Important Features of Spider Biology, Spiders: Learning More About Spider Biology

Spiders: Learning More About Spider Biology

How do spiders differ from insects?

Spiders are characterized by:

  • Two body parts
  • Eight legs
  • Chelicerae or fangs
  • No wings
  • No antennae

Insects are characterized by:

  • Three body parts
  • Six legs
  • Mandibles
  • Wings
  • Antennae

What traits are typical of spiders?
Silk, pedipalps, external digestion, poison glands

Where are spiders found?
Everywhere but the ocean, and Antarctica

What do spiders eat?
All spiders are predators. Do not eat plants but other living animals.

  • Insects
  • Spiders
  • Invertebrates
  • Some small vertebrates.

How do they eat?
Venom to kill or paralyze prey from hole in fangs (chelicerae), external digestion with digestive enzymes acting outside of body to liquify prey.

How do they grow?
Exoskeleton (external skeleton) must be shed or moulted. Moulting is a very important and risky part of life for spiders.

How does silk work?
Silk is strong but flexible. Webs are enlargements of the spider’s sensory system. Slows down & entangles prey. Mechanics of the orb web.

How do spiders have sex?
Carefully! Females will sometimes eat the male. Male’s anatomy and courtship behavior adapted to surviving mating. Spiders have unique anatomy for internal fertilization.

Are many spiders poisonous to humans?
No! Most are too small to bite through skin, venom not adapted to humans, too little venom, not in same place as humans. All bites have 2 fang marks. In US, only four groups are poisonous:

  • Black widow
  • Brown recluse
  • Hobo spider
  • Yellow sac spider*.

What is closely related to spiders?
Spiders are arachnids. Other arachnids are scorpions, whip scorpions or vinegaroons, tailless whip scorpions, harvestmen or daddy-long-legs, mites/ ticks, solfugids or ‘sun spiders’, and pseudoscorpions. The closest relative of the arachnids are horseshoe crabs – count their legs, body parts, and look at their chelicerae.

Mouse Spider

Mouse Spiders are spiders of the genus Missulena. There are 11 known species in this genus, all but one of which are widespread across mainland Australia. Mouse Spiders can be found in both coastal and drier habitats, however, they do not occur in tropical rainforests. One species, Missulena tussulena, is found in Chile.

Mouse Spiders are a kind of Trapdoor spider and sometimes mistaken for Funnel Web spiders.

Mouse Spider Characteristics

Mouse Spiders are medium to large spiders, which range in length from 1 centimetre to 3 centimetres. Female Mouse Spiders are usually 3 centimetres long whereas males are smaller at around 2 centimetres long.

Male Mouse Spiders have longer legs and long palps (an elongated, often segmented appendage usually found near the mouth in invertebrates used for sensation, locomotion, and feeding) which look like an extra pair of legs. Mouse Spiders are either black or brown in colour with short, stocky, thick legs. Their carapace is glossy and they have high, broad heads, with eyes spread out across the front of the head.

Mouse Spiders have short spinnerets, located in the rear of the abdomen. Mouse spiders exhibit sexual dimorphism, with female spiders being all black and male spiders having species-specific colouration. The male Eastern mouse spider (Missulena bradleyi) have a bluish patch and the male Red-headed mouse spider (Missulena occatoria) are brownish in colour, with red-tinged jaws.

Mouse Spider Habitat and Spider Webs

Mouse spiders are part of the Gondwanaland fauna (southern super continent) this is because most are residents of Australia, although one species is found in Chile and another near relative is found in South America.

Mouse spiders live in burrows in soil covered with a hinged top known as the trapdoor. Mouse spider burrows can extend to the depth of 30 centimetres (12 inches). The burrow provides a refuge from predators, parasites, low humidity and high temperatures. Male Mouse spiders will often wander from the burrow in search of mates, however, the females will remain inside the burrows spending most of her life in there unless accidentally dug up.

Mouse Spider Diet

Mouse spiders prey mainly on insects though they may consume other small animals as opportunity presents. Mouse spiders feed by lunging at prey passing the burrow entrance. The primary predators of the mouse spider include wasps, bandicoots, centipedes and scorpions.

