Spider Myths

Illustration: Henry C. McCook
Illustration: Henry C. McCook

Everything that ‘everybody knows’ about spiders is wrong!

As the only spider specialist in a large metropolitan area, I get many spider inquiries from the general public. Since I'm mentioned on the Internet as a spider specialist, some of the public inquiries come from distant places. When I lecture on spiders, adult and child audiences always have questions and comments. So do casual acquaintances when they learn that I work with spiders. 

These people's concerns come from a widespread and surprisingly uniform set of assumptions and "general knowledge" about spiders. And almost all of this widespread spider information is false! 

I don't really expect that the following, by itself, will make much headway against the flood of spider misinformation. However, I hope that those curious about spiders who find their way here will absorb enough information to ask me some new questions instead of the same old ones. I can hope, can't I? 

Questions and Comments. For general spider information go to our resources page. To suggest improvements or additions, or to ask a question, please contact me. But if you hope to show that any of the following myths is actually true, please be prepared with verifiable evidence including actual specimens…

"I honestly believe it is better to know nothing than to know what ain't so."

Josh Billings, 1818-1885 (in "Solemn Thoughts")

Every one of the statements below is false! 
Click to learn why.

The Fine Print

Opinions expressed here are not necessarily endorsed by the Burke Museum or the University of Washington, but are entirely my own, founded on 45 years of experience working with spiders and misinformed humans.

Note also that I use "myth" here as a convenient catchall term for any kind of widely believed misinformation about spiders. Also, the myths dealt with here are mainly North American. Some of the spider myths of other continents may differ. Older myths and legends not widely believed by present-day people are omitted: examples would be the Greek myth of Arachne or the West African stories of Anansi.

close up of a spider

Spider Myth Resources

Explore even more! Additional spider resources and more myths (poor spiders can't catch a break!).

Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum
Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum