A Web of Facts about Spiders

Most of us learned at an early age that spiders have eight legs, spin webs, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but there’s a lot you probably don’t know about spiders. Spiders are the seventh most diverse order of organisms on Earth. Antarctica is the only continent where you won’t find our eight-legged friends. And female spiders are often much larger than male spiders …some can lay up to 3,000 eggs.

Spiders only have two body segments, a cephalothorax and abdomen, while insects have three body segments, a head, thorax, and abdomen. The cephalothorax combines the spider’s head and thorax. Despite having fewer body segments arachnids always have eight legs whereas insects have six legs. Additionally, spiders don’t have antennae, wings, mandibles, or backbones either.

Spiders continually build new webs due to how difficult it is to keep dust and particles off of their previous structures. Many species will eat their old web structures after balling it up and converting it to an easily consumable liquid. Despite having six to eight eyes, spiders are nearsighted thus they struggle to see objects with great distance. But to compensate for their poor vision, some spiders have leg hair that sense vibrations, which is one of the reasons spiders dislike loud and shaky environments. Related to hair, some North American and South American tarantulas are capable of shooting off hairs to deter potential predators, similarly to how porcupines react to danger. Most spiders don’t like company, especially from humans, but some species, such as the Tetragnatha guatemalensis, build large communal cobwebs. In 2015, researchers found a community of spiders that had made a home of many nearby trees in Dallas, Texas. The webs were described to cover a “football-field length.” Though, the species of the spiders in this instance have not been identified, many experts believe them to be Tetragnatha guatemalensis. These arachnid communities can be home to thousands of spiders who work together to capture prey and in turn share their catch.

Spiders, helpful? Absolutely!
Fun fact… there is only one documented herbivorous arachnid and that is the bagheera kiplingi. Almost all spiders eat other bugs. For most people, this means they help us avoid more unappealing bite marks and itchy skin reactions. For a gardener, that means less pests nibbling on homegrown fruits and veggies. In 1990, researchers discovered that 19% spider species were living on croplands in the United States meaning spiders help to keep the food we buy in the grocery store safe too. For medical professionals, spiders are helping us make medical advancements. Spider venom could be used as a painkiller and can potentially treat victims of stroke and muscular dystrophy. Scientists have also used studies on spider webs to create a powerful, artificial silk that could be used to construct parachutes and bullet-proof vests. Currently, arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders, affects ten percent of men and fifty percent of women. The fear of spiders is always ranked as one of the top ten most common phobias  in the United States of America but spiders help us in a plethora of ways.

How To Kindly Avoid Spiders
Even after learning a bit more about spiders, you may not be interested in hanging out with them, but we hope this information has provided you with a greater perspective of the arachnid family. If you want to avoid a spider encounter, make sure your living space doesn’t welcome other insects. When your home is free of a spider’s food supply, a spider won’t request to be your roommate. Spiders also prefer dark, sheltered, and undisturbed areas, so clean these spaces of your house often. Make sure you dispose of waste efficiently and seal off cracks in your home. There is still a chance that you could run into one, but instead of ending the spider’s life, try transporting the creature outside using a cup and piece of paper. Though, by doing so you would be removing nature’s living insecticide as those house spiders help to suppress roaches, earwigs, mosquitos, and flies. Remember, they only attack humans when they feel threatened. They are all valuable and needed in our ecosystem.

SOURCES: The Daily Star, Earth Kind, Metro, Mother Nature Network, PBS, Smithsonian, Spider Worlds, Washington Post