You were not bitten by a spider in your sleep

(You also do not swallow spiders while sleeping.)

These are two of the most pernicious urban myths I have tried to dispel over the years.  I have met with a lot of reticence in the process.

The other day, I was telling a friend about Henry, the little brown house spider who has taken up residence on the right hand side of my bed, where it meets the wall.  Henry built an elaborate little web between the wall and the mattress, and I am reluctant to destroy it by changing the fitted sheets.

My friend gasped in horror, “Aren’t you afraid he will bite you?”

“Who?” I asked in confusion, “Henry?  Why would he want to bite me?”

“I get bitten all the time by spiders in my sleep.”

“No you don’t,” I said flatly, feeling as I said it that I could certainly have been more polite.  “Why would a spider bite you in your sleep?”

She stared at me, flabbergasted, but did not have an answer.  “Let’s review the facts,” I said, “Spiders hunt small insects, not humans.  They don’t drink blood, they have no real desire to be anywhere near a human.  If a spider somehow accidentally got into your bed, it would not aggressively seek you out, and if you accidentally rolled onto it, you’d probably smash it.  We are many, many times the size of a spider.”

“Well, I wake up with red bumps,” she said defensively, “And what else could cause them?”

“There are a million things that could cause red bumps!” I exclaimed, “It could be bites from actual blood sucking insects and mites (of which there are plenty), but it could also be a bacterial infection, or a rash or an allergy or acne or an ingrown hair…”

"I was framed!!"

“I was framed!!”

My friend was not convinced.  You might not be either, so you can visit some other resources, like this one, here, here, or here (that one has a nice list of things misdiagnosed as spider bites)…or here.

And while I’m on this topic, you also do not swallow spiders in your sleep.  That was a myth generated to show how gullible people can be and a lot of people (ironically) believe it.

Just think about it…why would a spider crawl into your mouth?  What kind of selective force would act to promote that behaviour?  Spiders that crawl into animal mouths would be very quickly wiped from the gene pool, I think.

Still don’t believe me?  Check out some other sources here, here, and here.  Or do your own searches and convince yourself.  If you can think of a good, convincing reason why spiders would bite you in your sleep or crawl into your mouth, please leave a comment below…because I have yet to hear one.

"I'm innocent!"

“I’m innocent!”

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21 thoughts on “You were not bitten by a spider in your sleep

  1. When I was living in Greece I was told that a black spider that used to come into the house was a jumping spider and it could bite. Acknowledging my ignorance on the subject I sceptically accepted the local wisdom. I’m glad you’ve put me straight on the subject.

    • thank you. so did i, just the other night. it woke me up when it bit me. i pinched at my upper arm where i felt it and walked to the bathroom, turned on the light and looked at what was between my fingers. take a guess… a spider. and no, i did not roll over on it. i expect a reasonable explanation for this standingoutinmyfield smartypants. i live in carlsbad ca and i have zero clue what kind of spider it was because it was smashed.

  2. Pingback: Traveling…and revising the top ten list | standingoutinmyfield

  3. I was sitting at my desk at work and a spot on my arm really itched. I did not pay much attention to it… the next morning I woke up and had two very small bite marks that were blue and purple with a large red ring around them (about the size of a baseball). The two very small bite marks would make me think it was a spider… but I have not been in the woods and I do not recall being bit. Which makes me think that I was bit in my sleep… but then I thought why would a spider bite me while I’m sleeping? I clearly wasn’t messing with it, I was sleeping? Is this a spider bite?

  4. Ok, this doesn’t have to do with a spider biting me in my sleep, but I’ve been genuinely curious about this for years now, maybe you can shed some light (please?)-
    My parents live in suburban Pennsylvania, the housing development was built a few decades ago over old farmland. Like many houses in the area, they have a “crawl space” beneath the house, in which it’s damp, dark, undisturbed (except around holidays to get out decorations), and generally inhabited with various bugs at any given time, the main squatters being what appears to be Wolf Spiders (from my research, at least).
    In the last 10 years, during visits, I’ve noticed that these Spiders have ventured out of that crawl space area more and more, despite my parents hiring people to… er… “take care of them” (sorry arachnid-lovers! You’ll understand by the end of the story… hopefully.) I’m not saying these guys are creating a community in my parents’ house, but, like clockwork, they turn up year after year- at first, it was just a few little guys with the changing of the seasons, weather, etc.
    However, within the last 5 years they have become noticeably larger than previous years, and, on more than one occasion (with various spiders over the years) I have been “Chased” by these spiders! Now, I know it sounds to be a silly notion, a grown woman thinking she’s being chased by spiders when she’s visiting her parents.
    However, it’s happened a few times a year, every year- what typically happens is- I’ll be walking around the house, the ground floor seems to be where they usually stay, and I’ll cross paths with one- almost like a traffic collision, we both stop dead in our tracks for a moment, eyes narrow (ok, not really, but, it feels like a western stand-off), I try to go around one way, it seems to follow, I try to go around the opposite way, follows again- at this point, I, a grown woman, turn in retreat, fleeing from my would-be assassin- WHO FOLLOWS! This keeps happening, year after year, at first I thought it was a few isolated incidents but it feels all too familiar each time it occurs. And their size is increasing! I understand certain sprays can actually have steroidal affects on spiders (or at least, it’s what I’ve read). Anyway, the mini- hulks about the size of a quarter now (varying by spider), leg to leg.
    Why would a spider chase me- or are they simply trying to catch up to apologize? How can we get rid of these unwelcome house guests?
    Thank you for your time, insight, and expertise!

    • A very interesting story! Thank you for sharing. Well, first of all I can say that if they are Wolf Spiders, they are totally harmless, so you have nothing to fear from them. Secondly, they have very poor eyesight, so the impression that they are chasing you probably has more to do with them reacting to movement and shifting light patterns around them. I can guarantee that they do not intend to hunt you. I can also guarantee that there is an upward limit to the size spiders can grow, so even if they are growing from year to year they will hit their max size soon. Hope that helps!

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