Spiders evolved more than 300 million years ago, long before dinosaurs walked on Earth

TRUE: Those ancient spiders didn't build webs but sought the safety of burrows dug underground. There, they were shaded from the sun and protected from predators.

Spiders have poor eyesight

MOSTLY TRUE: Nearly all have eight simple eyes — consisting of one lens and a retina — arranged in different ways but, for the most part, don't see very well. These spiders use other senses, like touch and smell, to help capture prey. A few kinds of spiders, such as the jumping spiders, hunt by sight and have excellent vision.

Jumping Spider, , Portia fimbriata, captured with an LEO Electron Microscopy Ltd. Image: Sue Lindsay
© Australian Museum

Daddy-long-legs spiders are the most venomous in the world

FALSE: There is no evidence to suggest that Daddy-long-legs spiders are dangerously venomous. Daddy-long-legs have venom glands and fangs but their fangs are very small. The jaw bases are fused together, giving the fangs a narrow gape that would make attempts to bite through human skin ineffective.

However, Daddy-long-legs Spiders can kill and eat other spiders, including Redback spiders whose venom can be fatal to humans. Perhaps this is the origin of the rumour that Daddy-long-legs are the most venomous spiders in the world. Behavioural and structural characteristics, such as silk wrapping of prey using their long legs, are very important in the Daddy-long-legs' ability to immobilise and kill Redback spiders. Also, the effect of the Daddy-long-legs' venom on spider or insect prey has little bearing on its effect in humans.

Pholcus phalangioides
A mating pair of Marbled Cellar Spiders, Holocnemus pluchei. Image: R.Mascord
© Australian Museum

Not all spiders have venom

TRUE: Those in the group Uloboridae (Feather-legged spiders) don't have venom glands. Uloboridae is a family of non-venomous spiders which subdue their prey without venom. They produce a feathery, fuzzy silk which ensnares their prey. Wrapping and crushing the prey in copious silk, they cover the prey in regurgitated digestive enzymes and ingest the liquefied body.

Some spiders can run faster than humans

TRUE: The Australian Golden Huntsman spider (family Sparassidae) has been recorded to run 31 times its body length in a second - that's almost six times faster than Usain Bolt!

Golden Huntsman Spider
Golden Huntsman Spider in the Spiders - Alive & Deadly exhibition in 2017. Image: Abram Powell
© Australian Museum

Spider webs are flimsy and weak

FALSE: Despite their gossamer appearance, spider silk ranks amongst the toughest and most durable material in the world. Currently being developed are biodegradable fishing lines, medical sutures, and protective armour cloth. It also has the potential of being used as a guide for nerve regrowth in human tissue repair.

The smallest spider in the world is as big as a full stop.

TRUE: The smallest species of spider in the world is Patu digua, in the family Symphytognathidae. The male Patu digua is only as large as the head of a pin.

No one has died of a spider bite in Australia for over 30 years

TRUE: Statistics show that no Australian has been killed by our deadly spiders since anti-venom was introduced in 1982. (In fact the biggest killer animal in Australia is the European Honey Bee.)