8 Unusual Facts About Spiders

Updated on June 19, 2013
The eight eyes of the jumping spider.
The eight eyes of the jumping spider. | Source

How Many Eyes Do Spiders Have?

It depends on the spider! Some have up to 4 pairs of eyes, others have only 3 or 2 pairs. They are not compound eyes, like insects have and usually only one can form good images. The other eyes are only capable of detecting the direction from which the light is coming.

In the minds of most people spiders are dumped in the same set as other creepy crawlies, but they are not insects. They belong to the family of arachnids and are related to mites, scorpions and ticks

Spiders can be easily distinguished from insects because they have eight legs rather than six.

Spiders are the most numerous group of arachnids with 40,000 different species identified.

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Spiders Digest Their Food Before Eating

Spiders cannot eat solid food. Instead they inject, or cover their prey with digestive enzymes, and wait for it to turn into a nutrient broth and then suck it up using their pharynx.

Once inside their stomachs the broth is digested further and nutrients are absorbed.

The female Southern black widow is up to 1.5" in length and has a characteristic red hourglass marking on its abdomen.  This species in found in the Southeastern US.
The female Southern black widow is up to 1.5" in length and has a characteristic red hourglass marking on its abdomen. This species in found in the Southeastern US. | Source
The Brazilian wandering spider, P. nigriventer,  might be the most venomous spider.
The Brazilian wandering spider, P. nigriventer, might be the most venomous spider. | Source

Most Spiders are Venomous

The vast majority of spiders produce neurotoxic venom with which they paralyse their prey. They have a pair of fangs, known as chelicerae, which are connected to a toxin gland. When the fangs stab their prey, they act as needles, injecting it with venom.

Most spider bites are no more dangerous to humans than a bee sting. In fact most spiders are too small, and their fangs too short to penetrate human skin. Of the 40,000 species, only about 200 have bites that are venomous to humans. In the US the most dangerous spiders are the black widow and the brown recluse spider.

Both species are actually very shy and they would much rather hide from humans than attack them. Unfortunately their hiding places can sometimes include places where a human will disturb them and they will bite in self defence.

Overall there are about 100 recorded deaths from spider bites in the last century. When you think of all the people who have died from other causes, this really represents a very small number.

The black widow spider venom is neurotoxic. It results in the release of excessive acetylcholine, norepinephrine and GABA neurotransmitters which prevent muscle relaxation. The venom initially causes severe pain around the bite area, but rapidly enters the circulatory system and affects muscles around the body, causing severe cramps. Complications can include severe kidney failure, heart problems or paralysis, but they are rare.

In contrast the bite of the brown recluse spider generally doesn't hurt. However the venom contains tissue destroying toxins, which lead to necrotic lesions, which leave scars even if they heal. There is no definitive treatment for the bites. It is thought that many lesions that are attributed to the bite of this spider, are in fact caused by other factors.

It is hard to definitely identify the most venomous spider. In 2010 the Guinness Book of Records bestowed that doubtful honour on the Brazylian wnadering spider found throughout South America. Its venom is definitely potentially deadly, it works by blocking calcium channels, leading to paralysis and possible asphyxiation.

However there is an effective antivenom against the spider, and experts believe that it often delivers dry bites, in which it doesn't inject venom, or only injects a small amount of venom. However, bites in which the spider injects a full does of its toxin are certainly very dangerous.

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A gold weaver spider on its orb webA sheet weaver spider's web.
A gold weaver spider on its orb web
A gold weaver spider on its orb web | Source
A sheet weaver spider's web.
A sheet weaver spider's web. | Source

All Spiders Produce Silk

All spiders have spinnerets on their abdomen (tummy) which produce silk. Each spinneret has numerous spigots, each of which is connected to a silk gland.

Spider silk is made mainly of protein. It has a similar tensile strength to nylon but is much more elastic so can be stretched very far before breaking. The silk is first liquid but then solidifies as it is stretched.

A spider can produce different types of silk, which have different functions. Some threads can be covered with glue droplets which helps trap insect prey.

