Animal Sex Education: How Spider Babies Are Born

in steemstem •  5 months ago

Yesterday I showed you two hatches of spiderlings I found in my garden.


Today I'll be explaining how we ended up from this...

ruth-girl_steemit_spider reproduction (7).JPG

to this

ruth-girl_steemit_spider reproduction (4).JPG

Get to know the parents

In spiders, sexual dimorphism is a thing. This means that the females are usually larger (sometimes many times larger) and have a "bulkier" opisthosoma than the males. The size difference is due to the fact that females have bigger energy needs, since they are the ones who not only build webs, but have to lay eggs. Males are mostly useful for their sperm and after their "productive input" they are no longer necessary (therefore they're more easily expendable... and edible). [1, 2]

Look! Here is:

A daddy

And a mommy

The steps to spider conception:

The males jerk off before sex!

Yes, you read that right. Male spiders produce sperm webs. They use them to ejaculate on and then use their pedipalps (the leg-like organs next to their mouth) like a "syringe" that sucks and stores the ejaculated sperm until a female is found. The whole process is long and requires patience. Because of that, their pedipalps have bulkier tips, since they keep the sperm inside. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ,7]

Have a look at this "masturbating" tarantula

The foreplay before the main action

The whole procedure of mating takes a lot of planning as the male is risking his life (don't forget, sexual cannibalism is a thing for spiders). First he needs her "smell", pheromones that she sprays over her web (secreted by organs on her legs). The scent that they give off will attract males of her species that will identify her as a perfect match and may also let the "men" know how hungry she is. Once he spots her, he will try to approach and "seduce" her. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ,7]

Get laid if you know the right moves

Dancing, music and food are tricks used to seduce a female, although for the more BDSM types, even bondage could be applied, as there are some males that "trap" their female in a silk cover they make around her. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ,7]

If the lady succumbs to her male's irresistible charms, then he will be allowed to insert his palp inside her epigyne and "pump that sperm out" in a procedure that takes from several seconds to a few hours. The males may even want to "recharge" their pedipalps and have a second go with the same female, once sex is done. There are cases of spiders that leave their palp inside their female so as to block future aspiring Don Juans from fertilizing their lady. While in other cases, the males just run for their life (if they get lucky and don't end up an after-sex-snack), there are always some which willingly march towards the jaws of death of the hungry and huge female. [1, 2, 6]

See this video (spoiler: the leading actor dies in the end)

An exception to the rule would be Harpactea Sadistica. Here, the males just "pierce" the females abdomen and fill her with their sperm. [1]

We got the sperm! Let's make some spiders!

Fertilization happens in two phases. First the male needs to produce his sperm and save it in his palps and then he needs to stick his palps into the female's epigyne (an opening on the down side of the female's abdomen used for receiving sperm). After all that, the female will store the sperm inside her and keep it safe for as long as she needs to lay her eggs. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ,7]

Getting those spider eggs out

The eggs will take a while to be released inside the female's body and then laid by the gonopore (an opening under the epigyne). Once the eggs are laid, the epigyne will release the stored sperm and let conception begin! [2, 7]

ruth-girl_steemit_spider reproduction (1) - Copy.JPG

The eggs are released covered in a sticky "glue". Exposed to air, it starts solidifying enclosing the precious descendants inside them. Around this sphere, a blanket of silk will be weaved so that the egg sac will be easily attached to the mother's web. It is possible for some species to keep their egg sacs hidden inside their nest, while others may have them dragged around, attached on their spinnerets (the silk producing organ on the spider's opisthosoma") or simply carried by their chelicerae (in simple words, the spider's "jaws"). [1, 2, 3, 5, 6 ,7]

