Leading Article: Incey-Wincey in the sun

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The Independent Online
Hasn't it been amusing, upsetting all those Greenpeace types by telling them how much you are enjoying global warming? Yes, it is tough on the Maldives and things won't be terrific in Bangladesh, but more long, hot summers and balmy autumns here in Britain would be great for the tourist industry. And it was fun to see the pavements of this once rain-soaked and windswept island sprouting little wooden or plastic chairs and tables, as our whole society turned itself inside-out.

But now there is chilling news that looks set to spoil the sunshine party. The summer heat has encouraged the spread into these islands of ever larger house- spiders from further south, has bred bigger native arachnids and has sent male spiders wild with a desire that engenders many more spiders hereafter.

To cap it all, this autumn's mild spell has encouraged heedless householders to fling open doors and windows - just at the time when these hormone- maddened spiders are mate-hunting. The result? Pretty soon our basements, bathrooms and boudoirs will resound to the shrieks of horrified arachnophobes.

Unlike garden spiders with their nice colours, pretty webs and generally predictable behaviour, or bird-eating spiders with their endearing habit of living abroad and terrifying foreigners, the British house-spider seems to have been created for the express purpose of discountenancing innocent British people. Though it is claimed that they prey on pests (such as house-flies), they seem to prefer just hanging out in fly-free places (such as the bath), or going for long, leisurely nocturnal rambles over duvets, up pillows and through hair. And they seem to know exactly who, in any house, is most susceptible to their company.

So, as the year draws to its close, mild arachnophobes will be sending off to mail-order firms for those strange spider-trappers on the end of a pole - and then pestering their spouses to use them. Those with greater fear will be consulting the small army of phobia counsellors who, through hypnotism, aversion therapy (gradual exposure to ever-larger and more hideous spiders) and even "virtual reality", attempt to overcome irrational terror.

However, these can only be stop-gap solutions. Either the causes of the phobia itself must be discovered and dealt with - or the conditions that give rise to all these unnecessary spiders must be reversed. If, as one scientist at Bristol University believes, our fear is chemically caused, then the day may arrive when a couple of Achno-fen taken last thing at night will do the trick.

Until then, by far the simplest course of action is to campaign for a reduction in the emission of the greenhouse gases that are giving rise to global warming - and to huge, horrible spiders.