Spiders: Interesting Facts

  • Commonly used expressions using spiders:
    1. Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.
    2. Oh, what a tangled web we weave.
    3. On gossamer wings - referring to the silk ballooning done by spiders

  • The largest spider in the world is a species of tarantula found in South America - Theraphosa leblondi - where one specimen had a leg span of over 11 inches.
  • A female tarantula found in South America weighed 1/3 of a pound, and had fangs 1 inch long.
  • The large "bird spider" tarantulas of South America have been known to live over 27 years.
  • The most dangerous spider to humans may be the Sydney Funnel Web Spider - Atrax robustus - whose venom is so potent and fast-acting that they could potentially kill a small child within 15 minutes. Since an anti-venom was developed for them there have been no more human deaths.

  • The common belief that the "Daddy Long Legs" spider has the world's most potent venom is a MYTH. There have been no studies on the venom of this spider to determine its potency, and since it is incapable of biting humans it is of no matter anyhow. The "true" Daddy Long Legs - by the way - is not even a true spider. It is a spider-relative called a Harvestman, and it is not venomous, cannot bite, and is a scavenger in nature.
  • Another widespread MYTH involves the Violin Spider, which lives in the central and southern states of the United States. It does not reside in California, but California doctors report the most Violin Spider bites of people of any state in the country. Similarly, several counties in Florida also report high numbers of Violin Spider bites, and no Violin Spiders have ever been found in those counties.

  • The name "tarantula" comes from the wild dancing - called tarantula - that people would do when they were bitten by a large spider, in the belief that the wild activity would save their lives and limit the effect of the venom.
  • Spider silk is extremely strong and extremely elastic. It may be stretched up to 25% of its own length, and Black Widow spider silk was used for making the cross hairs in bomb sites of World War II aircraft.

The large silk webs of Nephila spiders contain some of the strongest natural fibers known. South Seas islanders use it for making bags and fish nets. However, spider silk is too difficult to work with to be able to replace the silk from silk worm caterpillars.

  • Spider silk from some House Spiders has been used to help stop bleeding from wounds, by placing a mat of silk over the wound.
  • D.A.R.E. to say "No" to Drugs. Spiders that were subjected to various drugs were noticeably affected:
    1. Spiders that ate flies injected with caffeine spun "nervous" webs
    2. Spiders that ate flies injected with LSD spun webs with wild, abstract patterns instead of the beautiful, symmetrical webs they normally do.
    3. Spiders given sedatives dozed off before completing the web making job.

Little Miss Muffett, of nursery rhyme fame, was a real person. Her father was the Reverend Doctor Thomas Muffett, who lived in England in the 16th century and who had a fascination for things from Nature. Apparently, in order to determine the effect various spiders' bites would have on people Dr. Muffett would subject his daughter to the bites.

  • In the movie "Charlotte's Web" the new baby spiders are depicted floating away on strands of their own silk. This is accurate, and it is a phenomenon called "ballooning", and is practiced by many species of spiders as a way to disperse.

Spiders are all meat eaters, and use various methods to capture their food:

  1. Bolus Spiders sling a thin strand of silk with a sticky blob on the end, effectively catching passing prey like a cowboy with his lariat.
  2. Spitting Spiders spray out a sticky mist of fluid to entangle their prey, which usually is other spiders.
  3. Trapdoor Spiders lay in wait in their tubes in the ground, detecting passing prey that walk on silk laid outside. The spider then lunges out, grabs the meal, and drags it back into its tube to feed on it.
  4. Certain Crab Spiders can "spit" venom, either in defense or as a means of stunning potential food.