Spiders are insects

At least according to the United States Court of Appeal for the 11th District (Alabama, Florida, and Georgia}

A couple in Alabama made a claim on their homeowner’s insurance because their home was “infested” with brown recluse spiders.* The insurance company denied coverage because the policy excluded loss due to “birds, vermin, rodents, or insects”. The couple sued, arguing that spiders aren’t insects – and lost, and then lost again on appeal. So, legally, it seems that (at least in the jurisdiction of the 11th Circuit, viz. , Alabama, Florida, and Georgia**), spiders are insects.

Words fail me. I would never call a spider an insect! :grimacing:

Or vermin.

Or birds, or rodents.

Both spiders and insects are bugs, but spiders are not insects. That insurance company got hosed, and I wholeheartedly endorse the concept of insurance companies getting hosed.

The insurance company won. By getting spiders to be legally defined as “insects” (and also as “vermin”) the insurance company was able to deny coverage of the claim.

The tomato is a “vegetable”. (This is really silly, of course.)

Spiders are vermin, clearly. There is no one definition that is agreed on for “vermin” if you try to look it up in various dictionaries, with the general idea of it being any animal (or by extension, person, though that doesn’t apply here)) that does something you don’t want it to do and it’s hard to get it to stop. They probably wouldn’t have needed to go to court if they just said “Vermin” and then separately defined Vermin in the way I just did, since it would cover any possible case that was required.

No. While the term bugs is often used to describe any small animal which has too many legs, it actually has a specific meaning. It means an insect that belongs to the order Hemiptera. This does not include insects like ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, cockroaches, fleas, grasshoppers, hornets, houseflies, mosquitoes, and moths. And obviously it doesn’t include arachnids or myriapods, which aren’t even insects.

“Bugs” may have a specific meaning to a biologist, but not in a general English dictionary. Sure, they will mention the biological definition (“true bugs”) but they don’t limit themselves to it.

1b: any of various small arthropods (such as a beetle or spider) resembling the true bugs

  1. (loosely) any insect or insectlike invertebrate.

Lady Bugs are insects and they are cute. Spiders are retched spawns of Satan that threaten to rappel down gossamer strands of web from the ceiling into my open mouth each and every night as I sleep. They are different animals.

But in a war, they’ll side with the insects.

Perhaps the mosquitoes and stink bugs will side with the spiders, but the Lady Bugs and butterflies will side with me. Roaches are mercenary and will go with the highest bidder.

Can’t the same argument be made about the word insect? It seems inconsistent to insist on the precise meaning of one word while accepting the colloquial meaning of the other.

Doh! Quite right.

It certainly can. Have I said anything that’s opposed to that idea? I would laugh at someone who would make an argument in court that spider damage is not covered because the policy specified only insect damage. Such an argument might theoretically work in the case of an enclosure that is used for only insects, and thus any damage caused by the occupants might be covered (but not anything else), but in general when words are undefined in a contract they will tend to have meanings that are most widely recognized and not technical at all.

I still say it would have been better in this case to provide a more suitable definition in the contract that definitely included any animal that theoretically might do damage because it definitely wouldn’t have ended up in court.

Spiders are not bugs. Bugs have a hard shell, like a beetle or a lady bug.

Dave Barry resolved this debate long ago by providing this scientific definition of the three biological characteristics of any insect:

  1. It has way more legs than necessary.
  2. There is no way you would ever pet it.
  3. It does not respond to simple commands such as “here, boy!”

He was using it to make the correct point that lobsters are insects and therefore disgusting, but so are spiders. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I suspect that if the Alabama couple’s policy had included the possibility of compensation if they experienced loss due to “birds, vermin, rodents, or insects”, the insurance company would have won by proving that spiders were not insects.

Thank you. I knew this when I was a kid, working on my Junior Stickler merit badge.

Ladybugs aren’t really bugs, butterflies aren’t really flies, and guinea pigs aren’t really pigs.

They’re Vermin. Case dismisssed.

Vermin is a sort of catch-all for pesky critters. Insects can cause catastrophic damage to a structure (carpenter ants, termites, etc.). Varmints are primarily annoying and may or may not cause damage. Weasels & skunks & opossums (I worked a claim once where a pair of opossums had a fight to the death in a bathroom vent duct. Homeowner became suspicious when she saw blood dripping from the vent), for instance, can render a house uninhabitable in fairly short order. I believe the court’s decision makes more sense if one considers the brown recluse infestation to fall under “vermin”. Further, an argument can be made that varmint control is more of a maintenance issue like a relentlessly growing lawn because you can see them, and because they’re not damaging the structure someone may tolerate them, naively, for a while.

The confusing part of this story is why the homeowners filed a claim for the spiders being there. Everybody knows that any house infested with spiders will spontaneously combust, and fire is definitely a covered insurance peril.