Bugs are generally so small that you may assume any noise they make is inaudible to humans, but this isn’t always the case! Some spiders make noises that are loud enough to reach the human ear, but how do they do it – and why?
What noise does a spider make?
Most spiders make no sounds at all, but a few arachnid species can produce noises. Many species of tarantula make a hissing sound and other spiders, like the wolf spider produce a ‘purring’ noise.
How do spiders make noise?
Some spiders can ‘purr,’ but they don’t have vocal cords. This means that they can’t make sounds using their mouths, like animals do. Instead, spiders rely on vibrations to produce noises.
Male wolf spiders position themselves on surfaces that vibrate easily (for example, dried leaves), then use their pedipalps (jaw-like structures) to produce vibrations.
This creates a ‘purring’ sound that can be loud enough to be noticed by humans.
Giant tarantulas are another type of noisy arachnid that will make a hissing sound if disturbed or threatened. Like other spider species, they lack vocal cords and instead rub their forelegs and pedipalps together to create noise. The tiny hairs that cover these appendages rasp against one another as they are rubbed together and produce a hissing sound.
Why do spiders make noise?
Spiders usually make noise do one of two reasons; to attract a mate, or to ward off a threat.
In the case of the wolf spider, their seductive purrs are intended to attract female spiders. Researchers have found that female wolf spiders use their legs to pick up on the vibrations produced by the males, and will use this signal to locate the potential mate. In turn, the male wolf spiders were found to produce vibrations in response to scent cues from nearby female spiders.
Hissing tarantulas, on the other hand, use their noises to warn off potential attackers. By producing an audible sound, they can alert potential threats to their presence and, hopefully, avoid being squashed or eaten.
Most spiders are quiet creatures. Even if they do make a sound, it is often too minute to fall upon human ears. However, there are a few spider species that produce audible noises; most notably, wolf spiders, and tarantulas.
Wolf spiders use their pedipalps to produce vibrations, which can rattle dry leaves around them and create a ‘purring’ noise. The vibrations travel from dry leaf to leaf and are picked up by female wolf spiders, who interpret them as a signal of a potential mate nearby. Many tarantula species also use their pedipalps and forelegs to produce a hissing noise when disturbed, which they use to warn off potential threats.