Mouse Spider Venom

Both male and female Mouse spiders have very large fangs and fang bases. Mouse spiders are aggressive spiders and will bite if provoked. However, only several of the species have been found to produce serious symptoms similar to those by the Funnel Web spider. Unlike the funnel-web, however, the mouse spider is far less aggressive towards humans (unless provoked) and may often give ‘dry’ bites.

Mouse Spider Reproduction

Males reach sexual maturity at about 4 years. Mouse spiders leave their shallow burrows during the breeding season to find a mate. They are unusual in that their wandering behaviour occurs during the day, unlike other mygalomorph spiders, whose males are night wanderers. Mating usually takes place within the females burrow. The female Mouse spider lays 60 or more eggs within an egg sac that she places into a brood chamber off the main shaft of her burrow. The spiderlings hatch from the egg sac over summer and remain with the mother into autumn when dispersal occurs.

The spiderlings of the Red-headed Mouse Spider disperse by ballooning, a technique that is rare in mygalomorphs. This explains the relatively wide distribution of Red-headed Mouse Spiders compared to other mygalomorph species, including the Eastern Mouse Spider, which probably disperses on the ground.

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What are spiders?

Spiders are arthropods that have eight legs. They have more legs and different body parts than insects, and they also don’t move around in the same way insects do.

Spiders are in the arachnid class, but not all arachnids are spiders.

There are about 40,000 known species of spiders. Most spiders use a web to catch their prey, which is usually insects.

The largest spider is the Goliath tarantula, and they can catch birds. The smallest spider in the world is less than 1mm long!

Top 10 facts

  1. Spiders are arthropods, like insects – they have an exoskeleton that is on the outside of their body instead of the inside (unlike humans).
  2. There are around 40,000 known species of spiders.
  3. There are a few main differences between spiders and insects, and one of these is the number of legs – all spiders have eight legs.
  4. Spider bodies are made up of two main parts – the cephalothorax and the abdomen.
  5. Spiders create silk from spinneret glands in their abdomen.
  6. Spider silk is extremely strong, and has a number of different uses.
  7. One of the ways spiders use silk is to create webs, which catch prey.
  8. There are a few different kinds of spider webs, such as orbs, funnels and sheets.
  9. Not all spiders catch their prey in webs – some hide and wait for insects to come by.
  10. Spiders lay eggs, and store them in an egg sac to keep them safe.

Did you know?

  • In the UK, there has never been a recorded death from a spider bite.
  • It takes a spider about an hour to build a web, and they usually build a new one every day.
  • Not all spiders catch their food in webs. For instance, the wolf spider makes a hole in the ground, and waits inside for prey to come near before catching them.
  • The largest spiders are tarantulas, and the largest tarantula is the Goliath tarantula.
  • The smallest spider in the world is the Patu marplesi, and it was found in Samoa (in the South Pacific Ocean).
  • Even though spiders have eight eyes, most of them can’t see very well – they rely on what they feel in order to know when they’ve caught prey in their webs.
  • The average human adult is over a 250,000 times heavier than a spider by weight!
  • Most spiders that build webs are called orb-weaver spiders – this is because the web is a round spiral.
  • Not all webs are made in the spiral shape that we see most often. Some spiders build webs in tube shapes, funnel shapes, or in dense sheets.

Spider image gallery:

  • Wolf spider
  • Jumping spider
  • A spider sitting in the middle of its web
  • An orb web
  • A funnel web
  • A tangle web
  • A sheet web
  • A close-up of a spider’s eyes
  • The tiny hairs on spiders’ legs that help them sense movement
  • A spider egg sac
  • Drawing of parts of a spider leg
  • Drawing of a spider’s body



There are around 40,000 species of spiders, and all but one of those species is carnivorous – this means that they eat other living insects and animals in order to survive.

Spiders are athropods, and they have exoskeletons. Their bodies are made up of two main parts – a cephalothorax and an abdomen. Most spiders have four pairs of eyes on their cephalothorax.

Whichever kind of web spiders make, they do so by producing silk. This comes from spinneret glands on their abdomen, and each gland produces a different kind of silk – some sticky, some fine, and some for building different parts of a web. Spider silk is very strong – it needs to be, in order to trap prey and keep baby spiders safe. Tarantulas can also produce silk from their feet.

When a spider lays eggs, she stores them in a sac that she makes from a kind of silk. She then attaches this to a web or in a nest to keep it safe, or carries it around with her. Wolf spiders carry their egg sacs, and when they hatch the spiderlings (baby spiders) sit on their mum’s back.

