The Reason You Shouldn’t Kill the Spiders in Your House, According to an Entomologist

CBCK-Christine/iStock via Getty Images
CBCK-Christine/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’re not a full-blown arachnophobe, your reaction to spotting a spider skittering across your floor is probably some combination of shrieking and whacking it with the nearest shoe. Next time, you should just take a deep breath, tip your hat, and let the eight-legged critter continue on its merry way.

Though you might prefer to believe that spiders rarely find their way into your immaculately clean home, that’s almost definitely not the case. In an article for The Conversation, entomologist Matt Bertone and his colleagues at North Carolina State University surveyed 50 North Carolina homes and found spiders in every single one. The truth is, Bertone says, spiders are important to our indoor ecosystems. Since they’re generalist predators, they’ll pretty much eat anything, from the dead fly on your window sill to the mosquito that had planned to make a midnight snack out of your face. Sometimes, they’ll even eat other spiders. So whether a spider is just passing through your house or has taken up permanent residence in the upper corner of your closet, it’s definitely working for room and board.

Also, the spiders in your house likely aren’t the terrifyingly huge, mammal-devouring specimens that make great headlines. In their inventory, Bertone and his team primarily found common house spiders, like harmless cobweb spiders and cellar spiders. While most spiders are venomous, their venom often isn’t strong enough to affect you, and their fangs are often too small to pierce your skin. And if you shudder at the thought of spiders crawling over you when you’re sleeping, keep in mind that’s not likely, either—our snoring, rustling, and even plain breathing are enough to keep them from investigating further.

So remember, just because you can’t see the spiders in your home doesn’t mean they’re not there, and besides, they’re working hard to make your home an insect-free habitat for you. If you still can’t bring yourself to let one scurry away to who-knows-where, consider releasing it outside, where it can secure the perimeter from disease-carrying pests.

[h/t The Conversation]

Koalas Aren’t Bears, So Why Do People Call Them ‘Koala Bears’?

Arnaud_Martinez/iStock via Getty Images
Arnaud_Martinez/iStock via Getty Images

If you—with no prior knowledge of koalas or pouched animals in general—spotted a tree-climbing, leaf-munching, fur-covered creature in the wild, you might assume it was a small bear. That’s essentially what happened in the 18th century, and it’s the reason we still call koalas “bears” today, even when we know better.

In the late 1700s, English-speaking settlers happened upon a small animal in Australia that looked like a small, gray bear with a pouch. It was soon given the scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus, which is derived from Greek words meaning “ash-gray pouched bear.” Essentially, naturalists had named the unknown animal based on its appearance and behavior, and people didn’t realize until later that the presence of a pouch is a dead giveaway that an animal is definitely not a bear.

According to Live Science, koalas and bears both belong to the same class, Mammalia (i.e. they’re mammals). Then their taxonomic branches diverge: koalas belong to an infraclass called Marsupialia. Marsupials, unlike bears, give birth to their offspring when they’re still underdeveloped, and then carry them around in pouches. Even if koalas look just as cuddly as bear cubs, they’re much more closely related to other marsupials like kangaroos and wombats.

Over time, people adopted a name that the Aboriginal Darug people in Australia used for the animal, koala.

But bear still stuck as a modifier, and scientists never went back and replaced arctos (from arktos, Greek for bear) in its genus Phascolarctos with something more accurate. So, technically speaking, koalas are still called bears, even by scientists.

Wondering how you can help the lovable non-bears survive Australia’s wildfires? Here are 12 ideas.

[h/t Live Science]

The Reason Why Button-Down Shirts Have Loops On the Back

Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

The apparel industry has presented a number of intriguing mysteries over the years. We’ve previously covered why clothes shrink in the wash, deciphered the laundry care tags on clothes, and figured out why shorts cost as much as pants. But one enduring puzzle persists: What’s with that weird loop on the back of button-down shirts?

The loop, which is found on many dress shirts for both men and women, is a small piece of fabric that typically occupies the space between the shoulder blades, where the yoke (upper back) of the shirt meets the pleat. While it can be an excellent way to annoy someone by tugging on it, history tells us it originally had a much more pragmatic function. The loops first became popular among naval sailors, who didn’t typically have much closet or storage space available for their uniforms. To make putting away and drying their shirts easier, the loops were included so they could be hung from a hook.

The loops didn’t remain exclusive to the Navy, however. In the 1960s, clothing manufacturer GANT added what became known as a locker loop to their dress shirts so their customers—frequently Ivy League college students—could hang the shirts in their lockers without them getting wrinkled. (The loop was originally placed on the back of the collar.) Later, students repurposed the loops to communicate their relationship status. If a man’s loop was missing, it meant he was dating someone. Women adopted an apparel-related signal, too: wearing their boyfriend’s scarf to indicate they were taken.

Particularly enthusiastic partners would rip the loop off spontaneously, which became a bit of a trend in the ‘60s. At the time, women who had crushes wearing Moss brand shirts complained that their loops were so strong and secure that they couldn’t be torn off.

For people who wanted to have a loop without ruining a shirt, one mail-order company offered to send just the loops to people in the mail.

You can still find the loops on shirts today, though they don't appear to have any social significance. Should you find one that's torn, it's probably due to wear, not someone's relationship status.

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