An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Spiders Crawling On The Snow

2-12-18 snow spider 049A2557Most adult spiders (as many as 85% of temperate zone species) are dormant during the winter, seeking shelter beneath the leaf litter. Their metabolism slows and their need for food is greatly reduced. Other species die at the end of the summer, and their eggs overwinter, protected inside silken sacs. A third, even smaller, group of spiders remains active through the winter.

Spiders’ body temperatures vary significantly, heavily influenced by their environment. Many spiders that remain active year round seek shelter in the subnivean layer between the ground and snow, where the temperature (+/-32°F.) is often warmer than the air. Occasionally, however, they do appear on the surface of the snow, where they are exposed to the wintery blasts of cold air.

Scientists don’t know exactly how these active spiders survive the cold. Some species can tolerate temperatures as low as -4° F.°. Glycerol acts as a type of anti-freeze for these arachnids, but its effect is marginal. In order to survive, some species bask in the sun and derive energy from their diet of snow fleas (a type of springtail) and other small prey, but these strategies don’t totally explain their ability to survive a New England winter. Species of spiders in the families Linyphiidae and Tetragnathidae (see photo) are often what you see crawling on top of the snow.

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8 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Spiders are really interesting….I learned a few days ago that some have 8 eyes, some 6, some 4, some 2 & some ‘0’ eyes! Great stuff to find online!

    February 12, 2018 at 8:19 am

  2. Sue Wetmore

    Some seem to be surviving by residing in my house as I am still finding webs.

    February 12, 2018 at 8:23 am

  3. Treah

    What about those who live inside our houses? Every year I have cellar spiders that hang out in the upper corners of my rooms including the top of my shower. I am entertained each time I take a shower as the moisture builds up, the resident spider delicately picks up water with her (his?) front leg & puts it in her mouth to drink. In the spring I take them outside although do they live permanently in houses?

    February 12, 2018 at 8:44 am

    • Some spiders do reside in buildings, but not most!

      February 13, 2018 at 5:23 pm

  4. Bill On The Hill...

    Treah’s comment is funny for sure as I have a 78 year old neighbor that has a similar experience with his ” pet ” spider ( a big one ) living above his kitchen sink. Whilst I was there on a recent visit, I saw it first hand, down it came on approx. a 6 ft. length of ever so thin silk, landing in the sink, spent several minutes there drinking & back up it’s string to the overhead light fixture. He got me laughing when he told me the spider’s reaction when it sipped on some soapy dishwater! LOL…
    Bill Farr… 🙂

    February 12, 2018 at 9:04 am

  5. judilindsey

    Mary,

    Isn’t nature totally fascinating! Thanks for helping us appreciate its awesomeness!

    Judi 🙂

    >

    February 13, 2018 at 7:01 am

  6. Kathryn

    Imagine having 8 feet to get cold in the winter!

    February 13, 2018 at 9:45 am

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