Although I named my daughter after a classic book about a spider, I have to admit that had my recall of the plot--and ending--of the book been less faulty, perhaps she would have been named Wilbur instead of Charlotte. The cover of the book looks so cheery sitting there in the juvenile fiction section at Barnes and Noble, not giving even a clue that the spider for which the book is named toils in vain and meets a tragic fate.
Having a child named after a deceased spider brings up all sorts of deep-seated issues I have about spiders and how (or whether) to coexist with them. I don't find them to be creepy or intimidating (unlike pigeons) nor do I find them to be particularly interesting. They silently scurry around, and I have to say I rarely cock my head up at home to see what is happening on the ceiling; for all I know, there could be an entire ant-farm like village up there in the crown molding. My knowledge of arachnids’ habits and their status on the food chain is so woefully limited that I see spiders and become paralyzed with indecision as to whether to squash them like, well, the bugs that they are.
I think I would have automatically put spiders in the "squish" category with houseflies and moths, had it not been for the aforementioned E.B. White book. I mean, yes, flies have a song (Shoo Fly Pie) and insects like ladybugs and inchworms are ground-bound and seen often enough in close proximity to flowers to assume they have some sort of evolutionary or synergistic function with nature. Flies and moths: squished inside, ignored outside. But spiders and those webs--what is the purpose? Eric Carle’s book about the Busy Spider implies that spiders spin webs for no other reason than to show off. And Spider Man's mere existence seems to confirm this theory. But I also vaguely recall that the webs are supposed to trap bugs, much like those sticky mosquito strips that used to hang in suburban rumpus rooms in the 1970s. But I have only seen our houseflies circumvent all of the webs in and about my house, so perhaps flies have gotten smarter while spiders have failed to adapt to the changing entymological social structure.
So, my moral dilemma is: Do I swat every web I see or respect the artistry and effort? I must say that although I am not put off by spiders themselves, I find the thready tendrilly feeling of cleaning a spider web to be particularly unsettling. And there is a very fine line between a spider web and a “dust bunny,” which is indisputably meant to be removed. Which brings up the question of what creature is behind those dust bunnies—rabbits? Do I now need to reconsider my views on Peter Rabbit?