I nearly ate a dead spider once, while awake. I didn't notice it was a spider, until it was very close to my mouth. I threw it away, shook my arms around for a while in panic, then gave my heart a little rest. I never found the corpse back.
Is it true that the average person 'eats' upto 4 spiders in their sleep during their lifetime?
David Bagnall, Milton Keynes Bucks
The actual figure is probably much higher - but don't have nightmares because these are not huge spiders but rather, Bimmo Spiders, the tiny little ones that seem to float. They are perfectly harmless.
Gary Bardeeni, Scotland
I heard this yet again 2 days ago. The only way to establish this claim would be to get a significant sample of people, videotape each of them constantly during their sleep (probably several closeup cameras per person) for a significant period, e.g. 6 months, then meticulously analyse the mountain of video footage, in slow motion with a magnifying glass. Does anyone honestly think this project has/would ever get funded? I think not. Yes, it's possible to swallow a spider; No, you can't put numbers on it.
Gordon, Glasgow, Scotland
No, this is an urban legend. Created to show that people will believe anything--and then going on to be believed. The following is from the urban legend debunking site www.snopes.com
Claim: The average person swallows eight spiders per year. Status: False. Origins: Fear not. This "statistic" was not only made up out of whole cloth, it was invented as an example of the absurd things people will believe simply because they come across them on the Internet. In a 1993 PC Professional article, columnist Lisa Holst wrote about the ubiquitous lists of "facts" that were circulating via e-mail and how readily they were accepted as truthful by gullible recipients. To demonstrate her point, Holst offered her own made-up list of equally ridiculous "facts," among which was the statistic cited above about the average person's swallowing eight spiders per year, which she took from a collection of common misbeliefs printed in a 1954 book on insect folklore. In a delicious irony, Holst's propagation of this false "fact" has spurred it into becoming one of the most widely-circulated bits of misinformation to be found on the Internet.
Scott McKinstry, Seattle, USA
This rumour was started in 1993 by Lisa Holst, a columnist for a computing magazine. The article focused on the increasingly common lists of "facts" which had begin to circulate on the internet in the early 1990s. To illustrate her point Holst made up her own list of supposed "facts", one of which was the claim that the average person swallows up to eight spiders per year. In this particular instance Holst apparently took her inspiration from collection of common misbeliefs printed in a 1954 book on insect folklore. It is, of course, wonderfully ironic that Holst's "false fact" has since become one of the most widely spread myths on the internet.
Rob Stanton, Cambridge, UK
Remove "in your sleep" and it might be true. At least in the US, the legal limits on insect parts (I expect the regulators include spiders, for simplicity) in processed foods is large enough so that over time it's easy to imagine eating the equivalent of eight spiders - though you might have trouble putting the parts together to make even one.
William Westbrook, Plainsboro, USA
Yes. I am a County Medical Examiner (Coroner) in Colorado and have performed thousands of autopsies since I was licensed in 1971. A typical analysis of chemical stomach contents found in over 90% of cases shows a .018 % of insect DNA less than 90 days old. Insect parts do not seem to be digested (similar to corn), however, they remain in the large intestine for an extended period of time and eventually make their delayed way out about 90 days after being consumed. In other words, if you ask any ME (Medical Examiner) he/she will tell you that far more than 8 spiders are eaten in a life time. While we don't know how many actual spiders are consumed each month, there is a considerable amount of chemical and physical (DNA and body parts) evidence that proves the average American (or at least Colorado resident) has consumed 8-12 insects (of varying size) within the previous 90 days. One can safely assume that 90% of Colorodan's have not meant to consume this many spider-parts while awake, but have consumed them inadvertantly, through processed or natural foods, or while asleep. Furthermore, I have completely made up the above explanation, but it just goes to show you that anyone can say anything and make it sound pretty darn believable.
Jonathon West, MD, Denver, CO, USA
Thank you Dr West for your articulate and humorous response. I agree.
Kimberly DeVos, Douglas, Michigan USA
I sleep with my mouth shut.
Katherine Connors, Columbia, USA
I don't think that people can necessarily EAT spiders in their sleep. People don't swallow in their sleep, although they can. For people that read this, don't be scared, although I know that I was a few minutes ago. Even if somehow you do eat spiders, guess what? They haven't hurt you for all of the years that you've lived, so they won't hurt you now. I'm only 12 years old and I've come up with this conclusion. As some say, "Don't get your undies in a bunch about it!"
Megan Kennedy, Detroit, USA
About a year ago I woke up to find a spider on my face near my mouth, so I think that myth is somewhat true.
Amy Maddix, Detroit, USA
Here in Hawii there are spiders being swallowed, we have videotaped various people in their sleep, with spiders crawling into their mouths, nostrils, and even their ear lobes. It was quite a disturbing sight. The good thing is that the person didn't even budge when the spider crawled in, so you will not feel a thing and wont even know that the spider crawled in, so you won't be all worried.
Cailey Kiernan, Homowaki, Hawii
I am a plastic surgeon in Phoenix. It's not the spiders you should be afraid of, but bug parts in processed food. The USA allows a large, large concentration of bugs parts in our processed foods. I guess if you added all the parts up you might just have a spider!
