Spitting Spiders Attack with Venomous Saliva

Image: Ssabbath.deviantart.com/ Creative Commons

Trigger warning: If you already have a fear of spiders, this story is definitely not going to help with your arachnophobia.

There is a species of spider that ensnares its prey with a web of venomous silk spit before it gorges on it.

Spitting spiders are members of the Scytodidae family, and more than 150 species of Scytodids have been identified across the globe. The good news is that spitting spiders can’t harm humans or pets because their fangs are too small to pierce the skin, so instead the creatures feast on fish, moths, flies, and other insects that are larger than the spiders themselves.

André Karwath/creative commons/2.5
Image: André Karwath/ Creative Commons

They catch their prey by spitting a fluid type of silk containing venom (produced by venom glands called “chelicerae”) in a crisscross pattern. The initial strike is extraordinarily quick and close, lasting less than 1/700th of a second and coming from a distance of just ten to twenty millimeters away.

The creature’s spit pattern is more than ten times the length of its own body. After capturing its prey, the spider issues a venomous bite and then wraps up its prey-snack with silk from its spinnerets.

Scytodids have six eyes arranged in three pairs (the better to see you with, my dear) and the mature spiders live together and help provide food to young spiders. Generally, though, spitting spiders are not social and will even spit at and immobilize each other.

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