Recently, the local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) put a halt on a spider game called “Gagambattle” from being staged by the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) of Barangay Sicsican on the simple premise that they are living creatures and are important to the ecosystem.

Spider fighting has been part of many Filipino children’s afternoons looking through bushes and banana leaves hoping to find the next worthy, or in this case, unfortunate contender.

The arachnids are made to clash with each other from opposite ends of a stick usually from the dried midrib of a coconut leaf or a twig.

Usually, the derby ends when a spider paralyzes its opponent.

So, where exactly in the circle of life does spider fighting on a stick would fall into?

The truth about spiders

The great evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane once wrote of “our Creator” that he “would appear as endowed with a passion for beetles for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals.”

If the Creator has a fondness for beetles, one might realize His fondness with spiders as there are very, very many of them.

A pair of biological researchers, Martin Nyffeler at the University of Basel in Switzerland and Klaus Birkhofer of Lund University in Sweden, recently published some fascinating findings involving the biomass of spiders.

After four decades of data-gathering, the pair had enough information to work out how much the eight-legged creatures consumed.

As we know, spiders prey largely on insects, but it does happen sometimes that spiders eat lizards, fish, birds, and even small mammals.

Add up all the spiders in the world, they would collectively weigh 29 million tons – hunting and eating between 400 million and 800 million tonnes of insect prey annually.But these numbers are not meant to terrify anyone, the scientists hope their study will raise awareness of the importance of spiders in the global food web.

“Spiders kill large numbers of herbivorous insects – and by doing so they help to protect the plants from herbivore damage,” said Dr Nyffeler.

“They serve as food for thousands of arthropod-eating animals – an estimated 8,000-10,000 specialized insect species and many passerine birds (an estimated 3,000-5,000 species) feed on spiders.”

The importance of spiders

DENR said that the spiders are part of the ecosystem and should not be caught.

The cancellation of this spider fight may still be in an infantile stage but allowing it to go mainstream not only promotes gambling among the youth but will also encourage rampant collection that could threaten the arachnid population in the wild.

Children should not be taught the notion that it’s okay for spiders to go and murder each other while they have fun, and not realize their important role in the web of life.

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