Robb Johnson, Phoenix, AZ, USA
to prove this, one would have to get statistics from emergency rooms, symptoms - wiggle and jiggle and tickle inside them. Now if someone said the average person has two insects fly/crawl/fall into their ear in a 15 year period that made it necessary to go to the hospital emergency room in great pain then I would say that is true - since it has happened to me.
Gene Kowalski, Fairfield, NJ, USA
Humans consume many things in a years time unintentionally and unknowingly. Many of which, would make their stomachs turn if they knew about them. Fortunately, they do not. Why not spiders?
Julie, Belle Plaine, Iowa, USA
I believe it is true. I have seen spiders go in and out of peoples nose, ears, and mouths while they were asleep. They only stay in there for a short time. They will eventually leave. Dont worry, you have had things a lot dirtier in your mouth before.
Brian C, Roanoke, Va, USA
People are eating insects all the time. Caterpillars, greenfly, spiders, weevils etc in salads and vegetables that have not been carefully washed. In Cambodia (and probably elsewhere) they eat large fried spiders about the size of a small child's hand, i.e. about 5 inches across the legs. They are very popular and I have the photos!
Richard Leonard, Falls Church USA
To be honest, I would worry much more about the chemicals we consume, than a cute little spider, which is biodegradable.
Lothar Hoffmann, Carsonville, United States
Spiders are rather picky creatures and have well tuned olfactory systems. Unless a spider were going blind and had lost its sense of smell it would never linger in your mouth for more than a moment. That being said the eating of spiders for sport or cuisine by some individuals may more than average out to 4 per person if said individuals only eat one a week for their lifetime and even considering a 50 year lifespan (everone knows eating spiders is bad for you) they would consume enough spiders for 650 other noneaters to bring the average to 4 during a lifetime. It would be quite easy, especially if the eaters are not terribly picky to eat smaller less delicate spiders more frequently and eat enough for even 1000-2000 noneaters. Either way the spiders, certainly not of their own accord do get eaten...
Tim Riegel, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
I can believe things crawl in your mouth, ears, nose, etc. when you are asleep. I have woken with ants on my face, a cockroach on my forehead, and a fly on my nose. I have, when awake though, swallowed bees, moths, ants and probably other things I can't remember. The bee was scary because I thought it would sting going down. I guess it didn't: I'm still alive.
John, Bethlehem, USA
My uncle told me this when I was about 4 or 5. I was so impresionable (and terrified of spiders) at that age that to this day, 30 something years later, I grind my teeth so badly at night trying to keep my mouth shut and the spiders out that I wake people up!! So glad to hear it's a myth. Maybe I can learn to stop grinding my teeth now!
Michele M, Melrose, USA
I sleep with my mouth wide open especially after a stressful day at work. I actually awoke one night with a full grown cockroach in my mouth! More amazingly, the "event" was captured in my dream hence my suddenly waking-up to find the thing in there. Of course I did not "eat" it up but swat it off. Spiders might end up the same way but not necessarily eaten-up.
Nick P, Cebu City, Philippines
Many insects fly into your mouth or nostrils while you are quite awake and before you know it, they are on their way into your stomach. Thank God for the consolation I have in the words of Jesus Christ that "if they (believers) drink (or eat, in the case of spiders) any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them". Mark 16:17. I am a believer.
Ronke Akeni, Lagos, Nigeria
No, I don't think that spiders crawl onto people's faces while they are sleeping because the person would feel it and wake up right away. Even if this were true you wouldn't know anyway so what's the big deal? It's not as gross as what's found in hotdogs or Jello.
Ellie Asaga, Harbour Town, USA
I don't know how John from Bethlehem (see above) has ended up with so many bugs on his face, but maybe he should think about cleaning his house.
Amy, Bath, USA
I dunno, but I have woke up because a spider was in my mouth.
Macawayne, Glasgow, Scotland
Last night a great big spider crawled onto my face twice around my mouth. My cat (who loves to eat spiders) was jumping about all over me. Definatly the spider was trying to get into my mouth - or else why would it return a second time?
Sam Tuohey, Birmingham, England
Uhh I don't even want to think about it! Now I wont be able to go to sleep & I just found out about it. I hate spiders. I dont know what to think anymore. Gosh.
Yaneth, Washington, USA
I could only wish to have a spider small enough to crawl into my mouth. Here in Iraqi Kurdistan's Erbil province we have spiders so large that it is not uncommon in the summer months to find our small children completely cocconed up and dangling from the rafters in the morning. Hence the ancient name of Erbil city - "Hawler." Meaning, "Land of the Three Kilogram Spiders."
Rasul Ahmed, Erbil Iraq
I don't know if they were spiders, but I have definately woke up an a few occasions after inhailing something. I think they might have been gnats. This happened to me this morning, 5/17/7. I snore, mouth wide open. Yum!
Steve Smith, Albany, NY US
I don't think its true. Surely we'd feel them and wake up? or they spider would be scared off as they seem to run pretty quickly from any kind of movement.
Shane, Basingstoke UK
I found half a spider by my pillow today, and I once woke up choking on something. Yummy.
Louise, Rickmansworth England