On crisp fall days, as the time of tricking and treating comes near, arachnophiles brace themselves for yet another orgy of spider shaming. Spiders, among the most intelligent, successful and beautiful creatures, are maligned as evil, ugly and frightening.
For this Halloween season, take a moment to consider the beauty of spiders. Turn away from the fevered imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien and the horrifying Shelob that hunts Frodo and Sam, and think more of the calm, measured and life-affirming prose of E.B. White, the creator of Charlotte, a good writer and a friend.
Then look at these spiders, from our ScienceTake vault, spectacular in appearance and behavior. O.K., maybe some of them are a bit off-putting, but scary and beautiful are not mutually exclusive.
Even the anti-spider faction would have to admit that there’s very little creepiness in this video of spiders floating on the wind on wisps of spider silk so delicate that the stickiness of the air keeps them from falling to the ground.
Or consider the kinetic beauty of this spider’s leap, and its lovely, bristly face. And remember, it doesn’t hunt people. Scientists who study these creatures, which watch a human walk into a lab even though they are far too big to eat, say they feel “lucky” to be able to work with spiders.
Right, that was a little scary, I guess, because that is truly some jump. And even if the spider was only attacking a bug that had landed on you having one of these spiders leap onto your sleeve could, I suppose, give you pause.
And these spiders with their delicate, sand-colored exoskeletons, are not bothering anyone. Wonder at the speed and elegance of movement as the male wraps the female in silk, gossamer and strong, to try to prevent her from killing and consuming him as soon as mating is finished.
Yet another, though, is pure delight and inspiration as it tumbles along the desert in a way that is irresistible to watch.
Finally, what about the male dark-fishing spider? He may not be amazing to look at, but he voluntarily sacrifices himself and dies right after he mates. That’s beautiful, right?
James Gorman is a science writer at large and the host and writer of the video series “ScienceTake.” He joined The Times in 1993 and is the author of several books, including “How to Build a Dinosaur,” written with the paleontologist Jack Horner.
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