From Here to There: Different Forms of Spider Travel 

With eight legs at their disposal, it may come as no surprise that spiders can easily move from place to place. Some species can even travel up to 70 times their body length in a single second. 

While they can effortlessly glide from here to there by alternating the gait of all eight legs as they move, walking isn’t a spider’s only method of travel. Aside from hitching a ride on the occasional plane, train and automobile, there are numerous other forms of transportation they take advantage of. 

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a—Flying Spider

In 1832, naturalist Charles Darwin noticed something peculiar while aboard the HMS Beagle. Thousands of spiders had taken over the ship’s exterior. Even more peculiar was the fact that the ship was 60 miles offshore the coast of Argentina. 

So how exactly did the tiny but mighty arachnids reach a ship that was so far away from land? 

By flying, of course. 

While spiders may not have wings, they do have versatile silks that not only weave encapsulating webs but also help them take flight and float to distant locations. The act itself is called ballooning, and it occurs when a spider raises its abdomen upward, ejects small strands of silk, and floats into the air toward its next destination. 

But could it really be that easy? After conducting further research, scientists have concluded that it’s not as simple as using a breeze to propel them hundreds of miles from their starting point. 

Rather, arachnids use their spidey senses via sensory hairs called trichobothria. These sensitive strands help them notice minuscule changes in the earth’s electric fields. When an electric field raises a spider’s trichobothria, it takes note by lifting its spinnerets into the air and releasing its silk. This makeshift floating mechanism picks up a negative charge from the electric field, providing enough force to lift the silk and spider in the air, taking it to a different location. 

Cartwheeling: An Acrobatic Solution for Escaping Predators 

In addition to ballooning from one place to the next, some species of spinners boast a unique manner of transportation: cartwheeling. While rolling from place to place may not be a conventional method of moving, it’s certainly useful when trying to evade predators. 

Two particular species of somersaulting spiders include: 

The Golden Rolling Spider 

The golden rolling spider resides in the sandy deserts of Namibia. When provoked by predators like spider-hunting wasps, it uses its unique cartwheeling talents (known as flic-flac jumps) to propel itself down the sandy dunes. These flic-flacking rolls are a convenient and quick means of escape, as a golden rolling spider can travel up to one and a half meters per second as it rolls down a dune. 

The Flic-Flac Spider 

The flic-flac spider also lives in sandy regions, specifically in the southern sand-filled deserts of Morocco. Recently discovered by spider expert Dr. Peter Jäger, the flic-flac spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi) is known for its gymnast-like agility as it jumps and rolls to expedite its travel time. Unlike its cartwheeling cousin, the flic-flac spider uses extreme flexibility to propel itself off the ground. It takes advantage of its flic-flacking skills to travel downhill, uphill, or on flat ground at two meters per second

Just Keep Swimming 

While you may have spent a small chunk of your childhood boasting your ability to hold your breath for over a minute in the pool, can you imagine what it would be like living your entire life underwater? 

Enter the Argyroneta aquatica, more commonly known by its informal name, the diving bell spider. Like humans, this species needs oxygen to breathe — so how is it possible that they can spend up to 24 hours underwater at a time? 

Diving bell spiders use their multipurpose silks to create tiny silk-made air tanks (diving bells) that attach to pond weeds or the sides of aquariums. After creating their homemade oxygen chambers, they return to the water’s surface, grab an air bubble, attach it to the bottom of their hairy abdomens, and swim to their diving bell, where they deposit the bubble. 

With such an efficient method of living and breathing underwater, diving bell spiders can enjoy an entirely sub-aquatic existence that includes swimming, eating and breeding. 

Expand Your Knowledge of Spiders, Insects and More at the University of Florida 

Whether you’re interested in diving deeper into the inner workings of spiders or looking for a broader education in insects and other arthropods, the University of Florida offers a wide variety of entirely online programs. Each program is built to expand your knowledge of entomology and point you on a path to help build your career in a variety of fields, including: 

  • Beekeeping 
  • Insect farming 
  • Pest control 
  • State and federal employment 

With our 30-credit master’s degree in entomology and nematology and our 15-credit graduate certificate each boasting four specialization options, there are numerous ways to take your career to the next level — all from the comfort of your own home. 

If you’re interested in learning more about spiders and other arthropods, apply to one of our online entomology and nematology programs today. 


Learn More About the Program

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