'My lovely car huntsman': Inside the social media page spreading spider love

An Aussie Facebook page is working to turn spider hate into spider love by dispelling myths about the “creepy crawlies” we share our homes with. 

Australian Spider Identification Page is helping its 13,000 members differentiate between huntsmans, funnel-webs and redbacks. 

Every day, a stream of photographs pour in from curious arachnophiles and cautious arachnophobes. 

While some users are genuinely searching for identification, others just want to proudly share photos of the spiders in their lives.

“My lovely car huntsman, he grows a little each time I see him,” reads one post.

“This is Brian,” wrote another user, before sharing an image of a tiny whitetail spider.

Spider enthusiast Ben Shoard spends his free time documenting spiders. Source: Supplied
By keeping spiders at home, Mr Shoard is able to help social media users identify spiders. Source: Supplied

Spider enthusiast Ben Shoard joined the page’s administration team to share the knowledge he has been developing since childhood.

While some friends have stopped following him on Facebook due to his endless spider posts, he has found an engaged community on Australian Spider Identification Page.

With spiders living all around us, Mr Shoard is working to dispel myths and help educate the public. 

“If (arachnophobes) realised how many spiders were in their front lawn they’d probably never go outside again,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“I’ve never really been scared of them to be honest, but for other people it seems to be how they move, or look, or that they’ve got too many legs. They just don’t understand them.

“I’ll tell them the spider is not able to hurt you and they’re still freaking out even though it’s crawling on me not them.”

Ben Shoard demonstrates how he handles funnel-web spiders. Source: Supplied

Mr Shoard, a science graduate, frequently refers to his large personal collection of pet spiders to help identify the tiny differences between subspecies to give an accurate identification.

“You can’t really rely on colour you have to look for small differences like where a spike is on a leg, or the direction it’s facing, or the eye arrangement, or the size of the fangs” Mr Shoard said.

“But mostly we get a lot of huntsman spiders, house spiders and wolf spiders as well.

“People see them when they’re out wandering and want to know what they are.”

‘From hating and fearing spiders to basically loving them’

Once users learn about the peculiarities of spiders, their confidence around them grows and they often end up sharing in Mr Shoard’s fascination. 

“We’ve had several members put up posts saying they used to hate spiders and want to kill them all and now suddenly they find themselves searching for them to take photos and share with the group,” he said. 

“It’s always nice when you hear those sort of stories, when someone’s gone from hating and fearing spiders to basically loving them.”

Mr Shoard allows this "natural pest controller" to live in his garage. Source: Supplied

Spiders are a key part of the ecosystem and are considered to be apex predators of the invertebrate world.

These “tiny lions” eat other spiders and help control insects inside our homes.

“Ultimately they’re a great natural pest controller,” he said.

“I’m quite happy to have all of the redbacks and black house spiders around the windows and doors and catch the mosquitoes and flies as they come in.”

A juvenile whitetail spider identified by Mr Shoard. Source: Supplied

Mr Shoard believes that the destruction of habitat from bushfires has led many people to reconsider the importance of creatures like spiders.

Scientists have expressed concern that the Kangaroo Island assassin spider could have been wiped out.

A report last week suggested its entire habitat was destroyed.

“As people start to look more into conservation, we’re getting people looking past just the cute and fluffy animals,” Mr Shoard said.

“There is a definite push to think about the smaller creatures people wouldn’t normally consider.

“And next time someone thinks about reaching for a can of (insect spray) you’d probably get less toxins in you if you let the spider bite you than used the spray.”

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