Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is one of the most common phobias worldwide. Whether you're one of those fearful people or whether you're a fan of arachnids, there's no denying that eight-legged creatures are seriously fascinating. For example, did you know that some spiders mimic other animals or that some males force-feed themselves to their mates? From the creepy to the incredible, read on to learn some amazing things about spiders.
Spiders Are Everywhere
Trying to avoid spiders? Good luck with that. Spiders are able to live just about anywhere and they reside on every continent on Earth except for Antarctica.
As one of the most diversified living creatures in the world, spiders reside in dry climates, tropical regions, rainforests, wetlands, in big cities, and even in your own home. And as humans encroach on their natural habitats, spiders are adjusting to even more diverse locations.
Almost All Spiders Are Venomous
Here's the bad news if you're frightened of spiders: almost every spider has venom glands. They use this poison in order to defend themselves or hunt for food.
However, not all spiders bite or have venom that can harm humans. In fact, only around 25% do. And many types of spiders don't have fangs that are large enough to puncture human skin. Although some spiders do bite, it's usually when they're feeling threatened or surprised -- so leave them alone!
Spiders Are Growing Larger Due To Climate Change
A 2009 study published in Biology Letters showed that a warmer Arctic, with longer summers and earlier springs, is leading wolf spiders in the region to grow larger. This is because there's plenty of food for them to eat during the warm months, and also, fewer spiders will perish.
Another effect of climate change on spiders: since larger spiders can produce more offspring, there are also going to be more spiders. More huge spiders. We're not saying it's time to prepare for a spider invasion just yet, though.
The Black Widow Is The Most Dangerous Spider In North America
Black widows are the most venomous spiders in North America. According to National Geographic, their venom is up to 15 times stronger than rattlesnake venom. The black widow's bite will feel like a pinprick to most people. Within minutes, the pain sets in and spreads throughout the body.
Fortunately, they usually bite humans only if they're disturbed and antivenom is available in case you're ever on the receiving end of a black widow's chomp.
There Are Spiders That Disguise Themselves As Ants
Commonly referred to as "ant-mimicking spiders," species like Myrmarachne and others disguise themselves to look like ants. Many of them have bodies that look like ants. Some of them even wave their front legs in the air to simulate ants' antennae and walk in a zig-zag pattern too.
The reason these spiders disguise themselves is to escape detection by predators and avoid being eaten. Researchers found that predators attacked the ant-mimicking spiders less often than usual, but about as often as they attacked real ants.
The Giant Huntsman Has The Longest Legs In The Spider World (And It's Also Really Fast)
The giant huntsman is the world's largest spider in terms of leg span, with larger specimens measuring in at a foot long! This spider is also fast and actively hunts down its prey, as opposed to using a web the way some others do.
The huntsman eats a variety of small critters like insects, frogs, and small lizards. It chases the prey down using its speed and stealth, and then its large fangs deliver an immobilizing dose of venom. This spider is found in caves in Southeastern Asia.
Bigger Cities Can Create Bigger Spiders
While people who live in big cities are somewhat used to dealing with critters like rats and roaches, there are also spiders to think about. And there are species of spiders who thrive in densely populated areas with hard concrete surfaces.
In fact, according to one Australian study, the Humped Golden Orb-weaving Spider is more abundant in urban settings than in the wilderness. This spider also tends to grow larger in highly-populated areas with little vegetation.
Wolf Spiders Make Purring Sounds That Humans Can Hear
Even though they don't have ears themselves, wolf spiders use vibrations to create a sound that humans can hear. It's described as a "purring" noise and is used by males to attract nearby females. The females feel this as vibrations in their feet.
These guys face some serious risks if the female doesn't like what she "hears," though. About one out of five male wolf spiders will be eaten by the females they were trying to impress. Hard pass.
The Venom From A Brown Recluse Spider Can Destroy Skin Tissue
The brown recluse is one of the most dangerous spiders in North America, with venomous bites that sometimes require medical attention. Brown recluses release a rare toxin called sphingomyelinase D, which can destroy human skin tissue...not a pretty sight.
While extremely rare, the secondary effects of this spider's venom (when a bite is untreated) can cause the destruction of red blood cells, blood clots, kidney damage, coma, and even death. As with most spiders, the brown recluse will bite only when feeling threatened.
Spiders Consume Between 400 And 800 Million Tons Of Prey Every Year
A 2017 study published in The Science of Nature found that all the spiders worldwide consume between 400-800 million tons of prey every year! Most of this massive quantity is insects, although larger spiders eat things like lizards, birds, and small mammals.
