The Bug Blog
Spider warning: do not Google
"Hawaiian Happy Face Spider"
otherwise known as the Scary Clown Spider
November 8, 2016
by Brian Olson, CEO, the bugman
It is past Halloween, but there are a couple ghoulish spiders that are worth noting - the Skeleton Spider and the Scary Clown Spider. Neither of these can I show here because you may not continue to read this if I did. But we would like you to better understand our mysterious arachnids.
Here are some facts about spiders overall:
- Spiders are vital to a healthy ecosystem. They eat harmful insects, pollinate plants, and recycle dead animal and plants back into the earth. They are also a valuable food source for many small mammals, birds, and fish.
- Spiders are not insects. They are arachnids, along with scorpions, mites, harvestmen, and ticks. All arachnids have eight legs and two main body parts (a cephalothorax and an abdomen). In contrast, insects have six legs and three main body parts (a head, a thorax, and an
- abdomen). Spiders don’t have antennae while insects do.
- Spiders are found on every continent of the world except Antarctica.
- There are approximately 38,000 known species of spiders. Scientists believe there are probably as many more to be discovered.
- 3,000 species are found in North America
- Most spiders make silk which they use to create spider webs and capture prey. All spiders spin silk, but not all spiders spin webs. The silk in a spider’s web is five times stronger than a strand of steel that is the same thickness. A web made of strands of spider silk as thick as a pencil could stop a Boeing 747 jumbo jet in flight. Scientists still cannot replicate the strength and elasticity of a spider’s silk.
- Most spiders are harmless to humans but a few spider species, such as the black widow, can bite humans and inject venom. Deaths from spider bites are rare however.
- Spiders are blamed for all kinds of bumps, rashes, and growths. However, unlike mosquitoes or ticks, spiders don’t feed on human blood and they have no reason to bite a human unless they feel threatened or surprised. Additionally, spiders do not typically bite sleeping humans.
- The black widow and the brown recluse are the only two spiders in North America whose bite can be serious. While the CDC lists the hobo spider as a third toxic spider, some researchers argue that the hobo spider’s venom isn’t as dangerous.
- The venom of the female black widow is 15 times more powerful than the poison of a rattlesnake.
- A spider has no bones. Rather, it has an exoskeleton, which is like a hard suit of armor that protects its body. Because an exoskeleton does not grow, a spider molts. Typically, a spider molts about 10 times throughout its life. Spiders have between two and six spinnerets at the back of their abdomen. Each one is like a tiny shower head that has hundreds of holes, all producing liquid silk.
- Most female spiders are bigger than male spiders.
- Spiders feel, taste, and hear with the hairs on their legs. Even at a distance spiders “feel” where their prey is by displacement of air.
- Male spiders reach maturity earlier than females but male spiders are generally smaller than the females.
- The dwarfing of the males is more pronounced when the females tend to remain in one place.
- The word “spider” comes from the Old English word spithra and is related to the Germanspinne, both of which mean “spinner.” The word “spinster” is also related and means “one who spins thread.”
- Most spiders live for about a year. However, some tarantulas live more than 20 years.
- Different drugs affect the way spiders spin their webs. For example, spiders on LSD spin beautiful webs, while spiders on caffeine spin terrible webs. Scientists believe that examining the shape of a spider’s web can also help detect airborne chemicals and pollutants.
- A female black widow needs to mate only once. After she has mated, she can produce eggs for the rest of her life, which is about 2 years.
- Spiders usually enter the home for mating purposes.
- Spider eggs are protected in cocoons. The female may guard the cocoons or carry them around with her.
- A red widow female spider will begin feeding on the male while they are still mating. However, the male practically force feeds himself to the female by placing himself into her mandibles. If she “spits him out,” he will repeatedly place himself there until she eats him.
- Most spiders have eight eyes and are very near sighted. Spiders also have tiny hairs on their legs to help them hear and smell.
- Only the bite of the female black widow is dangerous; the male is much smaller than the female, and males and juveniles are harmless to humans. Only the female has the telltale red hourglass shape on its underside; the male has yellow and red bands and spots on the abdomen.
- Most spiders live alone, meeting other spiders only to mate. A few species of spiders are social and live in groups.
- Water spiders are the only spiders that spend their entire lives in water. The spiders construct a “diving bell” that allows them to live and spin webs underwater. They use their legs like a fishing pole to pull in insects, tadpoles, and even small fish.
- Spiders can’t fly, but they sometimes sail through the air on a line of silk, which is known as “ballooning.”
- Most spiders’ fangs are like pincers that move sideways toward each other to bite. Others, such as bird-eating spiders, have long fangs that point straight down. Did I just type that? Bird-eating spiders? I wouldn't google that either.
- Spiders do not have teeth, so they cannot chew their food. Instead, they inject digestive juices into the innards of their meal. Then the spider sucks up it innards.
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