Hi Reddit, I graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Zoology in 2006. I have been writing children's chapter books since 2010. Last year, my daughter asked me to write a book about spiders so her friends won't squish them anymore. I accepted the challenge!


Edit: Thanks to everyone who asked questions. This was a lot of fun. I'll try to check back and still answer any late questions thrown my way, but I'll be out of pocket for a while. See ya!

Edit2: There seem to be a lot of spider phobias out there. I believe that knowledge is always beneficial and the more you learn about spiders, the better off you are. That said, a phobia is different than just fear. It's irrational, and I don't know enough about the human psyche to help on that issue. The fact that you fearfuls are hear looking at info and talking about the phobia is a good sign, though.

Edit3: Added link to Samantha Spins a Web's Kickstarter Campaign

Edit4: Crack a smile watching Cuban Dancing Spider and this Cute Spider

Comments: 148 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

OceanLife4Me23 karma

im 45 and I run like a little girl at the sight of most bugs... i totally get that its irrational. How can I overcome this fear?

DaisyGriffin21 karma

Well, knowledge is power. I would say try to learn more about them. Is there a particular bug that scares you the most? Research it. Is there a particular thing about them that frightens you (how small they are, how fast they move, the stingers on some of them)? Learn more about it. Learning an insect's limitations may well allay some fears.

Also, it may help to learn some randomly weird facts. After you learn about the diversity of the insect penises (including the female penis recently discovered) it might change the way you think about them. Weird to suggest, I know...but sometimes it's the strange things that work.

That being said, phobias are tough and there are some seriously scary bugs. Each spider you let live will eat about 2000 insects per year. Bats are also wonderful for eating insects. Bugs are also great food for birds, so encouraging a good habitat for other animals helps control the bug populations.

Oh, and read my next book when it comes out this fall, Samantha Spins a Web ;-)

simonjoz44510 karma

My problem with spiders is that they are so damn ugly, they are hairy, have many eyes, have 2 stingers sticking out of their mouths. My phobia is soo bad that I can't even look at pictures of them. Where should I start to overcome my phobia?

DaisyGriffin9 karma

ModernTarantula has good thoughts on this. I don't have a lot to add. In my experience, phobias aren't rational and are very difficult to overcome, but getting frequent small/safe exposure to the idea of spiders helps. Find someone who is really into them and just talk about them with them. Subscribe to r/spiders and look at the ones that come safely across your computer screen. Watch this clip of the cutest spider ever. You may always be wary of spiders, but over time that deep cutting fear will lessen.

Also, for me learning about things is really key. For instance, did you know that the hair on the Dolomedes catches air and keeps an air bubble around it as it dives so that it can still breath a bit underwater and gives it buoyancy to swim back up? Evolutionarily, spider eyes are incredibly cool because they show a different way of eyes evolving vision without a compound eye. You can read more about it here but essentially each pair of the spider's eyes has a different function. Some for peripheral vision, some for focusing, etc. The more you learn about something, the less fear of it has a hold on you. Good luck.

MeniteTom6 karma

It doesn't help that the spider in your video is insanely venomous.

SinbaddGreat4 karma

We're over looking one huge problem. The fucking spider can swim.. Swim and breathe under water.. Let that sit for a minute. We're not safe ANYWHERE

DaisyGriffin1 karma

Hehe, yeah, in retrospect I can see how that might not allay fears. Sorry, sometimes I get excited about the beauty of the system and forget how others perceive it. I assure you though, the Dolomedes are not harmful to humans. They are after tiny minnows, not human flesh.

illiteratepeasant2 karma

You probably won't see this because it's a bit late, but you are awesome. FINALLY, someone else who is intrigued by weird animal reproduction! I weird out my friends far too much... You should write a parody children's book about strange animal reproduction.

You pretty much have my dream job, though! Writing and animals! I am still in high school, but I am currently doing career research and your job seems like something I would really love.

DaisyGriffin2 karma

Oh dear, the strangeness of reproductive ways in the animal world never ceases to amaze me. From fish that can change their sex to ones that don't even need males at all....there's definitely some interesting things out there.

