ZEELAND, Mich. — Arachnophobia.
It's the fear of spiders, and it affects about 6.1% of the global population. Scientists have been 'bugged' forever trying to figure out why spiders are so terror-inducing to some.
The most effective treatment for Arachnophobia is a technique called exposure therapy, which forces those with a fear of spiders to get up close and personal with them and allow them to crawl on you.
A Zeeland man has no fear of spiders. In fact, he's spent the last 60 years capturing, befriending and studying them, with the hopes of one day proving to everyone that there's no reason to be afraid.
"I'm more of a spider behaviorist," said Bob McAndrews, 69, who runs a YouTube channel entitled, Bob the Spider Hunter. "To be accurate in identifying a spider, you really need to take a look at them under a microscope."
McAndrews says his fascination with spiders began when he was 8 years old.
"My friends and I would go to area fields and prairies, take our mason jars, and whoever caught the most spiders in one hour was the winner and everybody had to treat that person to candy and a pop at the corner store," said McAndrews. "That was our pastime on a Saturday morning."
Skip ahead six decades and he still hunts spiders even when he should be spending quality time with his loved ones.
"When my wife and I go vacationing, she'll enjoy the resorts' luxuries while I'm out back hunting spiders," said McAndrews. "You don't have to go any further than eight or 12 feet and you're within the vicinity of a spider."
McAndrews spends a lot of time going to parks and heavily wooded areas near his home to hunt for spiders. He brings a video camera and a tripod with him so he can record himself during his spider hunts then upload his videos to his YouTube channel.
When he finds unique types of spiders, he captures them and brings them home to study. He takes clear bowls and jars and recreates each spider's natural habitat so they can survive while he studies their behaviors. Once he's done, he'll take the spiders back to the exact spot he found them and set them free.
"Not many people are excited about spiders, but I think they're fascinating because there are so many kinds," said McAndrews. "There's like 6,000 different kinds of jumping spiders alone."
McAndrews says people fear spiders because they think they're going to get bit by them.
"The truth is, you can hold a Black Widow [spider] all day and it won't bite you," McAndrews added. "Spiders have no reason to bite you.
"You're just something to crawl on."
He says one of the more unique spiders in Michigan is the Six Spotted Fishing Spider.
"That spider is known to be a good sailor," said McAndrews. "They lower their front legs and put their head down to the water then they stick their abdomen up so they can use it like a sail.
"When a breeze comes, they can fly across a pond like nobody's business."
Through his public presentations and the content on his YouTube channel, McAndrews says his ultimate goal is to help people get over their fear of spiders.
"They're just another living creature we're sharing the Earth with," said McAndrews. "Spiders get a bad wrap."
While he's seen and studied thousands of different spider species over the past half-century, there's still a "holy grail" spider in the world that he hasn't seen with his own eyes, but desperately wants to.
"I really want to see the Peacock spider, but it can only be found in Australia," said McAndrews. "I don't see myself getting there anytime soon."
He says he will continue to hunt spiders until he physically can't anymore.
"The more you learn about spiders, the more you realize there's so much more to know and be learned," added McAndrews. "I'll never learn enough about them."
Multiple studies suggest that only 0.01% of the 40,000 spider species in the world are actually dangerous to humans.
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