Spiders can be terrifying for several children, yet most love to know more about this eight-legged arthropod. Here is a list of interesting spider facts for kids that can help them learn about the food, habitat, and various species.
This post also contains information on how they help with pest control for your house and garden without you knowing it! So keep reading this post to learn many interesting and engaging facts about spiders that may intrigue your little one
What Do Spiders Eat?
Spiders feed on insects such as flies, fleas, mosquitoes, ants, and cockroaches (1). Some species of jumping spiders feed on nectar and pollen. Spiders drink water. When food is scarce, their water intake increases to help them survive. This is one of the reasons they are often found near water sources.
When hunting prey, a spider uses its fifth pair of appendages, known as pedipalps, to hold its prey and uses its fangs to bite it. It then wraps the prey in silk and waits for it to die. The spider then sprays a digestive enzyme on the dead prey to easily eat and digest it (2).
Can Spiders Kill Humans?
The venom spiders hold is meant to impact smaller creatures, not humans. However, if this venom comes in contact with human skin, it can cause skin allergies. A spider bite can prove fatal to humans only in very rare cases (1).
30 Fascinating Facts About Spiders For Kids
If your child is afraid of Mr. Spidey, share the following facts with them and see if they finally warm up to him.
- Not all spiders spin webs to catch prey. Certain species of spiders, such as jumping spiders, wolf spiders, and crab spiders, also known as hunting spiders, do not spin webs and instead have different ways of catching prey (3).
- The food preference of spiders differs with species. Spiders that build webs to catch prey eat insects that fly, such as moths and mosquitoes. Some underwater spiders spin their web to catch fish for their food. The hunting spiders are swift runners and quickly take down bigger insects, such as beetles and grasshoppers. Some spiders even eat leaves of the Acacia tree.
- Bagheera kiplingi, a species of spiders found in Central America, is known for its herbivorous diet (4). It is mostly found on trees with leaves and buds that are high in protein. However, it becomes carnivorous and eats ant larvae or even other spiders to survive during the dry season.
- There are five types of spider webs unique to specific species. Learn more about them below (5) (6):
- Spiral orb webs: Made by orb weavers, their design resembles a wheel with spokes. To make a spiral orb web, the spider first creates a non-sticky web before creating a sticky one and then removes the first one, leaving the second spiral to trap its prey.
- Tangle webs: Commonly known as cobwebs, these are found around houses and other closed spaces. These webs are made by house spiders. They do not have a specific design and are jumbled, entangled webs supported by a base.
- Sheet webs: These are created by several species, including the platform spider and filmy dome spider. The spiders create a flat sheet of silk between tufts of grass or branches along with a net of criss-crossed threads right above the sheet. The prey first hits the net and then is trapped in the sheet.
- Funnel webs: Members of the Agelenidae family, such as the hobo spider, create funnel webs. These are large and flat horizontal webs with openings at both ends so the spider can enter and exit quickly.
- Triangle web: Shaped like a triangle, this web looks like a slice of pizza. These webs are not sticky but somewhat fuzzy with tiny fibers that can smother prey stuck on them. Spiders belonging to the Uloborid family create this web.
- Spider webs are silk made from protein. Spiders produce this silk in glands located within the abdomen. Each of these glands is known to produce different threads for different purposes (7).
- The silk inside the spider is a liquid. It hardens after it is released in the air and forms a thread. The silk produced by a spider is five times stronger than steel (8).
- A spider web is made of thousands of thin silk strands. Each strand is 1,000 times thinner than a human hair (8).
- A spider’s heart is like a tube with several small holes (ostia) in it. Unlike a human heart, it does not have chambers but has valves on each end to let the blood flow in the same direction.
- The brain of a spider is so large that it extends to its body cavities and legs. The smaller the spider, the larger the brain in proportion to its size (9).
- Spiders can thrive anywhere in the world except Antarctica.
- Prey catching or hunting differs for each species. Most spiders catch prey by creating a web (1). This sticky web helps trap insects. Once stuck, the spider bites the prey and injects its venom into it. This venom immobilizes the prey, and the spider eats it at leisure.
- A spider’s body has two parts, the front, known as the cephalothorax and the abdomen (10). Attached to the cephalothorax are its eight legs, mouth, eyes, fang-like extensions known as ‘chelicerae.’ The abdomen holds its digestive system and reproductive parts. The silk-producing glands are located on its underside.
- Most species of spiders have eight eyes, while a few have six eyes. Some spider species that live in caves are known to have no eyes. Most spiders do not have good vision and mostly use their senses of smell and touch to detect and catch prey (11).
- Jumping spiders are most active during the day and have excellent vision. However, they are unable to see very well at night (11).