Good luck with your studies. Hope you find a good fulfilling career when the time is right.

SpaceJews7 karma


DaisyGriffin7 karma

First of all, are you sure they are brown recluses. Not to doubt you, but a lot of people think any small brown spider is a brown recluse. In fact, the little cellar spiders I have learned to love so much I was a little fearful of at first. If you have any doubts then take a picture of the next one you see and post it over at r/spiders. Those guys know a lot and are great at identifying spider species.

If it turns out they are not brown recluse, then you are golden. Just tell everyone to chill out, they eat the flies. If they are in fact brown recluse, then yeah, that's scary. I would also ask over there for advice on what to do about them. They might have better ideas than me. Good luck!

dflatline6 karma

Are there any insects or arthropods you don't like, or you find creepy?

DaisyGriffin23 karma

Yes, yes there are. Cockroaches creep me out the most. I think it's because they are one that comes into the house and invades my space. A spider will stay on it's web and just sits there killing other invasive insects, but a cockroach will crawl around the walls and comes out at night. I know they are amazing in their own right, but they do creep me out.

mississippiwildman6 karma


DaisyGriffin8 karma

Honestly, because it is very easy. I don't mean easy in that it doesn't require a lot of work. Publishing a book is a beast and requires countless hours no matter how you do it. I mean easy, in that I could do it myself so long as I was willing to put in the work.

I know Amazon is getting a lot of flack right now (and in some ways rightly so, no doubt) but I really love them in that they blew the market wide open for independent authors. KDP and Createspace are wonderful platforms. I am able to make professional quality ebooks and print books which are linked together (along with my audio book) and available in a thriving market. It's been a really good venue for me so far.

That's not to say that I won't branch out in the future, but for my time and energy I can't beat what Amazon has to offer right now.

poorWilson5 karma

How did you like Auburn? My uncle Wayne Clark taught/teaches entomology at Auburn.
I have a three year old son that just loves spiders. He calls them his "friend the spider in the bathroom." I think boys take to bugs naturally, any tips for little girls?

DaisyGriffin13 karma

Ha! Dr. Clark was one of my favorite professors. I took his entomology class back in the day. He made everyone take on an insect name, I was a gypsy moth. He also always had really cool bugs in his office that I loved to stop by and feed. You are lucky to have such a cool Uncle.

That's wonderful that your son is into spiders. We have some cellar spiders that live in our bathrooms which my kids and I love to watch. My husband is even becoming tolerant ;-)

As far as tips for little girls, I don't know. I think all children, boys and girls tend to mimic what they see in those around them. So if you act like spiders are interesting and cool, they believe the same. Also, all kids go through stages. The same child who begged me to write a book so her friends wouldn't squish spiders went through a period when she was younger where she would see a speck of dust and completely freak out because a bug was near her. She just kinda had to go through it and figure out that bugs weren't scary. With anything, knowledge is power. So if you point out the interesting facts and let them look closely, any kid is going to respond well to that.

herberthunke2 karma

Can mosquitos sense the presence of spiders and avoid them? I was sitting in my backyard this morning (in New Orleans where mosquitos are dense)and I was marveling over the lack of mosquitos. I went inside and noticed that a big spider was sitting on the brim of my cowboy hat. Did the mosquitos know he was there and avoid the area?

DaisyGriffin3 karma

I have no idea...sorry.

pkidd1 karma


DaisyGriffin1 karma

War Eagle! :-)

CheeseYogieFiend5 karma

Isn't teaching your child "Spiders are okay" a really bad thing if you live in a place where spiders are dangerous, i.e. mountains or places like Austrailia?

ModernTarantula8 karma

No Australian has died from spiders in 50 years. education or no.

monk1junk15 karma

It's probably because we're educated to leave any and every spider the fuck alone as small children. It's safer than trying to show them which are safe ect. only to get them confused and have them get bitten.

