Spiders: The Misunderstood Arachnids

“Once you begin watching spiders, you haven’t time for much else.”  ― E.B. White”

– I couldn’t agree more! Spiders are one of the marvelous and beautiful creatures on earth! 

Spiders are one of the most fascinating creatures on Earth. Though feared by most humans, spiders are comparatively harmless compared to other members of the animal kingdom. At present, there are about 35000 known species of spiders that have been recorded so far. One of the most versatile animals, spiders are found almost anywhere — from the highest mountains to deepest caves, from terrestrial land to fresh waters.


A Jumping Spider (Photo by: Anuj Ghimire)

The said few fresh water spiders are the kind who spend at least some part of their lives on the surface of water. But a true water spider, Argyroneta has, improved this ability and hence, lives a completely aquatic life.

Although cosmopolitan in nature, a Spider’s prime habitat is restricted to a certain area depending upon its feeding habits and adaptation to various habitats. Some of them are ground dwellers, some are found in walls of houses, some find shelter in trees and some are found in damp marshy habitat.

While almost all spiders are carnivorous, as a juvenile they may feed upon pollen, so a few species may be called omnivores based on that. However, majority of Spiders depend on other Arthropods, mainly small insects or even other spiders.


Jumping Spider (Photo by: Anuj Ghimire)

Some of the Mygalomorph spiders, which are relatively larger compared to others, feed occasionally on vertebrates. The famous Bird-Eating spiders even prey on birds, which is unusual but definitely possible, when they find the birds entangled on their webs. The most common way of prey-capture is the spider-web (cobwebs) which are primarily made of silk. A small opening at the end of the abdomen called the Spinneret produces the silk.


Coming back to spiders and the scary-image attached to them—like it has been said earlier, almost everyone is scared of spiders, atleast most are. In fact, they might be the second most feared animal in the animal kingdom after snakes.

Majority of the spiders, however, are harmless to humans. Even the biggest spiders such as Mygalomorph, which have large fangs and enough venom storage in their glands, don’t contain venom considered lethal for humans. As an exception, it has been discovered that a single genus “Atrax” has venom that can prove to be harmful.

Apart from few spiders such as Funnel-Web, Brown Recluse, Black Widow, Red Widow- others are fairly harmless – leaving absolutely nothing to worry about.

As a Zoologist, I get lots of questions such as, “There is a spider in my room, how do I know if it is venomous?” and I always answer, “All spiders are venomous,” — and that certainly is true. Apart from a single family – Uloboridae — all spiders have venom glands, but most of them don’t have the venom toxic enough.

The Funnel-Web Spider, Brazilian Wandering Spider, Black-Widow and Brown Recluse are considered to be the most venomous spiders in the world. It is believed that Funnel-Web spider can kill a human in 15 minutes, but then according to the Australian Museum, there has been no confirmed death in Australia from a spider bite.

While scores of people die every year due to snake bites or even the lesser known mosquito bites, which is a vector for various diseases- fatality due to spiders is relatively very low.

The Brazilian Wandering Spider is known to have the most toxic venom as per the Guinness world record – 2010, but only 0.5 to 1% of thousands of Spider bites have been known to be lethal. The Brazilian Wander spider has neuro-toxic venom which apart from causing intense pain, causes an erection in humans so strong that it can last for weeks and ends up damaging the cells. A component of that venom has been brought to use in for treating erectile dysfunction.


Compared to other fauna, it can be said that spiders are quite harmless to humans. They feed upon other insects which are harmful to us, especially Mosquitoes which cause a range of diseases. The fact there are very less numbers of other harmful insects corresponds to the fact that you have more spiders in your house. They help to keep our garden clean of bugs which damage the plants. Despite their reputation, spiders are, in fact, beneficial to us. Plus they avoid humans and are very shy. The fact is that they are more scared of us than we are of them.

And to be honest, if you look at a spider closely without being scared, they’re extremely beautiful creatures. One species of Jumping-Spider, called the “Peacock Spider” has to be one of the most beautiful creatures. If you don’t believe me, just google it!


Wall Crab Spider (Photo by : Anuj Ghimire)
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Mr Zoologist

I am a Zoologist!

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