Have you ever encountered a spider that seemed to follow you with its eyes? Or maybe it moved to orient itself so it was facing you directly? This can be unnerving, even disturbing behavior to see in a spider. The most unsettling thing would be if the spider recognized you and could remember your face!
Spiders most likely do not remember your face. Spiders have poor eyesight, and cannot see enough detail to be able to recognize your face in the first place. Some spiders, like jumping spiders, have excellent vision but still will not remember you due a natural lack of necessity to recognize faces.
If you destroy a web, you probably don’t have to worry about the spider getting revenge on you. Read on to find out the 7 reasons why spiders won’t remember you or seek revenge!
Can Spiders Remember?
Spiders are so small, it’s hard to imagine there’s much going on in brains the size of poppy seeds. Surprisingly, scientists are discovering that spiders are highly intelligent creatures, not simply driven by base instincts.
Studies have shown that spiders do have memories, and are capable of remembering those memories in the future.
For example, black widow spiders will remember where prey is located in their web, how many there are, and what shape the prey is, according to the University of Wisconsin.
Another study checked out the memory of a species of jumping spider, Portia africana. They were exposed to a lure that replicated a potential prey spider. A screen was then placed between the spider and the lure.
The lure was then either left alone, or it was positioned differently, or the lure was exchanged for a different one. 90 seconds later, the screen was lifted. The study found that in most instances, it did not matter if the lure changed positions or even if the lure was a different spider, the Portia jumping spider still jumped at the prey.
Since the spiders did not hesitate before jumping on potential prey, it indicates that the jumping spider remembered that there was potential prey on the other side of the screen and didn’t waste time reassessing the prey as if it were something brand new.
With all of that being said, is it possible for a spider to remember your face? And if they do, will they be out for revenge if you botch their web or make a failed attempt with your boot?
Reasons Why Spiders Won’t Remember You & Get Revenge
Some of us can tolerate spiders in the house, but a lot of us can’t stand the sight of them! For good reason: they have eight legs, scurry way too fast, and they’re just creepy looking.
To top it off, scientists are telling us that spiders are smart! What we thought were just scurrying, eight-legged mindless creatures are now recognized as having thoughts, memories, and in some cases even self-awareness!
So, if you accidentally ruin a spider’s web or miss them with your boot, will they remember you? And will they try to get revenge?
Probably not…here’s why:
Spiders Have Poor Eyesight
One of the most basic reasons a spider won’t remember you is because it can’t see you or your face, according to the Australian Museum.
About half the spiders out there catch prey with webs. They don’t need great eyesight, they just have to sit and wait for their prey to come to them.
Even active-hunting spiders do not necessarily need great vision to catch prey. Instead, they base their prey off of movement, often wandering around at night, sitting still, then wandering some more until they see something move.
The only exception is the jumping spider, which has amazing vision. So, if there were any spider that could actually see your face, it would probably be a jumping spider.
But don’t worry, they’re not out for revenge!
Spiders Rely On Vibrations For Recognition
As mentioned previously, about half the spiders in the world use webs to catch their prey. Obviously, there’s no need for super great eyesight to catch prey in a web.
Instead, these spiders rely almost solely on vibrations to understand the world around them. A spider’s sense of vibrations is similar to a human’s sense of hearing.
Web-building spiders do not use webs only for catching prey. They also live in their webs, typically in the upper corners of webs or directly in the center. Potential mates also access females via their webs.
Spiders are pretty smart and can tell the size of their prey, how many are stuck in their webs, and sense approaching mates all based on vibrations alone, according to the Smithsonian Institution. From these vibration signals, they will either come out and attack the prey or enter into a courtship mode.
For this reason, web-building spiders rely on eyesight very little. But what about spiders that actively hunt?
Spiders that actively hunt also rely on vibrations for a fair amount of time. Even if they don’t build webs to catch prey, some active hunters build webs to live in or burrow in. They also use silk to jump from great heights or leave a trail behind them so they can find their way home.
Vibrations along these lines can alert spiders to potential predators that are following them or nearby.
All in all, spiders don’t really rely on facial recognition to ‘see’ things. Instead, they rely on vibrations.
Spiders Remember Their Webs More Than Your Face
Have you ever gotten close enough to a spider web to really take in how intricate and detailed they are? Seriously, spiders are full-blown engineers when it comes to web building.
As we mentioned before, spiders remember where prey is located in their webs, and they remember how much prey is trapped in their webs.
Another interesting fact about spiders is that they remember exactly how they constructed their last web, down to the angle of the silk strand and the distance between the last silk strand.
It takes a spider about two hours to construct a web, according to Johns Hopkins University, but every step is meticulous.
So, what does this have to do with remembering you?
The fact of the matter is, a spider’s brain is hardwired to remember things that are important to it. Web-building and recognizing their place in relation to a web is important to their survival. Remembering your face is not.
Spiders View Humans As Predators
We’ve talked a little bit about why spiders might not remember you. But what about getting revenge?
Spiders will not try to get revenge on you for one simple reason: you are a predator to them! Even the biggest spider in the world, the Goliath Bird-Eating Tarantula, is no match for a human.
Rest easy, no matter how many times you destroy a spider’s web, they won’t come looking for you in a dark alley. They’re more likely to scurry away as soon as they notice you.
Spiders May Recognize Color More Than Faces
Students from the University of Cincinnati found that jumping spiders potentially can recognize faces. to test if a Specifically, they found that paradise jumping spiders may be able to recognize the faces of other paradise jumping spiders.
However, this doesn’t really equate to human faces in MUCH larger detail.
