jeebies. The tiny but toxic black widow and brown recluse star in stories climaxing with a bite. Heart-thumping tales from grove and woodland invariably cameo a tarantula or “banana” spider of startling proportions.

State arachnid specialist G.B. Edwards, author of Florida’s Fabulous Spiders, says that the best rule of thumb is not to worry. Outside of the movies, almost no one gets hospitalized – much less killed – by a spider. But here, as elsewhere, hysteria runs rampant. News reports of tarantulas swarming and possibly killing two people in India last summer turned out to be pure mythology. Panicked residents nonetheless ran to local hospitals, complaining of spider bites.

Read the entire article in November 2012 issue