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Barring human myths and phobias, spiders are inoffensive and integral part of life cycle

We had a dilemma in my house (or rather in my mind) when I first built it: to allow or not to allow spiders. My house is freely shared with birds, animals and insects. We make no attempt to cuddle them, or love them, or capture them; we simply share space and food with them. As a result, this house is like the old farm houses of my grandparents' days: different bird noises, squirrel whines, butterflies and bees, long grass, fruit trees and flowers. But spiders? Who has not grown up with the Little Miss Muffet verse?

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

Arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders, is more common than is often supposed. The Black Widow Spider is held up as a model of danger. In fact, almost all spiders are completely benign, unoffending and inoffensive. They catch flies and mosquitoes very effectively. It is just that our society, in slavish imitation of the Western sterility that is called cleanliness (which, in fact, is just a way of man asserting dominance over the rest of creation), thinks badly of a house with spider webs in it.

I like spiders. Their webs are miracles of craft, somewhat like snowflakes where each snowflake is hexagonal and yet the pattern of each is infinitely variable and beautiful.

The great naturalist, Linnaeus, once commented on their webs: ''What refinement of art for a mess of flies." I have reached that stage in my mind, though not without a struggle, of doing what makes me happy. So, we have webs in selected corners of the house, the room where I work, niches near lights where flying insects cluster, behind the paintings. They are part of the cycle of life in the house; they eat insects and are eaten by lizards. (We haven't still figured out where the lizards go, but there never seem to be more than two!)

In the mornings, when the dew is still fresh on the grass, we can see small webs stretched between grass blades, their silk reflecting prisms of rainbow light. The male is timid but extremely resourceful. The female is bigger and a bully. Both sexes seem to share a very high order of "intelligence" or the ability to cope with their world. Maybe next time, instead of brushing them away, you'll pause and watch them.

In the meantime, try answering this quiz about them.

Updated Date: May 01, 2017 20:18 PM

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