The most familiar use for spider silk is the big orb-shaped webs that they use to catch their prey. However only some spiders are orb weavers. Other spiders construct funnel webs, or horizontal sheets with a few upwards-extending threads. An insect is caught by the thread, and shaken into the web below where it becomes entrapped.

Only some spiders use their silk to trap prey. Others like the trapdoor spider and tarantulas are ambush predators.

Spiders use their silk for many other purposes, including building shelter, encasing prey to immobilise it, protecting their egg capsules, and building parachutes and aqualungs.

Yes, you read the last two points correctly. Spiderlings (baby spiders) move around using threads of their silk as parachutes. They produce a few very fine threads, called gossamer, which get blown by the wind, taking the baby spider with them.

How Jumping Spiders Catch Their Prey

Diving Bell Spiders Live Underwater

Diving bell spiders, Argyroneta aquatica, are the only species that spend their whole lives underwater. Like all other spiders, they still need to breathe atmospheric air. They get around this problem by having an air bubble, which is held to their bodies by the fine hairs that cover them.

The female, also builds a bell shaped dome, out of spider silk, which is filled with air. She spends most of her life in her dome, only venturing outside to catch prey. She also lays her her eggs in it, and sits there to digest her food.

A pair of diving bell spiders underwater
A pair of diving bell spiders underwater | Source

Cobwebs Were Used in Traditional Medicine

Cobwebs, which form in the corners of any room, trapping dust and looking messy. However, in past centuries they were considered frequently used as dressings for wounds, because they were believed to stop bleeding.

I remember reading historical novels of valiant warriors in the 16th and 17th century, who would frequently sustain wounds in battle. Whenever they were hurt, there was always a call for cobwebs, which would be kneaded with bread and placed on the wounds.

So is there any truth in the ancient belief that cobwebs help? They are particularly rich in vitamin K, essential for blood clotting. So it is possible that they stopped brave heroes from bleeding to death. An important consideration in the days before blood transfusions.

Spiders Have Taken Part in Space Experiments

Yes, spiders have been astronauts. In 1973 experiments were conducted on how low gravity affects the structure of spider webs. Two European garden spiders, Anita and Arabella, were taken aboard skylab 3 and told to do their stuff.

The first attempt at spinning a web by Arabella was very unsuccessful. However later on she appeared to get her bearings and managed a much better web. It was still irregular compared to the orbs produced by these spiders under normal conditions. It appears that spiders require gravity to orient them when they are making their webs.

Astronaut Arabella spinning her web in low gravity on skylab3.
Astronaut Arabella spinning her web in low gravity on skylab3. | Source

Some Female Spiders Eat the Males After Mating, But Most Don't

Cannibalism is which the female eats her partner after mating is not actually all that common. Most males survive several matings and die of causes other than being eaten by the female.

Males are usually much smaller than females. To ensure that they are not mistaken for just a potential food item, when they first approach their bride, most spiders engage in complicated mating rituals. These might include signalling through special vibrations through her web, so the female knows that a male is approaching.

However is some species it is usual for the female to consume the male after a successful mating. This habit has given the black widow its name. The males don't appear to do much to defend themselves. It is thought that the extra nutrition can help the female produce healthy eggs and offspring, so the male is sacrificing himself for the sake of his offspring, so to speak.


Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Junebug 

        14 months ago

        I had a lot of black widows around when I first moved into my house. I don't like killing things though so I would catch them in a jar and put them outside. I found that they tried really hard to get away from me, and then when they couldn't escape, they would play dead. One played dead for about half an hour. I thought I had killed it. Now they don't freak me out anymore.

      • creativeaqua profile image

        Yorja Rahmani 

        5 years ago from India

        I am very scared of spiders. Though I guess it helps to learn about these creatures.

      • just helen profile image

        just helen 

        5 years ago from Dartmoor UK

        Thanks for info aalite! We're not quite sure what to do with them as we don't want to be overrun, but don't believe in killing them either! They are the type with tiny bodies and really long thin legs that are common in houses in the west country.

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Hi just helen. As far as I know baby spiders eat insects just like the parents, only presumably smaller ones, maybe like aphids and fruit flies. Hard to tell without knowing what species they are and how big. Actually I would not be surprised if they aren't cannibals, and will attack each other if they are not separated. This is presumably why spiderlings use ballooning to disperse once they are hatched.