The researchers report that their findings mean spiders consume as much meat as all seven billion humans on the planet combined! "In other words, spiders could eat all of us and still be hungry," as The Washington Post observed. That's quite a disturbing thought.
Three Out Of Every Four Bedrooms Has A Spider In It
If you really don't like spiders, you might want to skip this one. In a 2016 study, researchers from the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University analyzed about 50 houses in the state.
The results were eye-opening in terms of how abundant spiders are. The study found that out of those 50 North Carolina homes, every single one had spiders in it. Sixty-eight percent of them had eight-legged guests in the bathrooms and more than 75% had spiders in the bedrooms!
Male Redback Widow Spiders Force-Feed Themselves To Their Mates
Widow spider females will often eat the smaller males while mating. Sometimes, the males try to escape this fate and run away. But some male red widow spiders will actually force-feed themselves to their partner by placing themselves in her jaw.
This disturbing behavior seems to have a purpose. According to ecologist and spider expert Maydianne Andrade, "[mating] encounters between redback spiders are longer if the male allows himself to be cannibalized." So by sacrificing himself, the male is helping to ensure that the species survives. Talk about selflessness.
Spiders Lay Hundreds Of Eggs At Once
The average house spider can lay hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of eggs at once. To reproduce, females hold their eggs in several sacs, each with hundreds of eggs inside of it.
The spiders' abdomens will visibly expand with a large number of eggs, and then contract after they've laid their eggs. After about two to three weeks, the eggs hatch into live spiders. Then it takes about a year for the hatchlings (also called spiderlings) to reach adulthood.
"Spider Rain" Is A Real Thing
News stories coming from different parts of the world over the past few years have described huge groups (as in millions) of spiders "raining" from the skies, apparently out of nowhere.
This happens when spiders do something called "ballooning," which is climbing to a tall point, shooting strands of silk into the air, and being carried away by the wind on their homemade parachutes. They often do this in enormous groups, either because they're all part of the same colony or because weather conditions (like floods and wildfires) force them to escape.
The Oldest Known Spider Lived For 43 Years
Spiders can live a lot longer than you might guess. Scientists studied a trapdoor spider in Australia for decades until she was killed by a wasp at the ripe old age of 43. Before this, it was believed that trapdoor spiders only lived to about 25 years.
Before that, the oldest known spider was a 28-year-old tarantula discovered in Mexico. Most common house spiders live for just a few years... which is no comfort if you're creeped out by them!
Some Spiders Prey On Bats
It might sound like something out of a horror movie, but there are species of spiders that prey on much larger animals, including bats. In fact, bat-eating spiders are not all that uncommon. Roughly 90 percent of bat-catching spiders live in the warmer areas of the globe.
Bats have very few natural enemies -- mainly owls, hawks, and snakes -- but they do tend to get caught up in spiderwebs every now and then. And what smart spider will turn down a free meal?
Spiders' Silk Is Stored As A Highly Concentrated Liquid
We've all had to bat away pesky spider webs at some point, but how much do you know about the way they're made? Spiders store that silk internally as a highly concentrated liquid protein, and it turns to a solid thread as it leaves the body.
The spider also produces droplets of an adhesive substance to help snag their prey. To avoid getting stuck in their own deadly traps, spiders are equipped with small claws on their legs.
One South American Spider Can Grow To The Size Of A Small Puppy
A member of the tarantula family, the Goliath birdeater is found throughout the northern part of South America. It can reach the size of "a child's forearm," and its body is roughly the size of "a large fist," according to entomologist Piotr Naskrecki of Harvard University.
As Naskrecki told Live Science, this spider can weigh in at more than 170 grams, or "about as much as a young puppy." Even more intimidating than its size is the way the Goliath birdeater feeds. After capturing its prey, this spider drags it back to their burrow to liquify its insides and consume it in privacy.
Spiders Can Survive In Space
By now, you might be thinking about heading to another planet to get away from spiders. But you'll have to rethink your plans -- they can survive in outer space! In fact, during several NASA experiments, they have shown they're able to acclimate to weightlessness fairly soon and they even spin webs while in space.
The first two spiders to travel to space were named Arabella and Anita. They made the big journey in 1973 and many spiders have come after them. If you like, you can visit the preserved bodies of Arabella and Anita at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Some Spiders Prefer To Live In Giant Colonies
Anyone who's not a big fan of spiders might be comforted in knowing that they usually tend to be solitary creatures. However, some spider species are social and prefer to live in enormous colonies.
Anelosimus eximius, located in Central and South America, is the most social spider in the world and has some of the largest webs around. Some of them have been found to measure 25 feet long and five feet wide, big enough to house up to 50,000 spiders!