Some young spiders and smaller spiders will use their silk to help them travel around by floating in the air – this is called ballooning. They shoot off some silk that catches in the wind, helping them drift to a new home.

Spiders catch prey by either jumping up and attacking it, or by making a web with sticky silk – insects, and sometimes birds get caught in the webs and can’t get out again. Most spiders have poor eyesight, but they can sense that something’s caught in their web by feeling it move. They trap their prey in a cocoon of silk, and then inject poison into it.

Spiders don’t try to go after humans, but they may bit someone if they are trying to defend themselves. While spider bites are poisonous, some of them affect humans about as much as getting bitten by a mosquito or a stung by a bee. We like spiders because they catch insects that can hurt us, such as wasps.

Being afraid of spiders is called arachnophobia (a ‘phobia’ is a fear). It’s the most common fear that people have, but spiders shouldn’t be so scary. In the UK, nobody has ever died because they were bitten by a spider.

Words to know:

Abdomen – the back part of a spider’s body, where the spinneret glands are
Arachnid – the class that spiders are in (not all spiders are arachnids)
Cephalothorax – the front part of a spider’s body, where their head and eyes are
Exoskeleton – a skeleton that is outside a body instead of inside (which is called an endoskeleton)
Sac – the round ball that spider mums make to hold their eggs in
Spinnerets – the glands that produce silk for spinning webs, catching prey and protecting eggs

House Spiders

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

House spiders occur throughout the world and have derived their name from their presence inside human dwellings. A number of species are classified as house spiders, although the common house spider is the most recognized. These arachnids are also sometimes referred to as American house spiders.


  • Size: Female common house spiders measure 5 to 8 mm in length, while males measure only 4 mm.
  • Color: Common house spiders are typically brown or gray in color, with darker chevron markings along their bodies.
  • Body: A house spider’s body is divided into the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Like scorpions, mites and ticks, house spiders are wingless.
  • Eyes: Eight, single-lens eyes
See also:  Woodlice in house, Mumsnet

House Spider Illustration

How Did I Get Common House Spiders?

Common house spiders invade homes while searching for warmth and food. They feed on small insects and love hiding inside cluttered rooms or other rarely used spaces.

Window cracks and open doors provide easy entry points, but spiders often sneak in through small holes in walls or floors.

Where do they live?

Common house spiders are abundant in dark or musty areas, such as basements, crawlspaces, attics, and closets.

How Serious Are Common House Spiders?

In general, a common house spider is harmless to humans. However, the mere sight of a spider is enough to startle most people and cause unease. Their messy webs also create the need for extra cleaning.

What Can I Do About House Spiders?

The Orkin Man™ is trained to help manage house spiders. Since every home is different, the Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Keeping house spiders out of your home is an ongoing process, not a one-time treatment. Orkin’s exclusive A.I.M. solution is a continuing cycle of three critical steps—Assess, Implement and Monitor.

The Orkin Man™ can provide the right solution to keep house spiders in their place. out of your home.


House spider webs are irregularly shaped and can be located in various places within a home, including windows, ceiling corners and above or beneath fixtures.

Webs are designed as trapping mechanisms and are funnel-shaped, with the narrow end acting as a den for the arachnid. Any contact made with the web produces vibrations throughout the strand, signaling to the common house spider that prey is present. Although common house spiders feed primarily on insects, they may also consume larger spiders, scorpions, rodents and small reptiles.


The presence of common house spiders is typically characterized by the formation of cobwebs. These silken thread structures can be found throughout infested homes. This abundance of empty webs is caused by the common house spider’s propensity to spin webs in various locations until it finds the most suitable place to catch prey.

Signs of a House Spider

Signs of house spider infestations include the spider and their webs.

A couple demolished their house and covered the remnants in a joke: ‘Got the spider’

  • A couple demolished their home in Renner, South Dakota.
  • They decided to spraypaint the remains with a joke: «Got the spider!»
  • A random passerby snapped a picture of the house and shared it on Facebook, where it went viral.
  • Jeff Hopkins, who used to live in the house, told the Argus Leader he and Dawn Cronk didn’t think anyone would notice.
  • People did. They think it is funny.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Don’t underestimate people when they say they’re scared of spiders. A couple living in South Dakota joked that the fear took over when they demolished their second home earlier this week, Jeff Hopkins and Dawn Cronk told the Argus Leader.

