Don’t Squish the Neighbours

My Dearest Spider Squishers and Wasp Swatters,

Fear is natural. It serves a purpose in our lives, it can keep us safe and it can keep us alive. That being said, fear can also lead to the unnecessary demonization of creatures that are doing their best to survive, just like every living thing! Remember the last time you noticed a spider in your space and your first instinct was to squish it, or maybe you ran inside because a wasp was flying around your food. If either of these scenarios hits close to home, you are not alone. Often the smallest creatures are the biggest villains in media and in our heads.

Don’t feel guilty for the reactions you have to these animals that are so vastly different than we are. Too many legs, too many eyes, they fly, they spin webs. They maybe bite or sting. It can be intimidating!

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It can feel as though these creatures are coming at us with the intent to harm us, or at the very least create a nuisance. Rest assured that these tiny friends have much more important things to worry about than spending their limited time terrorizing us pesky humans. The wasp hovering over your carefully prepared barbeque? She is likely looking for additional protein to bring home for all of her baby sisters in the hive. Or the spider who seems to sprint so sporadically across your bathroom floor? He is looking for love in all the wrong places. By viewing these creatures with compassion, and with the understanding that they are living whole lives that we are only a passing glimpse in, it can become easier over time to let them peacefully be. ‘Peacefully’ being the operative word here!

Despite our worst fears of being bitten in our sleep by spiders, these many-legged neighbours much prefer to save their minimal amounts of venom for more approachable prey items; flies, silverfish, mosquitos and the like. Their venom is specially adapted to liquefy their food, and they need it to eat. They have no reason to waste it on us scary humans unless we threaten their safety. The simplest way to avoid spider bites? Don’t actively try to hurt them! Much the same goes for our flighted friends. Whether they be the beloved bee, or the less tolerated wasp, these animals will not actively seek humans to sting. They will protect themselves and their family when threatened, but that can be said for any animal.

As we continue to share spaces with nature, it is more important than ever to be cultivating seeds for healthy relationships with nature’s many inhabitants. Fear is most often a learned behaviour, and children very quickly learn to be afraid of the same creatures that the adults in their life are scared of. Even if they have never had a negative encounter with the animal themselves! Think back to why spiders send a shiver up your spine; for most, there is no distinct event. It is often due to the fear picked up from others, often adults, when we were young. Speaking from a place of recovering from a decade’s long jelly fish phobia, we can unlearn these fears. It is worthwhile, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t tough. It is significantly easier to instead, set a foundation of healthy respect for all of nature’s inhabitants at a young age. Something we all have the power to do with the young humans in our lives!

As you interact with nature, I invite you to recognize the emotions certain creatures make you feel in the moment. Recognize them, and then challenge yourself to simply watch the creature interact with their environment for a few short moments. If you truly give yourself the chance to be an observer, you may be surprised at how quickly your fear, disgust or nervousness is replaced with awe, curiosity and respect. All very positive attributes that the young humans in your life will pick up on, and begin to mimic themselves. We all have the power to make a difference in nature, and sometimes that difference can start with one single curious moment alone a watchful spider.