Moms will make from one to three sacs that may fit from a couple up to a few thousands of eggs. These sacs are to be hatched in different times. If you remember my post The Crab Spider Family: Revealed, the sacs are made in summer. Those made earlier will hatch in a few weeks and the spiderlings will hibernate until spring comes (at least those who get to survive). The larvae inside the sacs that were weaved later, will wait until next spring or even summer comes and then the little spiderlings will come out. This multiplies the chances of survival for the species. [1, 2, 3, 5, 6 ,7]

ruth-girl_steemit_spider reproduction (6).JPG

The mother of some species will die after delivery, but there are some that stay there to protect their "gene investment", like these ladies from my garden: [1, 2, 5, 7]

ruth-girl_steemit_spider reproduction (5).JPG

ruth-girl_steemit_spider reproduction (3).JPG

Some of them, may even stick around after the spiderlings hatch and care for their children "nutrition" or simply keep an eye on them. There are also species where the females live hidden with their fragile newborns in "shelters" or simply carry them all (!) on their abdomen (οικογενειακά βάρη, family burden it's what we say in Greece). [2, 5, 6 ,7]

When the time is right, the brood will hatch at the same time. Using their fangs, the newborn spiders will crack their egg open and get out. Then they will slowly pierce their way out of their protective cocoons their mother built with such patience and devotion. In some cases, the mother may help her little ones get out of their cocoon, by making the opening herself. Since they are unable to hunt, their eggs will provide them with the nutrients they need for their first days. [2, 5, 7]

ruth-girl_steemit_spider reproduction (4).JPG

After they grow a little and are capable of hunting and making their own silk, the babies will start wandering and spread over the area. [2]

See those little ones? Not all of them will reach maturity about a year later. Sadly most of them will perish in the hands... or better mouth of another predator. But those who'll get lucky will grow to play the parts Mum and Dad played one or two years before them, as life is being played on Repeat...



Images (not free for re-use) by @ruth-girl - Steemit, 2018

Thank you so much for your time!

Until my next post,
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Males are mostly useful for their sperm and after their "productive input" they are no longer necessary

I am beginning to look at spiders from a whole different lens these days. Thanks to you! Well, it has been a 1-year-process right? :P The females like food, music and dancing? It looks like I have a lot in common with them. Who could tell?

But, I must admit when you said 'a few thousand eggs' this most horrible image came across my mind! Oh Gosh ... I think it is time I leave this post. Otherwise, I will have bad dreams tonight!

Ps: Photo No.5 is awesome! :)

Sending you lots of love from Portugal 😘


Change needs time and repetitive exposure to be established and become permanent. I believe that in a decade or so you might actually like them 😂

It looks like I have a lot in common with them

Ladies and gentlemen, this is something I'd never expect to hear (or read) 😮

Thank you so much for the sweet words, Abigail!! You are so brave for coming here with so many spiders around!
Lots of love to you too! 🤗😘

Change needs time and repetitive exposure to be established and become permanent.

Wise words! Wise words! :D

You are so brave for coming here with so many spiders around!

Thank you 😊


Don't you just hate a huge amount of species at the single place? :D
It is terrific!

Wooow it's so cute!!! <3

I will use it as an example how to make a great, original post, that could attract Steemians!!!


Thank you Alex! I find such posts more fun too! What is better than combining your hobby with your observations that lead to questions answered by some good googling? 😍🕷


Shortened Wiki !!! :D

Let me explain why I can't stand reading newspaper articles written by ignorants with 1/3 of a brain. It's a childhood trauma :)

During the 90's we had no toilet paper in Yugoslavia (no vegetable oil and no gasoline). And no mobile phones/ tables/ internet, of course. Sometimes no electricity for several hours.

So we developed a ritual to read a lot even while... You know... You enter a bathroom to do what you need to do, and you read the letters on the washing machine, ingredients of the shampoo and old newspapers. Propaganda needed to be very, very cheap. And the texts were about psychics, new monsters sent by USA, Tesla's secret weapons, perpetuum mobiles, and similar crap.

Since then I can't stand reading shallow, stupid texts.
I've read more than enough crapy texts that I used as a toilet paper after reading.
I can't stand reading butchered Wiki. :D

Only original stuff form smart people


Oooh, I see. You got enough of "high quality" content to tolerate more 😎

This means that the females are usually larger

Lol. I'm sure this isn't only applicable to the spider world, even among humans; some girlfriends are bigger than their boyfriends... I'm kidding.

Nice one Ruthie.. I've never really taken time to look at spiders' sexuality, but now I've seen it in details.

