Afraid of spiders? A new ROM exhibit says there's no need to be so fearful

The ROM’s new Fear & Fascination, which starts Saturday night, will feature 400 alive and archived spiders.

Despite having fangs and venom, spiders should be admired, says a ROM entomologist

“Be prepared to see spiders as you’ve never seen them before,” said Josh Basseches in a press release, ROM Director & CEO. (Sean McCann)

They spin webs, they regrow lost limbs, they dance, they swim. And they're misunderstood.

The Royal Ontario Museum says its new Spiders: Fear & Fascination exhibit is all about showcasing the lives of spiders. It calls them "one of the world's most misunderstood creatures."

Starting June 16 and running until Jan. 6, 2019, about 400 alive and preserved spiders will be on display for brave viewers.

Here's a look at some of the kinds of spiders that will be featured.

The Dock Spider, also known as a Fishing Spider. (Sean McCann)
The House Spider (parasteatoda tabulata). (Dean McCann)
The Western Black Widow (Latrodectus hesperus). (Sean McCann)
The Eastern Parson Spider (herpyllus ecclesiasticus). (Sean McCann)
The Yellow Garden Spider (argiope aurantia). (Sean McCann)
The Jumping Spider (phidippus audax). (Sean McCann)
The Brown Recluse (loxoscles reclusa). (Sean McCann)
The Golden Silk (Orbweaver nephila clavipes). (Sean McCann)

Scared?

Well, ROM entomologist Antonia Guidotti says there's a grave misconception about arachnids and people should actually admire them, even though they have fangs and venom and are predatory. 

"They're so beautiful," Guidotti told CBC's Matt Galloway on Metro Morning Wednesday.

"I hope some people will change from their fear to respect for the spiders, and maybe even admiration and fascination."

With 250 spider species in Toronto and 800 in Ontario alone, ROM staff hope to highlight some of the more interesting facts about the creatures. 

In particular, staff hope to educate people on spider mating and eating patterns and their venom.

 

"For the most part, spiders will not bite people because their venom's too valuable," Guidotti said.

"They need it for feeding, for eating insects."

Staff to milk live venom

As a part of the exhibit, there will also be live venom milking. That is exactly how it sounds — instead of extracting milk, staff will extract venom. 

With 48,000 species of spiders in the world, Guidotti said there's a lack of information when it comes to venomous spiders.

She said certain types of venom could have undiscovered medicinal benefits.

The exhibit runs from Saturday, June 16, to Sunday, January 6, 2019.
 

Once the venom is in a vial, it can be studied.

University of Toronto professor Maydianne Andrade will also host a lecture to teach people about spiders' "bizarre and shocking mating patterns," focusing specifically on black widows.

'Why are we afraid of them?' 

From tiny zebra jumping spiders to tarantulas, Guidotti hopes this exhibit will debunk common myths and change people's minds about the creepy-crawlers.

The exhibit will feature 400 spiders - dead and alive.
 

"I think it's definitely a learned response," she said.

"If you know that the venom of that spider is not going to kill you or anyone or hurt anyone...why are we afraid of them?"

Guidotti said there's no reason to fear spiders, and once people learn more about the eight-legged arachnids, they will likely change how they think and even how they interact with them.

"If you know you're not going to get bit by a spider, you're more likely to go and pick it up," she said.

“I hope people will see it as a learning opportunity," said ROM entomologist Antonia Guidotti.
 

With files from Metro Morning