- The reproduction activity for spiders starts with the male spider looking for a female to mate with. Once he finds a female, she has to be willing to mate and not fear being attacked or devoured by it. After mating, she lays the eggs and protects them (12).
- A few spider species can lay around 3,000 eggs at a given time (12). Most spider eggs are round or oblong in shape and white or cream in color. Spider eggs generally have a smooth exterior, while some may have bumps and spikes. Baby spiders that have just hatched out of their eggs are known as ‘spiderlings.’
- Spiders are arachnids with eight legs and no antennae (13). The front two legs, known as ‘pedipalps,’ work like hands to hold onto prey.
- The average lifespan of spiders is two years. However, some spiders, such as tarantulas, can live for as long as twenty years in captivity. Female spiders are known to live longer than male spiders.
- Semi-aquatic species of spiders are known to hunt fish. Spiders such as the pond wolf and six-spotted fishing spiders live around ponds or shallow freshwater streams where fish come closer to the surface. Endowed with powerful neurotoxins and enzymes, these spiders can kill and digest f fish larger than them.
- Garden spiders do not pose a threat to humans or pets. They possess venom that helps paralyze their prey. However, the venom is not strong enough to hurt humans. The venom may cause some problems for individuals with compromised immune systems. These spiders are not very aggressive and do not usually bite or attack humans.
- House spiders pose little to no threat to humans. The venom in their fangs can render their prey immobile, but they have little to no effect on humans. At most, it can irritate the skin for a while (1).
- Grass spiders too pose almost no threat to humans. Their fangs are too small to penetrate human skin (14).
- The Goliath Birdeater is the biggest spider on Earth. Belonging to the Tarantula family, it can grow up to 11 inches and live for about 20 years (15).
- The ‘black widow’ spider is named so because it is believed that the female spider eats the male species after mating, although it’s actually a very rare occurrence and not true for all the black widow species (16).
- Spiders do not have a tongue to taste. The fine chemosensitive hair on their first pair of legs enables them to taste their prey and determine if it is edible.
- Spiders help balance our ecosystem. They eat harmful insects and help pollinate plants. They are also food for several types of mammals, birds, and fish.
- Cannibalism is common in spiders. Some female spiders are believed to consume the male spider before, during, or after mating (1).
- To avoid being eaten up by the female spider, the male spider offers a gift (a prey to consume) wrapped in silk before mating. The male spider even dances to attract and convince the female spider to mate with it (1).
- Spiders have blue blood called ‘hemolymph.’ This is because the oxygen in the blood is bound to a molecule called hemocyanin that consists of copper.
- Spiders have a voracious appetite. A recent study suggests that spiders kill 400-800 million tons of prey each year. Let’s put this into context. Spiders could eat all humans on this planet in one year if they wished (17).
Telling some spider facts to kids could be a great way to teach them about their importance in the ecosystem, as listening to interesting facts piques one’s interest. You may include facts about the habitat and food of the spiders, various species, including the deadliest ones, types of webs, their body parts, and many more. One such interesting fact says that most spiders are harmless. Now that your children are aware of these facts, they are less likely to be terrified if they encounter a spider in the house or garden.
- Spiders may seem terrifying yet pique the curiosity of most children who can understand spiders through facts.
- Not all spiders spin webs to capture prey; some hunt and jump to catch their prey.
- Spider webs are one of nature’s most fascinating creations with complex and convoluted designs.
- Diversity of Tropical Spiders; Frontiers Media
- Myth: Spiders only “suck juices” of prey; Burke Museum
- Myth: All spiders make webs; Burke Museum
- Herbivory Discovered in a Spider; The University of Arizona
- Learn How to Recognize a Spider By Its Web; Bay Nature
- Krishna Kant Lawania and Priyanka Mathur; Study On The Pattern And Archetecture Of Spider’s Web With Special Reference To Seasonal Abundance In Eastern Region Of Rajasthan India; IOSR Journal of Environmental Science (2015).
- What are spider webs made from and how strong are they?; The University of Queensland
- Spider silk is five times stronger than steel—now scientists know why; American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Brains of tiny spiders fill their body cavities and legs Smithsonian researchers discover; Smithsonian
- Araneae – What do they look like?; The Regents of the University of Michigan
- How Many Eyes Does a Spider Have?; Wonderpolis
- Tarantulas – Breeding; Young People\’s Trust for the Environment
- Eight-Legged Facts; University of Wyoming
- Agelenidae; Bugwood Wiki
- Weird & Wonderful Creatures: Goliath Birdeater; American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Myth: When black widow spiders mate the female always kills and eats the male; Burke Museum
- Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer; An estimated 400-800 million tons of prey are annually killed by the global spider community; Die Natturwissenschaften (2017).