If you’ve ever been out in the wild, you might have noticed a spider on your skin. Maybe it was crawling up your arm or leg to hide under your sleeve. Or maybe it ran across your hand while you were picking something off a leaf. If so, you may have wondered what kind of creature that is and if it’s dangerous. But what exactly is this mysterious creature known as a “spider”?
Spiders aren’t actually considered spiders at all. They’re classified as arachnids instead. While spiders themselves can be quite scary-looking, most people probably wouldn’t refer to them as such because they don’t carry venom like snakes or lizards (which are also called reptiles).
Instead, their bites produce an acidic fluid that causes pain and burning sensations. This venom isn’t necessarily harmful to humans. In fact, it can even help protect us by fighting bacteria. So although it sounds pretty bad, you shouldn’t fear being bitten by any type of spider.
In this article, we’ll find out what spiders are where they come from, how different species look, which ones you should watch for, whether there’s danger involved with them or not, and more. Let’s start with some basic questions first.
What Are Arachnids?
A spider is a member of the class of invertebrate animals called arachnids. There are over 2 million documented species worldwide. These include mites, ticks, scorpions, tarantulas and other creatures.
Most are harmless to humans, but there are a few that could possibly hurt us. For example, the black widow gets its name from the way it attaches itself onto larger prey after feeding. It then releases poison through two small needles-like projections behind each eye.
Other types of spiders will sometimes use silk lines to wrap around our legs until enough force is applied to break them open. Then, they inject their venom into us using little barbed spines located between the fangs.
The venom produced by spiders has a number of uses. Some serve as painkillers, others fight infection and viruses, and still others act as chemical warfare agents against insects.
Black widows’ venom contains tetrodotoxin, which blocks nerve impulses and muscles from communicating with one another, making breathing difficult. Although they usually won’t bite unless threatened, they often build webs to trap their victims.
Most spiders live in various environments throughout the world, including deserts, jungles and forests. Because these areas tend to lack sunlight, spiders get energy from capturing flying insects or other smaller arthropods. Their bodies contain four pairs of eyes, two sets of feelers, and six legs. Each pair of legs has three joints. At the end of each joint is a claw. When the spider feels threatened, it can quickly move away by extending its body, rotating its abdomen and moving forward.
How Many Kinds Of Spiders Do We Know About?
There are five main groups of spiders, based upon the shape of their abdomens. They are:
Dictyophora – roundish
Linyphiidae – long cylindrical
Theridiidae – club-shaped
Salticidae – spherical
Symphytognatha – flat
These are just a handful of the thousands of known species of spiders, so it’s likely that new ones are discovered every year. One group of spiders, the crab spiders, looks similar except they have eight legs rather than six. Another, the wolf spiders, have fangs like sharks. And the jumping spiders are very small and fast, resembling tiny balls made of thread.
Can You Tell The Difference Between A Spider And Its Venom?
Spiders have no eyelids or eyelashes, so they cannot blink. However, they can see with multiple eyespots on their front and back ends. Spiders have two types of eyes: anterior median eyes (AME) and posterior median eyes (PME), which are located right in the middle of the head area.
AMEs are used primarily for seeing objects directly ahead of them; PMEs are used for seeing things farther away. Like mammals, spiders have several layers of nerves running throughout their entire bodies. Unlike mammals though, spiders don’t have sweat glands, nor are they capable of producing pheromones.
Spider venom is highly acidic and watery. Its pH level ranges anywhere from 3 to 11, depending on the specific species. The highest alkaline levels are found in certain beetles and ants. Since most spiders are predators, their bodies contain digestive enzymes that allow them to eat large amounts of food without getting sick.
Their stomach acidity helps the process along and keeps the food inside them. Once digested, the nutrients pass through the intestines and exit the body through the anus.
When a spider feeds, it holds onto the victim with fangs. Afterward, when the spider wants to remove its meal, it contracts its body to squeeze the liquid out of the fangs. Because of this, some experts say that the fangs found on most spiders are only used for self defense.
Others disagree, saying that the fangs are used to capture prey and hold onto them until the spider can finish eating them. Either way, the threat of having fangs doesn’t mean that you need to fear being bit by a spider.
So Should I Be Afraid Of Spiders?
Although they’re not poisonous, spiders can sting us if we touch them or try to pick them up. Usually you’d notice before too much damage occurs, since they typically build webbing to catch their prey. Still, it’s best to avoid touching them in the first place.
Some people believe that all spiders are dangerous, but they’re wrong. Different species do bite and cause injury, but they rarely attack humans intentionally. If you encounter a spider, leave it alone and stay away. Try to identify it through pictures online or books, and contact a scientist who specializes in studying spiders. Even if you think you recognize a spider, consult someone else before attempting to kill it yourself.
Even though spiders are relatively harmless, they can still make you uncomfortable. Here are some ways to reduce the anxiety associated with them:
Never run outside if you suspect that an insect is going to bite you. Stay indoors and keep windows closed when outdoors. Use bug repellent containing DEET on exposed parts of your body.
Watch out for hairy spiders, especially those whose hairs stick up above their spinnerets. Also beware of brown recluse and black jumper spiders, both of which are capable of causing painful bites.
– Avoid spider webs, especially those built by large black widows and brown recluses.
– Don’t swat at spiders. Just let them go wherever they want.
– Don’t touch spiders, fish or anything else covered in mucus.
– Be careful when walking barefoot near a bush full of thorns or nettle stings.
If you do happen to step on a spider, put your foot down immediately and never stomp on it. Never burn a spider alive, cut it into pieces or crush it with rocks.