ModernTarantula5 karma

That is miseducation. Spiders as a rule are not dangerous. Spider fear is related to disgust not to danger. Although not harassing spiders is a good lesson, leave them and they can eat deadly mosquitos, and harmful wasps.

monk1junk12 karma

No, fearing most large, hairy spiders is related to disgust and not danger but when you have a lineup of spiders like the ones that thrive in our dry, warm, wooded climate it is important to teach kids to keep away from them until they're old enough to respect them properly and learn about them more.

There are common garden spiders, hunstman spiders, daddy long legs ect. around here that couldn't hurt you if they tried, but there are also countless other ones in close proximity to them that will cause a great deal of harm.

I get from your username you're probably a spider person, but around here a lot of the spiders are not like tarantulas. They are not docile and they will fuck shit up.

DaisyGriffin3 karma

In all fairness, pretty much everything in Australia is designed to kill you

DaisyGriffin8 karma

The trick really is good education. As with most anything in life, if you go too far to one extreme it's going to go poorly. A lot of people, knowing only that spiders are creepy and a few of them can hurt you, go all the way to the "kill it with fire" route. This is fairly ridiculous. I'm not suggesting that children go grab every spider they see. I'm teaching them that spiders have their place in the world.

In the book I'm working on now, the main character does research and learn about the beauty and benefit of spiders, but she also learns about which ones are dangerous and how to treat them with respect and care.

edit: I put up a scene from the book for you where they look at black widows

TheLastInventor3 karma

I think I echo your sentiments when it comes to snakes. Unless it's venomous and terribly close to where people (especially children) are, leave it alone.

How do you deal with it when you find something like a wolf spider in your bathroom?

DaisyGriffin3 karma

Well, wolf spiders I don't find terribly scary. I would probably let it crawl on my hand and just take it outside, or leave it alone. However, if I found a black widow or a brown recluse in or around an area where kids are I would either safely trap it in a jar and release it later in a secluded area or go ahead and squish it.

OK, to be perfectly honest, the time or two this has actually happened, I put the spider in the jar and kept it prisoner, taking it to several classrooms to use to educate kids. You can describe which spiders are dangerous and which aren't all day long, but seeing one really gets the point across. Hey, don't touch this one.

AlexBerghe3 karma

What's your favorite insect ? :D

DaisyGriffin6 karma

I'm going to have to be a little predictable and name the honeybee. They are beautiful creatures all around, help pollinate flowers, and make yummy honey.

Now my favorite arachnid is the Dolomedes. They aren't as flashy as a lot of other spiders, but I find it pretty amazing that they use the water tension like a web and can sense when a minnow goes by, then dive in after it. It's impressive to me. They are also good mama's that carry around the eggsac until it hatches and I have a pretty serious maternal instinct that jives well with that.

cp51842 karma

so the habitat of deadly spiders (black widows? Brown widows?) is the entire contiguous 48 states?

DaisyGriffin2 karma

Here's a handy list of which venomous spiders can be found in which states of the USA. Other countries would have their own species to watch for.

nrandall131 karma

Is it rational that, having studied them, black widows don't bother me much but all other spiders make me lose my mind?

DaisyGriffin2 karma

Makes sense to me. the more you know about something, the more you know how to handle it and what the risk actually are.

You should know though, that most spiders are very beneficial creatures that can't/won't hurt you in the least. No reason to lose your mind ;-)

stillragin1 karma

While i know nothing about fixing our own fears, I know how we can help with the next generation.

My mother is DEATHLY afraid of spiders, insects, mice, toads, creepy crawlies and the like. But, she knew her fear was irrational and not grounded in reality. So while she would never bend down and touch or handle anything, she would say "Oh! kids! Look, go pet that toad. Oh look at the mouse! Go pick up that bug." She would bite back her fear and wanting to scream and tell us to explore.

To this day I am forever grateful for her bravery. I am the spider rescuer, lover of snakes, and insects. When I meet one I immediatly research it? I now have an awesome report with the neighbor hood carpenter bees and a best buddy that lives above my door- a beautiful grey no-web door spider of some sort (SUPER CUTE!) Comes inside during the day and hangs out outside during the night to catch insects.

