Are you really only ever six feet away from a spider at any given time?
September 27, 2007 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Are you really only ever six feet away from a spider at any given time?

I was watching Law and Order the other night and on there one of the characters said, "You are only ever six feet away from a spider at any given time". I was wondering if anyone knew the validity of that statement? I don't particularly like spiders, I wouldn't go as far to say I am afraid, but I just don't like wife, however, now that is a different story.

posted by birdlips to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I buy it, and it scares the shit out of me every day.
posted by kbanas at 10:06 AM on September 27, 2007

gah! I woke up with a spiderbite this week and so if what the character said isn't true, it feels true.
posted by chickaboo at 10:09 AM on September 27, 2007

Spiders live on and under the ground. They also live in walls and vents. And many species of spider are very tiny - too small to see unless you're an inch away from them.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:10 AM on September 27, 2007

Are you really only ever six feet away from a spider at any given time?

That depends. Are you in a plane? Scuba diving? On top of Mount Everest? Orbiting the planet?

This is one of those statistics that starts with a presumption of a) the number of people on the planet, b) the number of spiders on the planet, c) the square footage of the planet, etc, etc. It starts breaking down when you get very detailed and ...

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:15 AM on September 27, 2007 [21 favorites]

I saw this on The Magic Schoolbus, so it's got to be true. Seriously, those shows are really well researched.
posted by gnz2001 at 10:16 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

From a random New Zealand study:

Spider assemblages were sampled by quantitative sampling in pasture and arable habitats under different management regimes in the lower North Island of New Zealand. Density and species diversity increased with decreasing frequency and/or intensity of disturbance from two species and 1.8 individuals [per square meter] in wheat to 16 species and 130 indiv. [per sq. meter] in an abandoned, ungrazed pasture.

That is, in ungrazed pasture there are about 130 spiders within a few feet!
posted by vacapinta at 10:25 AM on September 27, 2007

Best answer: According to Vladimir Ovtsharenko of the American Museum of Natural History, it's true.
posted by Soup at 10:26 AM on September 27, 2007

Apparently Dr. Vladimir Ovtsharenko, "Research Scientist in the [American Museum of natural History's] world-renowned spider lab," thinks so. (More precisely, the syllabus for his course about spiders says that you are rarely more than six feet away from a spider.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:26 AM on September 27, 2007

Want to really freak out?

Go out to your yard tonight, hold a flashlight alongside your temple, and sweep the grass. All those tiny blue-green reflections looking back at you are the SHINING SPIDER EYES OF DOOM.

I stopped counting the other night around 60.
posted by jquinby at 10:30 AM on September 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

I also remember someone in college claiming that a spider will crawl in your mouth while you are sleeping x number of times during your life. I think x = 6, but I could be wrong since 6 seems to be the going rate these days for spiders and statistics.

But if a spider is always six feet away and given most people sleep 6-8 hours a night, that's plenty of time for a spider to crawl over to your mouth and do some exploring.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:33 AM on September 27, 2007

Yeah strangeleftydoublethink, isn't there some statistic about how many spiders you swallow in your life?
posted by chickaboo at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2007

Best answer: Sounds like a joke (you have 2 feet, spiders have 8, thus "6 feet away")--as demiurge suggested.

strangeleftydoublethink--that's an urban legend cooked up deliberately to see how gullible people are.
posted by nasreddin at 10:39 AM on September 27, 2007

Best answer: Well, if it's any consolation, consider that spiders must be asking the same question.

Q: Dear AskSpiderFilter: Are you really only ever six feet away from a human at any given time? WTF?!

posted by eightlegsnotsixlegs to humans & animals (15 comments total) [add to favorites] [!] 2 users marked this as a favorite

A: Yes. There is no god. Just hold your egg sac close and tell your babies you love them.

posted by chinston at 11:11 AM on September 27, 2007 [18 favorites]

Mod note: a few comments removed; "look behind you!" is not an answer, Cap'n Comedy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:56 AM on September 27, 2007

Eyelash mites, relatives of spiders and also in the arachnid family, are living on your eyelashes at this very minute.
posted by frobozz at 2:48 PM on September 27, 2007

I thought it went for insects in general not just arachnids (are arachnids insects?).

I can imagine the statistic for insects being more like 2 feet away than 6, those buggers are everywhere.

Also, the urban legend about spiders crawling down your throat when you're asleep - I heard it was cockroaches. The spiders then go in after the cockroaches.
posted by robotot at 3:33 PM on September 27, 2007

Then a bird goes in to catch the spider; then a cat goes in to catch the bird ...

This came up at an "Ask An Entymologist" forum I went to a while ago. His answer was that he thought it was of the "X # of spiders, Y # of people, Z square feet" type of calculation - then added that he thought it was pretty much true, save Antarctica.

He then went on to talk about the Vampire Sea Spiders down there...
posted by Pinback at 5:35 PM on September 27, 2007

(are arachnids insects?)

No, although they are both within the arthropod phylum. Insects fall into a class which is characterized by six legs, while spiders are in a class characterized by particular type of mouthparts.
posted by frobozz at 6:00 PM on September 27, 2007

This one time I was playing Half Life 2 in my living room with the lights off for maximum immersion. I had a slice of store bought lemon merangue pie next to me. I was eating it slowly (see: immersion) and as I raised the third bite to my mouth, it looked a little..."dark"? in my peripheral.

I look down and there's an inch-long, clear/brown spider. On the Merangue. On the fork. Three inches from my mouth.

I love my peripheral vision and thank my ancestors everyday for it.
posted by Brainy at 10:39 PM on September 27, 2007

Being an eternal optimist, I've chosen to interpret the factoid like this:
"You're exactly six feet from a spider, but don't worry, it will never come any closer!"
posted by arianell at 1:35 AM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

It seems true, especially this time of year in the south-east US. This morning I ran through 2 spider web strands on the way to my truck, saw a quarter-sized spider in a web between said truck and wife's car, and brushed a little black spider off my arm 45 minutes into a meeting at work.

*looks over shoulder for spiders lying in wait*
posted by lyam at 8:37 AM on September 28, 2007

Long answer: The statement's generally true. There's generally a spider pretty close to you wherever you are because they're already around (and abundant) in most places you'd be. Spiders are found in most habitats, including human-made structures like buildings. They're in most places you'd look*, and they're usually abundant as mentioned upthread. Many are quiet small, and as a group they tend to be cryptic in coloring and behavior, so you're likely to not notice most of them. Some species are even cosmopolitan (this one is likely nearby if you're indoors). The AMNH mentions the same statistic that you asked about in an educational activity, and they're generally reliable.

Short answer: I would have guessed less than 6 feet for most places, myself. But I suppose it's meant to be an average distance.

Straight Dope answered the spider-eating during sleep question.

*In this case, most terrestrial places, although there is one species in Europe that lives underwater.
posted by Tehanu at 11:23 AM on October 19, 2007

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