      • just helen profile image

        just helen 

        5 years ago from Dartmoor UK

        Does anyone know what baby spiders eat? We have just had a hatching in our house (they are most welcome!) and the mother seems totally disinterested in them!

      • Thief12 profile image

        Thief12 

        5 years ago from Puerto Rico

        Really interesting hub. Also, congrats on HOTD.

      • hubmuffins profile image

        Siddharth 

        5 years ago from Jaipur

        I do not pay attention to them much. They are pretty much harmless. In my granny's house there are quite big spiders that rest on the wall and they are pretty thin. When I was a kid, I used to be afraid of them but now I've started ignoring them (I am still not fond of them though) . They mind their own business and I mind mine.

        When they are hanging form something I just wave my finger across their thread and watch them start to climb to my finger. Its quite a funny sight. Then I place them in some safe place so that they can continue their work. I think they don't mind me breaking their string. LOL

        :D

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        A rather unusual reaction to spiders. Glad you enjoyed them.

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thanks!

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Lol!

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thanks! Yep the males don't have it easy. But really all they care about is passing their genes on, and when the female eats them she gets good nutrition which helps her grow the youngsters.

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thank you pstrauble48!

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thanks Randy. Squashing Black Widows........you are a brave man!

      • Melissa A Smith profile image

        Melissa A Smith 

        5 years ago from New York

        They're adorable.

      • NP.QUEEN profile image

        NP.QUEEN 

        5 years ago from Dubai

        Vast knowledge abt spiders. Well done. Great hub. Thank you.

      • tvs290 profile image

        tvs290 

        5 years ago from India,bangalore

        Only if spiders were able to speak they could teach women hot eat men after sex Just like them..

      • profile image

        jcYehweh 

        5 years ago

        This is a great Hub. I not only enjoyed reading the text, I enjoyed playing the videos. After reading this Hub, I'm glad I was not born a male Black-Widow spider.

      • melpor profile image

        Melvin Porter 

        5 years ago from New Jersey, USA

        Very informative and well written hub. Voted up.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        5 years ago from sunny Florida

        Congrats on HOTD....Spiders are not among my most favorite creatures. I am ok with them as long as they keep their distance.

        My Momma was bitten by a black widow and lived to tell, thank goodness.

        A few weeks ago when I was out with my grandson I saw the coolest spider. I had never seen one like it before. It was very small and lime green. I tried to get a picture of it but just could not get close enough.

        Thanks for sharing this info with us. Angels are on the way to you ps

      • Randy Godwin profile image

        Randy Godwin 

        5 years ago from Southern Georgia

        I've squashed my share of Black Widow spiders during my lifetime, aa. Great hub and videos too. Up it goes!

      • DreamerMeg profile image

        DreamerMeg 

        5 years ago from Northern Ireland

        I quite like spiders but then I live in a part of the world where there are no venomous spiders. I don't know how I would react to them if I lived where there was the possibility of dangerous spiders. They are very interesting creatures. As a teenager, I remember watching a jumping spider on a wall, stalking its prey and watching a common garden cross spider building its web and adding flies for it to eat!

      • CMHypno profile image

        CMHypno 

        5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

        Congratulations on HOyTD aa and thanks for the fascinating spider facts. I have never understood why so many people are scared of spiders (which has always made me spider-remover in chief), as really they have so much more reason to be terrified of us.

      • rose-the planner profile image

        rose-the planner 

        5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

        Congratulations on HOTD! This is an excellent and insightful article about spiders. Although most people are spooked by spiders, they do serve several purposes. In Canada we get quite a bit of produce shipped to our grocery stores from other countries and there have been a few cases of people actually finding black widow spiders in bags of grapes.............yikes! Now that would really scare the heck out of me, lol. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

      • cyoung35 profile image

        Chad Young 

        5 years ago from Corona, CA

        I doubt if this will make anyone less afraid of spiders but it is real good information. This would have been a good hub to put out around Holloween.

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish MS 

        5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        Congratulations on HOTD! The photos are pretty interesting, as well as your facts.

