Where Do Spiders Go in the Winter?

Have you ever wondered what happens to spiders in the winter? Many people hope that they just die. But do they? Or do they hide and wait to catch us by surprise?

Spiders are cold-blooded, meaning that their body temperatures fluctuate with their environment. So, what do spiders do in the winter to avoid dying in the freezing temperatures? Over the years, they have become quite resourceful and have found ways to survive.

Some spider species handle the cold months by hibernating while other species remain active even in the dead of winter.

Do all spiders die in the winter?

Some spiders, like the North American black and yellow garden spider, only live one season and will die once the winter arrives. But by then they will have already taken care of things for the next generation. However, there are also species of spiders that live two years and more.

How do spiders prepare for the winter?

Adult spiders are able to sense when cold temperatures are coming, so they begin to prepare by mating and laying eggs in the late summer and early fall. Eggs are prone to freezing, and the cold temperatures could destroy them. So, before the females lay their eggs, they carefully choose a safe, dark place for the egg sac to protect it from the harsh winter temperatures.

The best places for spiders to lay their eggs are in dark, secluded locations, which will help keep the eggs warm. The spaces under tree bark, rock piles, leaves, or even in your nice, warm home are the perfect places for spiders to protect their babies.

The eggs of some species will not hatch until spring, while the eggs of others will hatch in the winter, and the baby spiderlings will live together in the egg sac. Once it is warm enough for the spiders to survive, they will use their fangs to cut a hole in the sac. They will emerge through this hole and set off to find new homes.

Do spiders hibernate in the winter?

Some spiders, like the fishing spider and the tarantula, live longer than a year and will hibernate during the cold months. Both adult spiders and young spiders will hunker down under tree bark, rocks, between the ground and the snow, or even burrow into the soil (e.g., wolf spiders). Some prepare for the winter by spinning a web in their hiding place. 

Spider antifreeze

No spider can live without a little help, though. Once the weather starts to change, so does the spider. Their bodies slow down, and they begin to produce an antifreeze-type chemical, polyhydroxy alcohol, that works with the existing fluids in their bloodstream to help prevent ice crystals from forming inside their bodies. The combination of their insulated shelter and this natural antifreeze helps the spiders survive the winter.

Once the weather starts to warm up, their bodies stop producing this antifreeze, and they come out of hibernation and become active once again. 

Winter spider activity

Remarkably, there are some spiders that remain active during the winter. Most of these spiders remain hidden under leaves and other items on the ground to take advantage of the warmth from the decaying debris and the geothermal heat. They are not as active in the cold and are not usually seen but will come out on warm winter days and can sometimes be seen taking a stroll across the snow. They are able to stay alive during the winter months because their metabolism and digestion are slower in the cold, so they need less food.

Some spiders also have learned to live with humans. The common house spider is a great example. It lives its whole life in a house, barn, garage, or some other kind of protected structure. These spiders have become accustomed to indoor conditions to survive the winter and to continue to mate and reproduce. Typically, only about five percent of the spiders you encounter inside have ever even been outside.

How to get rid of a spider in winter?

If you find a spider in your home in the winter and you want to save it by putting it outside, you are actually giving it a death sentence. It takes a while for the antifreeze chemical to build up in a spider’s body, so if you put it outside, the little creature will probably end up freezing to death. The best thing for the spider is for you to leave it alone and just to let it live peacefully alongside you.

But if you cannot deal with a spider living in your home, find a safe place for it to live in a garage or a barn. Spiders have gotten a terrible reputation over the years, but most spiders are harmless and are not aggressive unless provoked. They actually prefer to avoid humans and would like for us to avoid them as we are much more dangerous to them than they are to us. Spiders are very good for the environment and kill other pests, including the disease-carrying mosquito and the pesky housefly. There are a few venomous species such as the black widow and the brown recluse, but their bites are very uncommon. If you do have these living in your home, take the proper measures to have them removed.

Summary

So, where do spiders go in the winter? Well, that actually depends on the species. Some adults and young will survive by winterizing themselves while others will die and let the next generation take their place. Does having an extremely cold winter mean that there will be fewer spiders? Probably not. In some cases, there may be a few less, but all that depends on how well the spiders have prepared themselves and their egg sacs to withstand the harsh winter conditions. Getting ready for winter is a natural instinct for spiders, and they have learned many ways to protect themselves and their young. Some spiders will not make it through the winter, but you can bet there will be plenty more to take their place.

8 Comments

Bonnie lewton

I have What I believe is an orb weaver between my kitchen window & the screen. We are friends! Will she die this fall? How can I help her through the winter?

    InsectCop

    You can try making it warmer, but that’s about all you can do. Some spiders deal with the cold better, some do a bit worse. Some can even survive some rather extreme temperatures, due to having compounds in their hemolymph that are a bit similar to antifreeze. Still, Orb Weaver Spiders are a rather large spider family, so I’m not sure about the specific type you’re talking about.
    You also have to keep in mind that this specific individual might already be getting close to the end of its natural life. I’m also not sure how cold it is wherever you come from, but perhaps you should think about letting the spider go? Since males are less likely to be spotted, I would assume that you’re seeing a female? If it’s not too cold, the spider might still have time to lay some eggs.
    Also, since you seem somewhat emotionally attached to the little one, I want you to know that spiders don’t freeze the same way people do. They sort of just become slower as it gets colder until they’ll enter a hibernation-like state.

Maureen Linda Jacobson

Neoscona crucifera-does she die or hibernate in the winter?

    InsectCop

    Adult spiders usually die with the first freeze while the eggs of these spiders overwinter to hatch in the spring.

Christa

A beautiful argiope aurantia laid an egg sac on my azalea bushes about a month ago. However, she didnt secure it very well and with a recent storm it fell down. I picked it up and brought it inside but unsure if this is the best thing to do. Should I put it back out (will the babies hatch before winter or in the spring, do they need the cold of the winter to develop properly, etc)?

    InsectCop

    Eggs might hatch sometime around late summer or fall, however, if you live in a place with a rather cold climate, the baby spiders will stay in the sack until the following spring when it gets warmer. You don’t need to worry about them too much, nature is smart and species have their own ways to survive the conditions of places they live in.

Shawn

I live in northeast Ohio and was wondering how many deadly/poisonous spiders live here. Im not a big fan of spiders. i can live with them as long as they stay where they are

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