What Can A Spider Do?

10 Fascinating Facts About Spiders

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  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Some people love them, and some hate them. Regardless of whether you’re an arachnophile (a person who loves spiders) or an arachnophobe (someone who doesn’t), you’ll find these 10 facts about spiders fascinating.

Their Bodies Have Two Parts

All spiders, from tarantulas to jumping spiders, share this common trait. The simple eyes, fangs, palps, and legs are all found on the anterior body region, called the cephalothorax. The spinnerets reside on the posterior region, called the abdomen. The unsegmented abdomen attaches to the cephalothorax by means of a narrow pedicel, giving the spider the appearance of having a waist.

Most Are Venomous

Spiders use venom to subdue their prey. The venom glands reside near the chelicerae, or fangs, and are connected to the fangs by ducts. When a spider bites its prey, muscles around the venom glands contract, pushing venom through the fangs and into the animal. Most spider venom paralyzes the prey. The spider family Uloboridae is the only known exception to this rule. Its members do not possess venom glands.

Some Even Hunt Birds

Spiders hunt and capture prey. The majority feed on other insects and other invertebrates, but some of the largest spiders may prey on vertebrates such as birds. The true spiders of the order Araneae comprise the largest group of carnivorous animals on Earth.

They Can’t Digest Solid Foods

Before a spider can eat its prey, it must turn the meal into a liquid form. The spider exudes digestive enzymes from its sucking stomach onto the victim’s body. Once the enzymes break down the tissues of the prey, the spider sucks up the liquefied remains, along with digestive enzymes. The meal then passes to the spider’s midgut, where nutrient absorption occurs.

They Produce Silk

Not only can all spiders make silk, but they can do so throughout their lifecycles. Spiders use silk for many purposes: to capture prey, protect their offspring, reproduce, and assist themselves as they move, as well as for shelter. However, not all spiders use silk in the same way.

Not All Spin Webs

Most people associate spiders with webs, but some spiders don’t construct webs at all. Wolf spiders, for example, stalk and overtake their prey, without the aid of a web. Jumping spiders, which have remarkably good eyesight and move quickly, have no need for webs, either. They simply pounce on their prey.

Male Spiders Use Special Appendages to Mate

Spiders reproduce sexually, but males use an unusual method to transfer their sperm to a mate. The male first prepares a silk bed or web, onto which he deposits sperm. He then draws the sperm into his pedipalps, a pair of appendages near his mouth, and stores the semen in a sperm duct. Once he finds a mate, he inserts his pedipalp into the female spider’s genital opening and releases his sperm.

Females Eat Males

Females are typically larger than their male counterparts. A hungry female may consume any invertebrate that comes along, including her suitors. Male spiders sometimes use courtship rituals to identify themselves as mates and not meals.

Jumping spiders, for example, perform elaborate dances from a safe distance and wait for the female’s approval before approaching. Male orb weavers (and other web-building species) position themselves on the outer edge of the female’s web, and gently pluck a thread to transmit a vibration. They wait for a sign that the female is receptive before venturing closer.

They Use Silk to Protect Their Eggs

Female spiders deposit their eggs on a bed of silk, which they prepare just after mating. Once a female produces eggs, she covers them with more silk. Egg sacs vary greatly, depending on the type of spider. Cobweb spiders make thick, watertight egg sacs, while cellar spiders use a minimum of silk to encase their eggs. Some spiders produce silk that mimics the texture and color of the substrate on which the eggs are laid, effectively camouflaging the offspring.

See also:  How Many Times Do Spiders Bite?

They Don’t Move by Muscle Alone

Spiders rely on a combination of muscle and hemolymph (blood) pressure to move their legs. Some joints in spider legs lack extensor muscles entirely. By contracting muscles in the cephalothorax, a spider can increase the hemolymph pressure in the legs, and effectively extend their legs at these joints. Jumping spiders jump using a sudden increase in hemolymph pressure that snaps the legs out and launches them into the air.


Spiders in the House — Friend or Foe?

Spiders are among the most prevalent household pests, crawling their way into two out of three American homes. At the same time, the most common creature-based phobia in the world is arachnophobia, the fear of Spiders. So, when most homeowners spot one, they tend to employ the nearest form of DIY pest control –a vacuum or shoe.

But a few fearless folks adopt a live-and-let-live motto, hoping to enjoy some of the good that Spiders do. If seeing one dangling in a web or scurrying across the floor doesn’t make you shudder, you might want to share your home with a few.

One word of caution: It’s always best to avoid touching a Spider. While they never actively seek human contact, they will bite if they feel threatened or endangered. Their venom causes reactions that differ from species to species and person to person. Symptoms of a bite may include a stinging sensation, red mark, localized swelling or an injury requiring hospitalization. Consult your doctor if you have a concern.

Before you squish the next Spider you see, consider how this eight-legged wonder might improve your life.

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3 Ways Spiders Help In the House

1. They eat pests. Spiders feed on common indoor pests, such as Roaches, Earwigs, Mosquitoes, Flies and Clothes Moths. If left alone, Spiders will consume most of the insects in your home, providing effective home pest control.