DaisyGriffin2 karma

I had a mother much like that. She ate her fears so as to not pass them on to us and nurtured our interests. I owe a lot to both of my parents, but my mother, oh man, we pushed her limits. She stopped killing the spiders in our house after my brother told her all their names and personalities ;-)

Kudos to your mom. It's amazing what you can do for your kids.

KellyCobate1 karma

I am absolutely terrified of spiders - what can you tell me that might make me like them a bit? So cool that you're doing a book after your daughter asked! :-)

DaisyGriffin4 karma

An individual spider can eat around 2,000 insects a year according to National Geographic. The chances of one of those bugs biting or harming you is much higher than the chance the spider who's eating them would.

tomcat9411 karma

I was wondering if you would ever think about doing something else around other animals to which people are commonly scared off? The one that comes to my mind is bats, but I'm sure there are more.

DaisyGriffin1 karma

In the Samantha series of chapter books, I'm really just trying to give an appreciation of nature and animals in general. Most of the stories come from actual things that have happened in my childhood or in my children's lives. So, I'd like to keep going indefinitely just touching upon one type of animal after another. Some of those are creepier, like the opossum and the spider, but some are completely lovable like the turtle and the chickens.

It's been my experience in teaching children in person that most urban children really have little exposure to animals at all. I've had so many kids tell me when I bring something to a classroom that this is the first time they've touched an animal it blows me away. I think there is something so important that is learned by keeping in touch with nature that all these kids are just missing. So I put as many kids in contact with as many animals as I can.

I would also encourage anyone who reads this to go out to your local parks and preserves and spend some time in nature. There is good research that shows just spending time around trees clears your mind and makes you happier. :-)

ZaZMonster1 karma

Hello! What have you been doing with your degree in Zoology before writing about the animal kingdom? I've studied zoology in school and was poised to attend a 4yr school after completing my 2yr degree for zoology before life got in the way. I've been toying with going back to finish because it is such an amazing field. Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking of going into that field, and is it a viable career choice? I'm looking for any advice on how to jump into the field and what sort of things I could be employed doing. Thanks so much and I can't wait to check out your book!

DaisyGriffin1 karma

From my experiences Zoology is not a field that's going to let you find a job easily anywhere. Most of the folks I know who graduated with me either went on to get higher degrees (Zoology can be a precursor to Vet school or teaching or you can mix it with criminology to head on to being a park ranger, etc) As a stand alone field, you are going to have to be willing to travel to where the work/interest is and spend a lot of time out in the field. Often it's "temporary" work that is based off of if a grant is available or not. So yeah, it can be great, it can be rough. That being said, you will work with some of the greatest people you can imagine and the work you find is almost always rewarding.

I don't know where you are located, but if in the USA you should check with your local Cooperative Extension Office. Just go in and ask to talk to the local Extension Agent and ask them these questions. They may be able to help. Good luck.

TryNstopME0241 karma

How dangerous are the types of spiders I find in my house on occasion? I've seen wolf spiders, a tiny orange spider and tiny black ones.

DaisyGriffin1 karma

Without seeing them, I couldn't tell you. My best advice is to take a few pictures and post over at r/spiders. They are really nice over there and excellent at identifying spiders.

If it helps, you can look at this chart if you live in the USA to see which spiders can do harm to you in your area. I doubt any of those are troublesome, and they are probably beneficial, but you should doublecheck to make sure.

Roygbiv8561 karma

I have a friend who was brought up Buddhist. He told me he consciously tries to not kill any living thing. That really rang with me. I've really been living this way ever since he told me. My question is, are they any types of bugs or pests I should try to kill if I find them at home?

DaisyGriffin1 karma

First let me say, I love the Buddhist mindset and find a lot of wisdom in Buddhist teachings. That being said, my personal moral code is never to kill for the sake of killing. For me, good reasons to kill include killing for food and for self defense. Further than that, as a biologist, I find the health of the ecosystem to be of tantamount importance.

So, some things are easy for me...spiders are generally helpful creatures. They keep populations of other pests in check (so I don't have to make the call on killing them), they keep to themselves for the most part and even the venomous ones tend to do all they can to avoid contact with humans and only bite under duress. So I would almost never kill a spider. I'll relocate, but generally encourage protecting them otherwise.

