Life Cycle of a Spider

This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. You can explore the life cycle of a spider with your whole family together!

1st thru 4th grades
5th thru 8th grades
9th thru 12th grades
Layers of Learning Unit 3-1
Unit 3-1: Age of Exploration, Argentina & Chile, Insects, Fairy Tales

The life cycle of a spider exploration is a biology experiment that pairs with Layers of Learning Unit 3-1 where they fit in alongside the insects. Layers of Learning has coloring and printables in every unit of this family-friendly curriculum. Learn more about Layers of Learning.

Spiders are arthropods.  They have a hard exoskeleton. Since they have eight legs and no antennae, they are in their own class: Arachnida.  Arachnids are predators and carnivores.  They often kill their prey with venom and then spit digestive juices from their stomachs onto the body of their dead prey, dissolving it before sucking up the pre-digested bits.  Learn about the life cycle of a spider with us.

Step 1: Library Research

Before you begin exploring, read a book or two about spiders. Here are some suggestions, but if you can’t find these, look for books at your library about spiders or arachnids. The colored smilies above each book tells you what age level they’re recommended for.

Spiders

by Gail Gibbons

Tells about different kinds of spiders, how they help humans, how they build their webs and more.

Spiders

by Seymour Simon

Packed with up close photography and equally packed with information about how spiders eat, hunt, build webs, and more,

Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Spiders

by Eleanor Spicer Rice

Conversationally takes readers on a tour of spiders that live in our world alongside us and do amazing things. Will make a spider lover out of you!

Step 2: Spider Life Cycle Exploration

To complete this exploration you need the spider life cycle printable and some crayons or colored pencils.

Click on this image to get the printable.

Black widow spiders mate in spring and early summer.  The male is about half the size of the female.  Though the black widow does sometimes eat her mate after breeding, this is not always or even usually the case.  When the female black widow does feed on her mate it is because she is low in nutrients and needs the energy.

After mating, the female black widow weaves a round or pear shaped nest of silk into which she deposits her eggs.  The web of the black widow is random and messy looking, not symmetrical and neat like some spiders.  Female black widows can mate and lay three or more egg sacs a season.  Hundreds of eggs are laid in each egg sac.  The mother black widow guards the egg sac for up to a month until it hatches.

When the baby spiders hatch they begin to eat one another for nutrients, so only a few from each egg sac survive.  The survivors leave the egg sac within a couple of days of hatching.  When they leave they often “balloon”.  The baby spiders spin a long filament of web and it catches a breeze and floats them away from home.

The baby spiders molt several times over the summer and fall.  Over winter they mature and in the spring they are ready to find their own mates and start the cycle over again.  Most black widows live only one year, but they can live up to three years.

Watch this film from the 1960s about the Black Widow life cycle.

Now color the Life Cycle of a Spider printable.

Step 3: Show What You Know

Put your colored printable life cycle page in your science notebook. Tell someone who wasn’t there for the lesson all about how a black widow grows from egg to adult to laying more eggs.

Additional Layers

Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each Layers of Learning unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.

Writer’s Notebook

A lot of people are very afraid of spiders.  They bite and the way they move is spooky.  Are you afraid of spiders?  Write about an animal you are afraid of.  Describe in detail what about that animal scares you.

Additional Layer

Learn which dangerous spiders live in your area and how to identify them. 

This is a brown recluse. If it bites you it can make a very large and painful sore that needs medical attention.

Learn what to do if you get bitten.  Some spider bites are very dangerous and painful.

Deep Thoughts

There are more than 45,700 known species of spiders. Scientists have proposed more than 20 different ways to classify these spiders within the Arachnid family since 1900. There are arguments over where exactly they all fit.

Taxonomy, or the groups we put living things in, can change depending on which characteristics we think are the most important.

After you have learned a little more about spiders decide which characteristics you think are most important for putting them with their closest spider relatives. Habitat? hunting? mating? body shape?

Now you’re thinking like a taxonomist.

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