Flying spiders: where do they live

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key point:

  • Flying spiders are common in the northern continents: North America, Europe, and Asia. They are common in the Great Lakes region, but can also be found elsewhere in the United States.
  • Flying spiders don't have wings to propel them from one place to another. Instead, they use a form of locomotion called ballooning, in which the spider "balloons" in the air using silk threads released into the wind.
  • Flying spiders do not pose a threat to humans. Their ballooning activity lasts only a short time before they spin webs near outdoor lights or on windowsills. They are territorial and do not congregate, which limits the number that can live in any given area.

A flying spider?

Yes, you read that right. If you have arachnophobia — the fear of spiders — flying spiders can sound like the stuff of nightmares. Social media influencers are trying to convince viewers that flying spiders will soon be invading their backyards.

What is a flying spider? Are flying spiders real? Where do flying spiders live? Are there any spiders with wings?

What is a flying spider?

Do winged spiders exist?

The short answer is no, but there are flying spiders. But they're not what Twitter and Facebook would have you believe.

The so-called flying spider, also known as the gray cross spider or bridge spider, is scientifically classified as Larinioides sclopetarius. It is a large orbweaver spider, which means it spins a circular web. It was first discovered in 1757.

What does a flying spider look like?

Flying spiders are mostly brown or gray with dark and light markings on the abdomen. There are brown and cream stripes on the legs. The abdomen is large and round, while the cephalothorax, or head, is relatively small.

Flying spiders can reach an astounding 3 inches long, but are often smaller, with webs up to 70 centimeters in diameter. Adult spiders weigh less than 2 milligrams, and female spiders weigh almost twice as much as male spiders. Males generally do not weave their own webs, but live on the females' webs to steal prey caught by the females.

flying spider
Spiders use their silk as a way to disperse. Various spiders use their silk as simple parachutes to carry them from one place to another .

© gowrishankar R/Shutterstock.com

Where do flying spiders live?

The flying spider has an all-northern distribution, which means it inhabits the entire northern continent – North America, Europe and Asia. In North America, flying spiders are common around the Great Lakes, but can be found all over the United States.

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They are attracted to man-made objects such as buildings and bridges. This is where they got the common name "bridge spider". They are also commonly found near water, including on boats. They traveled by boat to many isolated islands.

Flying cobwebs often gather around light fixtures. Lights attract predatory insects, which in turn attract spiders.

In some cities, as many as 100 flying spiders may be found in one square meter. They hide during the day and wait for their prey at night in the center of the web. They can be found in the warmer months from early spring to November. In the US, they are most common from May to August.

In the US city of Chicago, residents of some high-rise buildings were asked not to open their windows in May. This is because spiders were known to migrate via balloons at the time. This natural cycle is known as the "Chicago phenomenon."

Why are they called flying spiders?

Contrary to popular belief, flying spiders are not mutant arachnids with wings. There are no winged or flying spiders in the traditional sense. Their name comes from a form of locomotion called ballooning. The spider releases the silk threads into the wind, using them as "balloons" to carry the spider through the air.

Flying spiders aren't the only species to exhibit this behavior. You may remember the little spiders flying away on silk threads from the classic children's book and movie Charlotte's Web . Many crab spiders do this too.

Are flying spiders flying around all the time? No they don't. They hide during the day and guard their nets at night, waiting to eat any insects they catch. Spiders fly or soar only when they need to travel to new feeding grounds. This can happen when insects become scarce in an area or there is high competition from other spiders.

Will the flying spider land on you? Probably not. The spiders are blown away by the wind; they cannot control their flight. If someone landed on top of you, it would be a simple accident. It probably won't stay on you for long. Instead, it falls to the ground or takes off again, still searching for an ideal home.

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Are flying spiders venomous (poisonous)?

All spiders have venom, which they use to immobilize their prey. However, flying spiders are unlikely to bite humans, even though they are found in large numbers near human habitation.

One of the main facts about flying spiders is that they have venom, however, it is not poisonous at all. If they were going to bite, it wouldn't be fatal. It may even heal quickly. Whenever these spiders feel danger or ask for prayers, they bite, otherwise they tend to be docile.

In conclusion, flying spiders are not dangerous to humans.

Spiders may bite if they feel threatened, for example, if you disturb their web or try to hold them in your hand. If you get bitten, their venom isn't as powerful as a bee's venom, and sometimes not even as powerful as a mosquito bite. Bite wounds heal quickly and usually do not require medical attention.

Will flying spiders invade?

The simple answer to this question is no, there will be no flying spider invasion. Flying spiders have lived in the northern hemisphere for centuries. If you happen to see a flying spider where you live, chances are it and its ancestors have always been there.

If you live in Chicago or another area where "spider phenomenon" occurs, the occurrence of spider rides will only last for a short time. Even when spiders land, they will simply spin their webs near outdoor lights or on windowsills. They won't invade your home like in a horror movie.

Flying spiders are also territorial. They are not social spiders. They may make webs alongside each other, but females do not allow other females to enter their webs. This territoriality limits the number of flying spiders that can inhabit an area.

There are also natural enemies that can help keep flying spider populations in check. A skylight fly called Phalacrotophora epeirae feeds on flying spider eggs. In southern Europe, a hunting wasp named Trypoxylon attenuatum preys on adult spiders. It paralyzes the spider, brings it back to its nest, and lays its eggs inside the spider. The wasp larvae feed on the spider after hatching.

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flying spider
Young spiders can move away from where they hatched by sending out a strand of silk (sometimes called a gossamer) and riding the wind.

©Ademortuus/Shutterstock.com

What are some interesting facts about flying spiders?

Flying spiders are interesting creatures. They have venom but are not poisonous. If they were to bite, the bite is not fatal and heals fairly quickly compared to other spider species. Flying spiders are not harmful to humans as they are not aggressive or afraid of humans.

Some other cool facts about flying spiders include:

  • The lifespan of each flying spider is about one and a half years. By then, a female spider can lay 15 sac eggs. Female spiders may eat male spiders if other insect prey is scarce.
  • Flying spiders are more active than some other spiders and love to explore new environments. This may be why they have become so common in cities throughout most of the world.
  • Male flying spiders can biologically become female if there are not enough females in the population. This is called protandry.

Other Animals That Practice Protandry

Flying spiders aren't the only animals on Earth that can biologically transition from male to female. Other types include insects such as the western cicada killer wasp. Several fish species in the following classes can also possess this interesting ability: crustaceans, molluscs, anemone fishes and fishes of the following families: clupeiformes, siluriformes, stomiiformes. No terrestrial vertebrate can perform protandry.

in conclusion

Flying spiders are nothing to fear. They display fantastic behaviors that make them unique in the animal kingdom. If you see a flying spider or a group of spiders like in the "Chicago Phenomenon," look closely, because there's no reason to be afraid.

next…

  • Unbelievable but true: How scientists discovered the world's largest spider (bigger than a human head!) Scientists have discovered what was once the world's largest spider. Read on to learn the details.
  • Insects vs. Spiders: What's the Difference? Some people think that spiders are insects, but they are not. Find out the difference between spiders and insects in this blog.
  • Jumping Spiders: 5 Unbelievable Facts! After learning about flying spiders, let's take a look at jumping spiders.

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flying spider

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about the author


My name is Rebecca and I have been a professional freelancer for nearly ten years. I write SEO content and graphic design. When I'm not working, I'm obsessed with cats and pet mice.

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