Recent research shows that spiders could theoretically wipe out the human race in just one year
What's not to love about spiders? Between their excessive amount of legs, creepy bunches of eyes, and ability to build massive webs that cling to your skin and get caught in your hair if you accidentally walk through one, it's difficult to pick out the best feature of everyone's favorite arachnid.
Wait, sorry, did I say 'love'? I meant, 'hate with a burning passion'.
Ok, maybe I'm being a bit unfair here. Some spiders are alright, I guess - but not the venomous ones. Or the ones that bite. Or the ones with fat bodies that always end up trapped in the bathtub, or wait for me in the kitchen, or scuttle across the bedroom ceiling just before I'm about to go to sleep. But the other ones - the spiders that leave me alone - they're fine in my books.
Unfortunately, it turns out that spiders pretty much never leave us alone. In fact, a recent survey of American homes found that spiders were present in 100 per cent of them.
It goes without saying, then, that we are definitely outnumbered by the creepy crawlies. And, according to some recent calculations from Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer, who published their study in Science of Nature, there are enough spiders on planet Earth to devour all human life as we know it in under 12 months.
This is based on how much spiders are capable of consuming over the course of a year, as they explain:
"Our estimates assessed with two different methods suggest that the annual prey kill of the global spider community is in the range of 400–800 million metric tons."
To put that in perspective: human beings only make up 500 million tons of biomass altogether - meaning that the eight-legged freaks could easily wipe us all out and still have room for seconds.
However, that's very unlikely to happen for a number of reasons.
First of all, more than 95 per cent of spiders responsible for the total prey kill each year live in "forests and grasslands", not houses. So, unless you have a habit of camping out in the woods, you probably aren't at risk of becoming a spider's dinner.
Secondly, only a tiny minority of spiders actually pose any significant threat to human beings. Most of them don't have the capabilities to harm us anyway, and even those that do will often avoid us simply because we are so much bigger than them. Plus, I'm not advocating that you go around stomping on defenceless bugs but, if you're in a position where you have to, I'm willing to bet a human being could quite easily crush most spiders with one swift movement.
Oh, and one more thing: how many cases of spiders dining on human flesh have you personally heard of? Not many, probably.
Essentially, unless there's some kind of rapid spider evolution, or all their other food supplies suddenly die out, it's pretty likely that the critters will just leave us alone for the most part. That being said, it's probably advisable to watch yourself if you are in an area that is known to have venomous spiders - especially now we know how much they're capable of eating.