When the spiders approach each other, these crafty spiders will actually orient themselves so that they are facing each other. This might be true for other jumping spiders as well, but no specific research has been conducted. For now, the study is focused on paradise jumping spiders.
The issue they’re running into with the study is that they aren’t sure if the spiders are recognizing the face of other spiders, or just attracted to the scarlet coloring below the spider’s eyes.
The colorful stripes and shapes on their body are where the paradise spider got its name, similar to how birds of paradise are often very colorful. Male jumping spiders use their color in addition to a complex courtship dance to woo potential female partners.
I would recon it would be the latter reasoning but still, props to them for some awesome research!
Lack Of Evidence That Spiders Can Remember Faces
Even though scientists are making headway and breaking ceilings on spider knowledge, facial recognition is still a mystery in the spider world.
To put it simply, there’s just no evidence or studies that reveal that spiders can recognize human faces.
All humans belong to a single species: homo sapien. However, in the spider world, there are over 30,000 different species! To be able to say ‘all spiders recognize faces’ or ‘no spider recognizes faces’ is impossible.
Faces Aren’t Important In The Spider World
We touched on this a little bit earlier. A spider’s world is so much different than our own. What’s important to us might not ever cross the mind of a spider.
To us, we recognize family members, friends, and colleagues based on their faces. Without this ability, we could not differentiate between our siblings or parents and a stranger (if we don’t count recognizing their voice).
In the spider world, scientists aren’t certain how spiders can tell who is and isn’t their kin, but they know that spiders can tell who’s family and who isn’t.
In a 1999 study published by Royal Society, crab spiders were examined for their ability to tell family members from non-family members (immigrants). What happened was, crab spiders allowed immigrant spiders into their social club, but as soon as they fell on hard times, the immigrant crab spiders were the first ones to be eaten.
In the same vein, female crab spiders were more likely to eat immigrant females and brothers before eating immigrant males, indicating their plan for future breeding. This indicates not only that spiders are smart, but that they recognize who is and isn’t a family member.
A more recent study published by Behavioral Ecology in 2011 suggests that something called cuticular hydrocarbons are responsible for this family recognition. Although the name sounds scary, all cuticular hydrocarbons do is prevent an insect or spider from drying out.
However, the hydrocarbons are so specified that scientists think insects and spiders might use these to identify family members. To a spider, faces aren’t very important. For this reason, they probably do not recognize or remember your face, if they can see it in the first place.
Do Spiders Understand Humans?
We now know that spiders probably do not recognize your face, and they’re unlikely to get revenge. Do they understand us at all?
When we think of ‘understanding,’ we often think of simple communication. Talking. After all, our dogs and cats understand certain words like ‘walk’ or ‘treat.’
What about spiders?
Spiders do not have ears, and therefore no eardrums. Instead, spiders use their legs to hear! Tiny hairs on the spider’s legs pick up sound and vibrations which they use to assess their environment.
A graduate student at Cornell University was studying jumping spiders for their visual abilities by attaching a teeny tiny electrode to the spider’s brain. While doing this study, they were scraping chairs, talking, and dropping things on the floor like typical college students.
What surprised them was that when they made these noises, even though there were no visual cues, the spider’s brains responded. This was an incredible discovery as, before then, it was thought that spiders couldn’t hear but instead only sensed vibrations.
Spiders hear best between 80-130 hertz. A typical human male voice has a frequency of about 100 hertz, plus or minus 30. So, yes, spiders can hear human males when theay talk. Females tend to have voices in a frequency range a little too high for spiders to hear, around 165 hertz.
With that being said, even though spiders can hear us, it’s unlikely they understand what we are saying. Similar to how faces aren’t important to a spider, words and speaking aren’t important either.
Do Spiders Watch You?
If you’ve ever encountered a jumping spider, then you probably have a strange feeling that they are watching you. Especially if you move.
Jumping spiders are probably the only spiders that actually ‘watch’ you. This is due to their excellent vision. Other spiders like common house spiders, wolf spiders, and even tarantulas do not have good eyesight and probably cannot even see you if you are more than a few feet away.
The reason a spider is watching you is not because it is planning out a vicious attack. It’s more likely watching you like it would watch a predator.
When exposed to the sound of a jumping spider’s mortal enemy, the wasp, the spiders would often look around, searching for the source of the sound. Similarly, spiders will watch you to see if you are going to attack them.
Wrapping Things Up
Spiders can be unnerving to see, especially inside your house. You might be worried that they’ll somehow remember you and come after you at night when you’re all curled up in bed.
Rest easy…spiders probably do not recognize your face in the first place, and will not seek out revenge at a later time.
Spider’s don’t need facial recognition to get on in life, so there’s no reason for them to have this capability. Instead, they use memory to build their webs and remember where their prey is. They use hairs on their legs to hear potential prey and predators alike. And they use scent to identify family members.
Clark, D. L., & Uetz, G. W. (1990, November). Video image recognition by the jumping spider, Maevia inclemens (Araneae: Salticidae). Animal Behavior, 40(5), 884-890. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000334720580990X
Cross, F. R., & Jackson, R. R. (2014). Specialized use of working memory by Portia africana, a spider-eating salticid. Animal Cognition, 17, 435-444. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10071-013-0675-2
Emile, O., LeFloch, A., & Vollrath, F. (2006). Shape memory in spider draglines. Nature, 440, 621. https://www.nature.com/articles/440621a#citeas
Evans, T. A. (1999, February 07). Kin recognition in a social spider. The Royal Society, 266(1416). https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rspb.1999.0635
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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