This week started with All Hallow’s Eve, or more familiarly, Halloween. This is a time that most people enjoy exploring the frightful, scary and hidden aspects of life. And let’s not forget the candy.

This week started with All Hallow’s Eve, or more familiarly, Halloween. This is a time that most people enjoy exploring the frightful, scary and hidden aspects of life. And let’s not forget the candy.
So I have been thinking about the real-life things that scare us, and some of them live right alongside us. The creepy-crawly things that make our hearts skip and cause our bodies to recoil away. The many-legged nasties, and the no-legged slitherers come quickly to mind.
While not all people have arachnophobia, most do not overly enjoy spiders. They see their eerie legs and hairy bodies and fear their deadly bites. Here in Neosho we have only two spiders that could possibly harm you – black widows and brown recluses. While they both can inflict painful bites that might lead to infection, human deaths are basically non-existent from these arachnids. Either species. So reason might lead a person to keep their house clear of these little beasts, but there is no need to outright kill all spiders.
In fact, as you probably already know, they are tremendous pest exterminators. Not only do they catch and kill the flies and mosquitoes that plague our summer days and nights, but they are the primary controllers of all insects. One arachnologist declared that “without spiders, all our crops would be consumed by those pests” and humanity would face wholesale famine. So feel free to practice avoidance, but no need to fear spiders or kill them. They are quite helpful and even fascinating to watch.
Now on to public enemy number two in many people’s eyes: Snakes. The abnormal fear of snakes is called ophidiophobia and it is one of the most common phobias. Some scientists suggest that humans are hard-wired with a genetic phobia of serpents, harkening back to a day when pythons were serious human predators. Even today in our python-free world, people will talk of the dangers of venomous copperheads or rattlesnakes and justify their killing any legless wildlife they encounter. Sadly, this hatred of snakes extends to people of all walks of life, even those working for conservation-based organizations.
Just as with spiders, snakes do a world of good with a direct benefit to humanity. Snakes and other reptiles make up a significant proportion of the middle-order predators that keep our natural ecosystems working. No one wants a world overrun with mice, a common prey item for them. And know that snakes almost always prefer to retreat when encountered, but become defensive if cornered or otherwise threatened. Most snake bites are received by people who try to capture or kill a snake. When left alone, snakes present little or no danger to people, so step back when you see your next one and let it live.
One of the steps to overcome your fears is to become an expert. You should learn as much as you can about whatever scares you, whether it has eight legs, no legs or something in between. If you know more about something, you can learn things to appreciate about it, and maybe move from fear to fascination. This doesn’t mean you have to love them, but please, stop just killing them.

Bruce Hallman writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.