As for your real question about other pests, sure I'd always kill a mosquito. But note, I would kill a mosquito by squishing it, I would not encourage spraying harmful poison into the air for the purpose.
I don't let cockroaches hang out in my house, because there are health issues involved in a cockroach population taking up residence in my home.
Wasp can be dangerous and there are a lot of locations they can't safely be left in. You just have to use your judgement. Life is not built of black and white choices. There are so many shades of grey. I think if you appreciate and respect nature you will make the right choices. Thanks for the great question.

stormhunter11 karma

What up Daisy,should I worry about spiders biting me in my sleep at all? I always had a bit of the spiderbro mentality (that they essentially got my back), so I was curious about this one.

DaisyGriffin1 karma

I've never lost any sleep at the thought, personally.

Jubles1 karma

I love spiders, coolest of them all, what is your favorite spider?

DaisyGriffin1 karma

Well, I replied earlier that I'm a big fan of the Dolomedes. So I'll answer differently here with a close runner up, the Trap-Door Spiders. And yes, I know this is a huge grouping rather than a species, but as a whole they are very cool. They dig tunnels in the ground and cover the entrance with a door made from their web and dead leaves which can't be distinguished from the ground around when the door is closed. They are clever little architects.

Bluebe1230 karma

How do you feel about creatures that are typically portrayed as "ugly" or "evil" in the media? Ex. rats and vultures.

DaisyGriffin2 karma

For me, it comes down to their place in the ecosystem. After learning more about vultures, I actually find them very beautiful. Research them, they have some cool adaptations and are really important for clean up of carcasses.

Rats get a worse rap because they often invade human spaces. When they are in the wild they are great. Or as pets they are great...really clever creatures that are pretty personable. The evil part comes when they are wild in your home or barn. Then instead of being a healthy part of a system, they cause trouble. The problem is when the system isn't healthy a lot of people throw poison at the problem which just further decreases the health of things. I would encourage people to employ cats or snakes (even easier because you don't often see them or have to feed them) in a barn setting, or traps in the home. And yes, I have had a rat infestion and I captured every stinking one of those suckers in a live trap and then either released them veeeerrry far from habitation or fed them to a snake.

Anyways, I digress...I suppose to answer your question, I personally find beauty in most any wild creature and typically the more I learn about them the more amazing they are. Except parasitic lampreys...those things creep me out.

mckinnon30480 karma

Literally had a spider, bite the back of my leg while I'm laying in bed reading this... I thought they don't usually bite stuff unless provoked?

DaisyGriffin3 karma

Usually they don't...guess you're...um, lucky? There are always the outliers I guess.

Solid_Vape-1 karma

Why do people need to love spiders? I didn't like them, and stayed clear of them when i saw one. Probably kept me alive as a kid.

If kids "love them" they are probably more apt to try to domesticate them and get bit.

Tl;dr: fuck spiders.

DaisyGriffin9 karma

Well, I turned over every rock I could find as a kid and I still made it to adulthood intact. In fact, I've never been bitten by a spider at all.

The reason people need to love (or at least tolerate) spiders is because they play a valuable role in the ecosystem. One spider can eat about 2000 insects in a year. That's significant, and important. They are also a good food source for many birds which you might find more attractive. The reason I talk to children more often than adults is because their minds are more open to reason and they haven't already learned bad attitudes like fuck spiders.

Iamcowgod-1 karma


DaisyGriffin7 karma

Kids should love spiders because they are a part of nature and our ecosystem. There is a beautiful system in place that so many people completely miss. Kids are the ones who can most easily be pointed in the right direction. When I show a child an animal, or take them on a hike, a child will take a moment to watch the spider build it's web, or capture the fly. A child will be filled with amazement when they put together the pieces that spiders can control insect pests in a good way and a child will be filled with horror when they realize what poisons pesticides are and how they kill more than they should.

My hope is that a child that learns these things before their mind is closed off will grow up to be an adult that cares for the world we live in. It's my small contribution that keeps me from despairing about being unable to save the world we are destroying.