Every self-respecting arachnophobic will have heard that, on average, each of us ingests 8 spiders a year in our sleep. What is true? The British BBC television asked itself this question and addressed it, for the sake of clarity, also to its listeners.
We too have done the same (collecting the most epic comment ever: true, Andrea?). But from a scientific point of view, what do we know about it?
Bulky and noisy. Fortunately, the one according to which we ingest 8 (or another unspecified number) of arachnids in 12 months of sleep is a good and good hoax. First of all, because, for spiders, a human being lying down and snoring is not an interesting prey. We move, we snort, we snore, we give off heat and vibrations and we are definitely too big: in the eyes of an arachnid, we resemble an enormous moving rock, with breath and heartbeats that produce annoying vibrations.
The invisible relatives of the spiders that live on your face
Salty snack. "Most predators do not attack larger prey, because it would result in defeat. We simply do not care for spiders, "explains Dave Clarks, head of the invertebrate section of the London Zoo. The fact remains that they are nocturnal predators and that, in the areas where they are present, it may happen to wake up with one or more spider bites on the limbs. or on the face.
If you then hang yourself under an olive tree, as happened to one of our readers - Emanuele - you can end up biting an arachnid during sleep, thinking you have an olive in your mouth. But it is a rare case, unless you usually sleep in the open air and in the middle of nature.
A real nightmare. A BBC reader told of a friend who woke up with a face full of tiny bites, due to the breaking of a spider's egg-shaped sack just above the edge of her bed. It can happen, but if we feel something walking on our faces, we would wake up before it can reach our mouth. Without removing that, to swallow a spider, we should really sleep with the mouth wide open, and in that case we would snore loudly. Moreover, in sleep, we do not swallow constantly and with every breath.
No witnesses. Moreover, the stories of these experiences are mostly in first person and never reported, although it often happens to watch someone sleeping: how many times have you seen a spider walking near the mouth of a family member? The legend of the 8 spiders a year would be born in 1993 in a magazine specialized in PC, as a demonstration of the fact that people are led to believe with ease to the stories, even if absurd, that circulate on the web. But even attempts to track down the journalist who wrote the anecdote and the magazine itself proved fruitless.
Worse still. However, spiders can make their way and nest in other "unwelcome" places. In 2012, after a week of severe ear itching, a Chinese woman went to the hospital to be visited: the doctors found a spider refugee inside her ear canal. For fear that an attempt to extract it would cause him to retreat further, they hunted him down with a saline solution. A similar misfortune also happened to the singer Katie Melua: in her case, a small spider made its way into an ear using a pair of earphones.