After they took down the property in Renner, South Dakota, the couple purchased a can of spray paint and left a joke on the remnants of the house.

«Got the spider,» they scrawled on the house’s roof in large letters last Monday.

«I didn’t think anybody would really notice,» Hopkins, 51, said. «We did it just to make us laugh.»

But someone did notice. The next day, Tuesday, July 16, Joshua Bohl drove past the home and it caught his eye. He snapped a picture and posted it on Facebook.

» Seen this in Renner today,» he wrote.

Bohl’s picture has been shared over 60,000 times and has even been shared to Reddit on the subreddit r/Funny.

Cronk, 49, told the Argus Leader that it’s not just Bohl or the internet at large taking notice. She said people have been slowing down when they drive past the site to get a closer look.

«It made somebody smile for a day,» Cronk said. «It made somebody stop and giggle for a few minutes and remember that life doesn’t always have to be a hustle and bustle. To me, it’s a blessing, because we made somebody smile and laugh about it.»

Hopkins told the Argus Leader that they demolished the house so their grandchildren will have more space to play outside.

Creepy, Crawly & Incredible: Photos of Spiders

Eight-Legged Friends

For many of us, spiders inspire terror, or a stomp of a foot. But if they weren’t around, we would miss these eight-legged creatures, which share every continent except Antarctica with us. According to one estimate, spiders on one acre of woodland alon» onerror=»if(this.src && this.src.indexOf(‘missing-image.svg’) !== -1);this.parentNode.replaceChild(window.missingImage(),this)» sizes=»(min-width: 1000px) 602px, calc(100vw — 40px)» data-normal=»» data-srcset=» 320w, 650w, 970w» data-original-mos=»» data-pin-media=»»>

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

For many of us, spiders inspire terror, or a stomp of a foot. But if they weren’t around, we would miss these eight-legged creatures, which share every continent except Antarctica with us. According to one estimate, spiders on one acre of woodland alone consume more than 80 pounds of insects a year. They are also diverse: Some care for their young; some eat snakes, mice and birds; some are brightly colored. An exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, July 28 to Dec. 2, 2012, explores the diversity and the science of spiders.

Above, a Mexican red knee spider, a type of tarantula that lives mainly on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Trapdoor Spider

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

A trapdoor spider, Liphistius dangrek. These spiders spend most of their time in underground burrows, emerging mainly to grab prey. Their rear half is segmented, a trait visible in some of the earliest spider fossils.

Spider in Limestone

(Image credit: © AMNHD. Grimaldi)

This is a rare 100-million-year-old fossil of a spider in limestone. Spiders do not preserve well in sediment because they have a relatively soft “shell” or exoskeleton. For every 1,000 or so insect fossils found, there’s only one spider.

Spider Preserved in Amber

(Image credit: © AMNHD. Grimaldi)

This spider was trapped in tree resin about 20 million years ago. Over, time the resin fossilized into amber, preserving the animal inside.

Western Black Widow

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

A western black widow, Latrodectus Hesperus. One of the few species harmful to people in North America, a black widow often features a red hourglass shape on its underside.

See also:  Do Bed Bug Bites Itch, Terminix

Brown Recluse

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

A brown recluse, Loxosceles reclusa. This spider is identified by a dark, violin-shaped mark on its head. Its venom can cause a deep wound in humans that takes weeks or even months to heal and can produce symptoms such as nausea and a fever.

Desert Hairy Scorpion

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

A desert hairy scorpion, Hadrurus arizonensis. Scorpions are not spiders, but they are members of the Aracnida class. This is largest scorpion in North America, reaching up to 7 inches (18 centimeters), this animal beats the daytime heat of its desert home in burrows and hunts in the evening, feeding on insects, spiders, lizards, and even an occasional small mammal.

Tailless Whip Scorpion

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

A tailless whip scorpion, Phrynus marginemaculatus. Not actually a scorpion, this arachnid waves its first pair of legs around to feel its way. A tailless whip scorpion makes a cameo appearance in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in which one character wrongly suggests that its bite is lethal.

Gooty Sapphire Ornamental Spider

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

A gooty sapphire ornamental spider, Poecilotheria metallica, shown from above.

Gooty Sapphire Ornamental Spider

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

A gooty sapphire ornamental spider seen from below.

