It is often said that at least one spider is always within 3 feet of each individual human at all times and in virtually all locations. This claim has been circulating for more than two decades, and it originates from a 1995 article written by the arachnologist Norman Platnick. The original statement goes like this: “Wherever you sit as you read these lines, a spider is probably no more than a few yards away.” In less than a year following the publication of this popular article, a newspaper article referenced Platnick’s claim by mistakenly stating that spiders are always three feet away, rather than a few yards away as Platnick actually claimed. This misquote stuck, and it has been repeated and reprinted countless times since.
Even Platinick’s claim that spiders are always a few yards away is quite misleading, if not downright false. In reality, the relative proximity of spiders varies tremendously depending on location. For example, if you stand on residential lawn grass, you can expect multiple smaller sized spiders to be below your feet, and several others within 3 cm away from all sides of your shoes. However, if you are standing in the middle of a paved grocery store parking lot, the nearest spider may be as far as 50 or 100 meters away.
While research has demonstrated that all residential homes contain numerous insect and arachnid specimens of many different species, no study has ever explored the distance between humans and spiders within homes. However, spiders and all other arthropods that are commonly found within homes remain within harborages that are located out of human sight. These harborages can be found within wall voids, crawl spaces, attics, ceiling voids, and other dark and well concealed spaces.
It is also important to note that homes are filled with microscopic arachnids known as dust mites, and demodex mites. Demodex mites inhabit human pores at all times where they feed on oils known as “sebum.” Demodex mites are aptly known as “face mites,” and they are most abundant at the base of hair follicles. For the most part, face mites are harmless as long as one practices good hygiene, but they have been known to cause skin rashes. Dust mites, on the other hand, serve as indoor allergens that contribute to the development of asthma.
Have you ever ventured into your crawl space to find a variety of spider species?