Spider Sense: Fast Facts on Extreme Arachnids

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Spiders eat spiders. Females sometimes eat their mates, even while they are mating. Some spiders specialize in hunting down other species of spider and have evolved ways to grab them, even when their victims are in the center of their strongholds—their webs.

Spiders are hunted as much as they are hunters. Birds, lizards, snakes, scorpions, and other spiders all prey on spiders. Some insects also hunt down spiders, including the mantis and a wasp that specializes in catching and paralyzing spiders. The wasp buries the spider alive, so that its young can feed on fresh food when they hatch.

Most spiders have eight eyes. Some have no eyes and others have as many as 12 eyes. Most can detect only between light and dark, while others have well-developed vision. Experiments have demonstrated that some spiders can recognize and respond to specific shapes on television monitors. However they're equipped to see, all spiders have highly evolved systems to detect prey and danger.

• Some cultures have found ways to use a spider's trap to get their own meals. In the South Pacific native people have made fishing nets from a spider's silk. People encourage nephila spiders to build webs between two bamboo stakes, which are then used for angling.

• A spider eats about 2,000 insects a year, so spiders are good to have around the home. The reward for the trouble? All too often, a smack with a newspaper. Spiders are usually killed by people because the arachnids seem scary, not because they're dangerous.

If you are bitten by a spider, the California Poison Control Center recommends keeping the wound clean and treating the symptoms that follow. If the bite becomes infected or does not heal, see a physician.

• Some cultures chomp down on spiders as a delicacy and have been doing so for hundreds of years. In the South Pacific people have eaten the same spiders they use to weave fishing nets—with some diners saying the cooked spiders taste nutty and sticky like peanut butter. In spots in Southeast Asia, street vendors sell fried spiders to passersby.

• According to urban legend, the daddy longlegs—those gangly creatures that seem to hang from corners around the house—are poisonous, but have mouths too small to bite humans. The name "daddy longlegs" is used in several countries to refer to a few different species—including harvestmen, which aren't actually spiders and have no venom—and spiders in the family Pholcidae, which are not known to have venom that affects humans.

Pesticides won't successfully knock out spiders. The highly mobile eight-legged animals will come back to an area that's been sprayed because, unlike insects, they're not strongly affected by residual pesticides. To prevent spiders from coming inside the house, arachnologists suggest sealing off any cracks or gaps where spiders can slip in. But to control insects that can cause damage to your property—such as termites—why not let their natural predators, spiders, inside to do the work?

For more news on spiders, scroll down

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