Golden Orb-Web Spider

(Image credit: © AMNHR. Mickens)

A golden orb-web spider, Nephila pilipes. Found throughout parts of Asia, this large spider has yellow on its abdomen and spins a golden web.

A photo guide to my favorite spiders

By Martin «The Spider-Hunter» Nicholas

From the time I was about 5, I would spend my summer vacations walking along the hedgerows in southern England looking for spiders. These days, I take expeditions looking for rare spiders in the most remote jungles on Earth.

In truth, I get the same buzz of excitement now as I did way back then. That’s why I do it!

And I do it for these guys, my favorite spiders:


Avicularia Avicularia

Lives: Amazon rain forest, South America

Legspan: Up to 6 inches

Body length: Up to 2 1/2 inches

Dangerous to humans? No

A tree-living tarantula that makes silk tubes in leaves. It eats anything of suitable size, including large insects, frogs, even small bats and birds. When disturbed, pink toes throw themselves into the air and “parachute” to the ground on their long hairy legs. Then they simply climb up another tree and start over. If they land on water, they float and just paddle themselves to dry land. Pink toes are probably the most successful tarantula family on earth. They are docile, gentle spiders that I love to handle and watch.


Salticidae sp.

Lives: Worldwide

Legspan: 1 inch or smaller

Body length: 3/8 inch or smaller

Dangerous to humans? No

Fascinating little hunters that have the best eyesight (for their size) of any animal on Earth. Brightly colored with complex mating displays, jumping spiders hunt during the day and catch their prey by jumping on it from as far as 12 times their own body length away. Beautiful, intelligent little arachnids (spiders) that even arachnophobes (people afraid of said spiders) don’t freak-out too much at.


Pamphobeteus sp.

Lives: Amazon River headwaters, Southeastern Peru

Legspan: 10 inches

Body length: 4 inches

Dangerous to humans? Bites likely to be painful but not fatal

One of the largest and heaviest in the world. Very unusual in that it lives in large groups of a mother and her young or “spiderlings.” (Most spiders live alone.) The chicken spider has also been known to share its burrow with a small frog. We think the frog eats parasites such as ticks and mites or insects such as ants that could bother the spider. In return, the frog gets protection from a spider with one-inch-long fangs! A spectacular species, from a spectacular forest.


Pamphobeteus sp.

Lives: Tropics worldwide

Legspan: 4 inches

Body length: 2 inches

Dangerous to humans: No

Here is a spider that has given up just sitting on a web. This species builds one and uses it like a fishing net. It holds the web in its long legs and hangs upside-down over a branch or log waiting for an insect to walk past. It then throws its net over the insect, gathers it up and eats at its leisure. This extraordinary way of catching prey is unique to the net-caster and has to be seen to be believed!


Lampropelma sp.

Lives: Kalimantan, Indonesia

Legspan: 7 inches

Body length: 3 inches

Dangerous to humans? Unknown

This spider will always hold a special place for me, as it is a new species, unknown to science when I found it in the dense jungle of Eastern Borneo. It is a large, black tarantula-type spider with a pattern of orange hairs on the carapace (back). It lives in deep burrows lined with silk. At night, it stands at the mouth of its burrow waiting for an insect or small lizard to come close. I still remember the rush of seeing this beast for the first time, at night, in the beam of my flashlight.


Theraphosa blondi

Lives: Northeastern South America

Legspan: 12 inches

Body length: 4 inches

Dangerous to humans? Bites very painful but not fatal

It is impossible to make a list of favorite spiders without mentioning the “daddy” of them all, goliath, the largest arachnid on the planet. It is plain, chestnut-brown in color and has a real nasty attitude — it hisses, it kicks irritating hairs at you and will bite if you provoke it. But when you see this monster up close there is only one word to describe it — awesome!


Ordgarius magnificus

Lives: Australia

Legspan: 10 inches

Body length: 4 inches

Dangerous to humans? No

Another spider that gave up just sitting on webs to go fishing. But this one is a hook-and-line sort of guy, not a net-man. The spider spins a line of silk and puts a drop of sticky glue on the end. Then, the clever part: It produces a chemical that male moths find irresistible.

It waits for them to fly close and swings its fishing line in circles. Eventually the line catches a moth with the sticky end, and the spider just reels in its catch. Truly, one of the wonders of the natural world.

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