      • marion langley profile image

        marion langley 

        5 years ago from The Study

        I had no idea we sent spiders to space or that a species lived underwater. What a fun read. Thanks for writing, voting up.

      • profile image

        summerberrie 

        5 years ago

        congrates aa lite! A worthy hub for sure!

      • BlissfulWriter profile image

        BlissfulWriter 

        5 years ago

        Scary looking photos.

      • thumbi7 profile image

        JR Krishna 

        5 years ago from India

        Congratulations on the hub of the day

        Amazing facts about spiders!

        Very interesting read.

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Ha! You know that wasn't intentional at all!

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        @just helen, thanks! My impression is that the parachuting or ballooning is only used by spiderlings to move around. I think when spiders start building a web, they will produce a long thread, as it is produces one end is carried away by air currents until it hits some solid object to which it sticks. The spider sticks the other end to where it is sitting, thus creating a horizontal bridge which the spider can cross.

      • Jordan Hake profile image

        Jordan Hake 

        5 years ago from Southwest Missouri, USA

        *Eight* facts about spiders. Cute! :)

      • just helen profile image

        just helen 

        5 years ago from Dartmoor UK

        A fascinating hub! Spiders are our friends and should be respected, not hated. If you live in an old house they are useful for trapping and eating woodworm. Well, so I've heard!

        Can you tell me how spiders move horizantally through thin air when they start to build a web? Often when walking in the forest we see threads from plant to plant. We speculate they fly! But now I wonder whether the parachute theory is the the correct one.

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thank you Thelma. I was always told that killing spiders makes it rain, a silly superstition of course but I usually choose to let them live. They are actually incredibly useful in the ecosystem.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        5 years ago from Germany

        Congrats on the HOTD! I´m not afraid of spiders but I don´t like them. I usually killed them when they landed on my bed. Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative hub.

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thanks Robin,

        Yep, baby spiders ballooning around are very pretty! It doesn't seem like the most efficient way of travelling to be honest. But I guess if you are born as part of a very large family, and the first thought of your siblings is to eat you, you might want to just get away as fast as you can!

      • Robin profile image

        Robin Edmondson 

        5 years ago from San Francisco

        Interesting Hub! At certain times of the year there are thousands of tiny spiders ballooning around our yard. I assume they are babies that have recently hatched. It's so fun to watch. They are amazing creatures!

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thanks vibe sites. See roaches, I don't really mind, I mean they are dirty, but did you know that a roach body can live without it's head for days?

      • vibesites profile image

        vibesites 

        5 years ago from United States

        I'm not afraid of spiders (as long as they don't purposely go towards me), I'm more afraid of cockroaches.

        Thanks for differentiating spiders to insects. up and interesting.

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thanks tebo. I have to say I rather dislike them, I am not a complete arachnophobe, but I am bothered by them. What I particulaly dislike is how you often don't notice them until you suddenly realise that the place you were going to put your hand, has a spider sitting it it. If they announced their presence more obviously, like bees do for example, I wouldn't mind them so much.

        But they are definitely very interesting.

      • tebo profile image

        tebo 

        5 years ago from New Zealand

        Spiders don't worry me at all, however I have never seen a very big spider. I have learned a lot of interesting information from your well written hub.

      • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

        aa lite 

        5 years ago from London

        Thanks guys. I have to say I rather dislike spiders.........can't imagine having to deal with black widows walking towards a baby. As I was writing this yesterday, I found a spider in my sink. I was sitting on the side in the shadows and I almost missed it too. Aaaargh!

      • Angelo52 profile image

        Angelo52 

        5 years ago from Central Florida

        Good article on spiders and their habits. Good thing there are none large enough to hunt humans (except in the movies) as getting turned into a liquid sounds like it would be a painful experience not to mention fatal.

      • Toytasting profile image

        Toy Tasting 

        5 years ago from Mumbai

        aa, you have mentioned some really cool facts about spiders. Especially the fact that some female spiders eat the males after mating is amusing. Interesting and good to read.

      • moonlake profile image

        moonlake 

        5 years ago from America

        I don't mind spiders. I remember dealing with black widows while living in California. I caught one walking towards my baby while he was playing on the floor. Interesting hub voted up and shared.

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