Kinds of Spiders

Spiders make up the order Araneae of the class Arachnida, phylum Arthropoda. The order is generally divided into three suborders—Liphistiomorphae (or Mesothelae), which consists of about 40 primitive species found in Asia; Mygalomorphae (or Orthognatha); and Araneomorphae (or Labidognatha).

The suborder Mygalomorphae includes the tarantulas and trap-door spiders. These spiders do not build webs; they catch their prey by hunting.

Trap-door Spiders

(family Ctenizidae), found in the southern United States, build a tube-like nest about 6 inches (15 cm) into the ground and line it with silk. The cover of the nest is a silk-hinged lid made of silk threads, twigs, dirt, or cork. The spider often waits just under the partly open door until an insect or other prey wanders by.

The trap-door spiderThe trap-door spider sets a trap for its prey.

The suborder Araneomorphae contains most species of spiders. Members of this suborder are usually divided into two groups—hunting spiders and web-building spiders.

Hunting spiders include the wolf spiders, crab spiders, and jumping spiders.

Wolf Spiders

(family Lycosidae) are active hunters and chase insects and other prey. By day some of these spiders hide under stones or wood or in grass but others are active in bright sunshine. The female wolf spider carries her young (as many as a hundred) on her back until they can care for themselves.

Wolf spidersWolf spiders are active hunters and chase insects and other prey.
When Is a Wolf Spider Gentle As a Lamb?

A wolf spider has silk glands, but it doesn’t spin a web. A wolf spider is a hunting spider. Like most hunting spiders, it has good vision. It runs after and pounces on its prey. The wolf spider leaps into the air to catch a flying insect. But this fierce hunter is a very gentle parent.

A female wolf spider attaches her egg sac to her spinnerets and carries it with her. She guards the egg sac. She inspects it and repairs it. When the eggs are ready to hatch, she breaks open the sac so that the spiderlings can get out.The spiderlings travel on their mother’s back. They hang on tightly to hairs there. If a spiderling falls off, it follows its mother’s dragline to find her. Then it quickly climbs up one of her legs.

Crab Spiders

(family Thomisidae) have two pairs of legs shorter than the others and, like crabs, walk sideways. They can also walk forward and backward. They have large, flattish bodies and live on walls, fences, and flowers. They stalk their prey.

How Do Crab Spiders Use Camouflage?

Crab spiders don’t spin webs or build traps. They are sit-and-wait hunters. They sit on flowers and wait for insects to arrive. Why don’t insects notice them? Crab spiders can camouflage (KAM puh flahzh), or hide, their bodies. Some change color to match the color of the flowers they sit on.

Crab spiders blend into their surroundings in other ways, too. Some have white and gray spots on their bodies. They pull their legs in and sit on leaves or plants. These spiders can look like bird droppings.

Crab spiders are small. Most are no bigger than flies. Yet a crab spider can kill an insect much larger than itself. When a crab spider is finished sucking the liquids from its prey, all that is left is the prey’s exoskeleton.

Jumping Spiders

(family Salticidae) leap on their prey with great skill. They are often brightly colored and possess the best eyesight of all spiders. The males do an elaborate courtship dance.

Web-building spiders include the black widow spider, the brown recluse spider, garden spiders, grass spiders, common house spiders, and water spiders.

How Far Can a Jumping Spider Jump?

Some jumping spiders can jump 40 times the length of their bodies, but they don’t jump for exercise. They jump to capture prey. And jumping spiders don’t wait for prey, as most hunting spiders do. Jumping spiders have the best eyesight in the spider world. They use their vision to stalk, or follow, prey. Then they pounce.

A jumping spider anchors its dragline to a surface, leaps into the air, and prepares to land on its prey. When the spider lands on its prey, it sinks in its fangs and holds on.

The Black Widow Spider

(Latrodectus mactans) is found throughout the United States and Central and South America; it is especially plentiful in the southern part of the United States. Black widows live in cool, dark places. The webs they make have irregular shapes. The female's bite can be fatal to humans, but less than 10 per cent of the bites are. The female has a shiny body that is about one-half inch (13 mm) long. On the underside of the abdomen it has a red, hourglass-shaped figure. Black widows belong to the family Theridiidae.

The black widowThe black widow is a venomous spider with an hourglass-shaped red mark on the underside of the abdomen.
How Did Black Widows Get Their Name?

Female black widows sometimes kill and eat their mates. With their mates dead, the spiders are now “widows.” And that’s how black widows got their name.

A female black widow doesn’t always eat her mate. But like most web weavers, her vision is poor. She sometimes mistakes her tiny mate—who is only about one-fourth her size—for a tasty meal.

Most female black widows weave tangled webs in dark places. They build webs under fallen logs or in the corners of barns and sheds. If you see a black widow, don’t touch it. Its bite is harmful to humans. It can cause illness and even death. Fortunately, the spider bites only as a last defense.

You can recognize a female black widow by the red or yellow hourglass shape on its abdomen. With its legs stretched out, a female is about 11/2 inches (3.8 centimeters) long.

The Brown Recluse Spider, or Violin Spider

(Loxosceles reclusa), found throughout much of the eastern half of the United States, can inflict a dangerous bite causing formation of a gangrenous lesion. Although the bite itself is not fatal, it may allow secondary infection to enter. These spiders live in dark corners and crevices, and do not bite unless disturbed. The body, colored from fawn to chocolate brown, is about one-half inch (13 mm) long. These spiders can be identified by a violin-shaped mark on the cephalothorax. The brown recluse spider belongs to the family Loxoscelidae.

The brown recluseThe brown recluse is a venomous spider with a violin-shaped mark on its back.
Garden Spiders

(family Araneidae) are noted for their orb webs. A common garden spider of the United States, sometimes called the orange spider, is about one inch (2.5 cm) long. The abdomen is black with yellow or orange markings, and the cephalothorax is gray above and yellow beneath.

Grass Spiders

(family Agelenidae) spin sheet webs that are funnel-shaped in the center. The spider usually hides in the funnel, ready to seize any insect that lands on the web.

House Spiders

There are hundreds of species, belonging to various families. House spiders are usually quite small. The bodies are dull colored (often gray) and are generally marked with darker spots and lines. House spiders generally spin loose, irregularly shaped webs in seldom-used areas of homes and other buildings.

Water Spiders

There are many spider species of various families that live on the margins of rivers, ponds, and other bodies of water. Many of them can run on the surface of water. It is not unusual for water spiders to catch and eat small fish. One European species (Argyroneta aquatica) lives below the surface in a watertight, dome-shaped, silken chamber. In the chamber the spider stores air trapped among its body hairs. When its air supply is low, the spider rises to the surface, traps more air, and returns to its chamber.

Can Water Spiders Breathe Underwater?

In a way, water spiders can breathe underwater. Water spiders live in underwater webs shaped like small bells. Each bell has an opening. A water spider carries air bubbles from the surface of the water and takes them into its bell. The bubbles slowly push all the water out of the bell, leaving the air trapped inside. A water spider can live on the air in its “diving bell” for several months.

Inside its bell, a water spider waits for a water bug to swim by or for a flying insect to fall into the water. Then the spider swims to grab its prey and bring it back to its underwater home.

Water spiders are the only spiders that live most of their lives underwater. These special spiders live in the lakes and ponds of Europe and in parts of Asia.