Much of the fear people feel toward spiders is due to misinformation largely spread through the internet. In reality, spiders are beneficial to us, according to research conducted by more than 60 researchers from institutions across the globe.
What to Know
A compilation of more than 5000 news items on spider-human encounters published on the internet between 2010 and 2020 shows that almost half of the news items that were analyzed contained errors or inaccurate information about the spider involved.
Up to 47% of articles contained errors, and 43% were sensationalist. Errors often started at the regional level and were amplified in national and international media. The likelihood of a country being a distributor of sensational news stories is linked to the presence of spiders considered deadly in that country.
The UK generates the most misinformation about arachnids, despite having very few dangerous venomous spider species. There are more dangerous spiders in Australia than in almost any other country, yet news about spiders is accurate and is rarely emotionally charged.
Only 4% of the known species of spiders may be dangerous to humans, which means that of the approximately 45,000 known species, more than 43,200 are harmless.
Spiders do more good than harm. They play an essential role as insect predators, helping in crop pest control. They contribute to biodiversity of the planet, are bio-indicators of environmental quality, and are one of the largest groups of invertebrate animals.
This is a summary of the article, “The Global Spread of Misinformation on Spiders,” in Current Biology in August 2022. The full article can be found on cell.com.
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