2. They kill other Spiders. When Spiders come into contact with one another, a gladiator-like competition frequently unfolds –and the winner eats the loser. If your basement hosts common Long-Legged Cellar Spiders, this is why the population occasionally shifts from numerous smaller individuals to fewer, larger ones. That Long-Legged Cellar Spider, by the way, is known to kill Black Widow Spiders, making it a powerful ally.

3. They help curtail disease spread. Spiders feast on many household pests that can transmit disease to humans –Mosquitoes, Fleas, Flies, Cockroaches and a host of other disease-carrying critters.

Seasonal Appearances

Typical house Spiders live about two years, continuing to reproduce throughout that lifespan. In general, outdoor types reproduce at some point in spring and the young slowly mature through summer. In many regions, late summer and early fall seem to be a time when Spider populations boom and they seem to be strongly prevalent indoors and out.

In reality, spring’s Spider babies have simply matured, and since they’re bigger, they’re more easily spotted. Mature males begin actively searching for mates, so they’re mobile and frequently scamper into homes.


How Spiders Work

Love ’em or hate ’em, you’ve got to admit that spiders are some pretty impressive, well-equipped animals. They have a top-notch sensor array, a built-in construction set, a heavily armored body and a highly effective venom-injection system. How many other creatures can claim that?

These remarkable adaptations have made spiders some of the most successful carnivores in history. In their 400 million years of existence, they’ve spread over every continent and mastered nearly every environment on Earth. Today, there are about 40,000 known spider species, and potentially thousands more we haven’t discovered yet. This is pretty astounding when you consider that there are only about 4,000 different species in the entire mammal kingdom.

­ In this article, we’ll find out how these unique animals spin webs, attack prey and walk straight up walls. We’ll also look at some particularly interesting spider species, including spiders that swim, spiders that jump from branch to branch and spiders that can kill a person.

Spider Basics

Spiders look a lot like insects, but they’re actually part of an entirely different class of animals, called Arachnida. Spiders make up the order Araneae within this class, which also includes mites, ticks and scorpions.

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Click on the buttons at the bottom of the image to see how spiders

fit into animal taxonomy.

While spiders vary considerably in size, shape and behavior, nearly all species share a basic set of characteristics:

  • They have eight legs, made up of seven segments each.
  • They feed primarily on insects.
  • They can inject venom into their prey.
  • They can produce silk.
  • They have a pair of small appendages on the head, called pedipalps.
  • Their bodies are divided into two sections, the cephalothorax and the abdomen, joined by the thin pedicel. The cephalothorax — a fused head and thorax — distinguishes spiders from insects, which have a separate head, thorax and abdomen.
See also:  Why Do Spiders Bite When You Sleep?

We’ll look more closely at a spider’s body parts in the next section.



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What Can A Spider Do?

Amongst the vast numbers of invertebrate animals in the Phylum Arthopoda, more than a million different kinds have bodies with three main parts—head, thorax, and abdomen. The head has eyes, antennae and mouthparts. The thorax has three pairs of legs. The entire body is protected by a tough outer covering called an exoskeleton. Animals that share these characteristics are called insects. The group to which they belong is called the Insecta.

Another, smaller, group of invertebrate animals has only two main body parts. The body consists of a combined head and thorax called the cephalothorax, and the abdomen. The cephalothorax has the eyes, mouthparts (no antennae) and four pairs of legs. Animals that share these characteristics include ticks, mites, scorpions and spiders. The group is called the Arachnida.

They have a very superficial similarity to spiders in that they have 4 pairs of legs but their legs are stilt-like and are kept bent with the body close to the ground. The daddy long-legs eats insects and other invertebrates as well as the tender gills of fungi and soft decaying matter.



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.

See also:  What Does A Daddy Long Leg Spider Look Like?

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

Related Videos

Just for fun.

  • If you were a spider, which one would you be? Find out with a CBBC quiz!
  • Make your own web with moving spider
  • How quickly can you put together a spider jigsaw puzzle?
  • Use your spider skills to catch prey in your webs!
  • ‘Build’ a spider web online.
  • Create your own spider by picking a head, body and legs.
  • Make a spider paper chain (a great Halloween decoration!)
  • Colour in lots of spider pictures
  • Make your own giant lacing spiderweb

Best books about spiders for children

Find out more about spiders

A spider glossary from the Amateur Entomologists’ Society

Incredible insects and spiders: videos for kids from Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature

News and information about spiders from the Natural History Museum in London

The artist Tomás Saracen has created an extraordinary orchestra of arachnids by using spiderwebs in his art

Watch a video to find out how spiders make a web

See for yourself

  • Spider images to examine
  • In with the Spiders at ZSL London Zoo is the UK’s first walk-through spider exhibit
  • Learn to identify sheet web spiders
  • Look through a checklist of British spiders to help you identify any you see!
  • An information leaflet about spiders in your home

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