I'm sure spiders would be proud of you, Ruthie


spiders would be proud of you, Ruthie

Ahahaha! You think they'd make me an Ambassador of Good Will for trying to make them look nice?

Thank you Sammy! 🤗


I think you're already an ambassador.
Our own Human High Commissioner to the Spider Kingdom. Even Spider-Man would be jealous right now :D

So much details, and yet so well written!

And I just can't believe how great your photos are!

I personally do not like spiders (at least not for pets), but they are very interesting species.


I think their presence on this planet is completely unnecessary 😌 Just saying ... :P


Sorry to disappoint you Abi, but as a biologist I must interfere here - spiders have an extremely important role in the ecosystem, since they're predators and contribute immensely to the control of insect populations :)

Hope you're doing great as always!!! :*


All right, all right 😑

Everything is all right over here :) I hope you are well too ❤ :*


:D :D :D C'mon, Abby, don't be like that!


Thank you so much!!

I don't like them as pets either, but observation accompanied with some googling, certainly makes me admire them. And not just spiders, but all kind of bugs I come across 🙃

ωραιο το αρθρακι,καλα μας τα εγραψες.....εχω να δηλωσω παντως οτι η αφηγητρια στο βιντεακι με τη μαυρη χηρα ειναι ρατσιστρια (να ειμαι και λιγο μεσα στο κλιμα της εποχης περι bulling και ρατσισμου) γιατι θελει να μας παρουσιασει εμας τα αρσενικα ως 'αλητες και ερημοσπιτες' ...


Ενταξει, κι εσύ μην το υπεργενικευεις. Για το μαυρο χήρο μιλάει μόνο.
Βασικά εχω απορία τωρα: το αρσενικό της μαύρης χήρας λέγεται μαύρος χήρος ή μαυρος μακαρίτης;


το αρσενικο της Μαυρης Χηρας ονομαζεται.. 'Μαυρος και Αραχνος' ο Καψερος

Beautifully written and accompanied by great shots and nice videos.

I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for sharing knowledge and interesting facts about our world. :)


Thank you for coming over @svemirac! 😊

This is so amazing. I can't tell you the amount of times I've let spiders have their egg sacs in the house. Sometimes I bottle them up until they hatch. They are so good to have around for bug control that I often don't discourage them.


In the house?!?!?!?! You are way braver than me. I love them outside, but when I see them in my room I have to show them the exit. Well, there is always going to be an eight-legged fellow somewhere inside, but I don't think I'd let them have a hundred new babies here. I'd probably take them somewhere out, like our balcony that has a few webs all year round (mostly because of the firewood we keep stored).

Βλέπω όσο πας κανείς όλο και περισσότερες φίλες... :p


Ειμαι κοινωνικο πλασμα κι αυτο φαινεται! 🤣

When someone who doesn't like spiders at all, like me, tells you that have read this from beginning to end without getting bored, you should know that you wrote one badass article :)

I really enjoyed and you captured great shots with your camera :)


Thank you! That means a lot! 😊

Nice job @ruth-girl!

This is a completed description of reproductive steps in spiders.

if they get lucky and don't end up an after-sex-snack

Hahaha, can't stop laughing at expression. Very hilarious.

It's awesome read. Thanks


Hehe! Thank you for reading this @olamseu!

I'm happy you enjoyed it! 🙂


Sure. All the best!

All the things I never knew! Amazing and entertaining... I admire the Dads for going for it even with the risk of death.


The species needs to survive even if the dads are forced to self-sacrifice...


Looking to nature, I wonder if it would be a healthier attitude to look at dead-beat dads using this lens? If instead of calling them dead-beat and constantly being disappointed that they can't be active dads, what if we were to look at them as givers to the survival of the species? I know that most mothers didn't expect to raise children alone, while instead this spider probably knows that she is going to kill off her mate... or does she? Either way, if we helped children of single mothers--and the mothers themselves--look at the male as a valuable service needed to create life and nothing more, would the children be more positive and adept at finding role-models to fill emotional needs?

Just a thought...


A thought that is very clever and really offers an alternative point of view. Thank you!


If we look to nature, I think we could find many different ways to look at things.

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Hello ruth-girl you have shown great and explained great