Kids' Environmental Report Card: Spiders

These are tough times for eight-legged spiders and their two-legged fans. In the recent Environmental Report Card poll, as many kids thought spiders were "icky"" as those who thought they were "important." Only a small group — about one in eight — felt spiders were "cool."

What should be done to improve the spider's image? Perhaps getting to know them better will help.

Some Spider Facts

About 34,000 species of spiders are known to science. However, some spider experts (called arachnologists) estimate that as many as 170,000 kinds of spiders have yet to be discovered by future scientists.

All spiders are carnivores. Most eat insects and some feed on other, smaller spiders. They rarely bite people and only a few (including the Brazilian wandering spider and Australian venomous funnel-weaving spider) are truly lethal. Arachnologists believe that 98 to 99 percent of all spider bites are harmless to humans.

We cause a lot more trouble for spiders than they do for us, according to Dr. Michael L. Draney of the Colfrin Center for Biodiversity at the University of Washington at Green Bay. "Spider species are threatened by loss of habitat caused by human development, resource extraction, and agricultural activities," he writes.

The effects of pollution, acid rain, and human-caused climate change also threaten the world's spiders.

How "icky" is that?