Diving Bell Spider (Water Spider)

Last updated: January 12, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© iStock.com/Lingkon Serao

Diving bell spiders can breathe underwater using an air bubble on their abdomen


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Diving Bell Spider (Water Spider) Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Diving Bell Spider (Water Spider) Locations

Diving Bell Spider (Water Spider) Locations

Diving Bell Spider (Water Spider) Facts

Prey
Mosquito larvae, daphnia, small crustaceans, water mites, mayfly nymphs, and phantom midge larvae
Main Prey
Small aquatic insects
Name Of Young
Spiderlings
Group Behavior
  • Mainly solitary
Fun Fact
Diving bell spiders can breathe underwater using an air bubble on their abdomen
Most Distinctive Feature
Dome-shaped air bubble on their abdomen
Other Name(s)
Water spider
Optimum pH Level
Low pH waters
Average Spawn Size
30 to 70 eggs per sac
Habitat
Ponds, marshes, eutrophic lakes, streams, and swamps
Predators
Fish and frogs
Diet
Carnivore
Type
Arachnid
Common Name
Diving bell spider
Origin
Asia and Europe
Number Of Species
1
Location
British Isles, Russia, Turkey, Japan, Korea, China, Caucasus, and Iran
Nesting Location
Underwater

Diving Bell Spider (Water Spider) Physical Characteristics

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The diving bell spider, also known as a water spider, is an aquatic species of spider that can be found in freshwater habitats throughout Asia and Europe. The diving bell spider lives an interesting life that sets it apart from other species of spider, living in water instead of on land. The only time the diving bell spider can be seen on land or above the water surface is when it’s replenishing its oxygen supply.

As an aquatic spider, the diving bell spider has a much different way of surviving than your typical land spider, and all their hunting, webbing, resting, and mating habits occur underwater.

5 Facts About Diving Bell Spiders

  1. Male diving bell spiders are around 30% larger than females because the females have larger bells to build underwater webbing.
  2. When diving bell spiderlings hatch, they stay with their mother until they are mature and leave the nest.
  3. Diving bell spiders have a painful bite that can leave you in pain for a few days.
  4. The diving bell of this type of spider acts as their gills, which allows them to store oxygen to breathe underwater.
  5. The diving bell spider is one of the only spiders that can live and breathe entirely underwater without drowning.

Diving Bell Spider Species, Types, and Scientific Name

Diving bell spiders, scientifically known as Argyroneta Aquatica are the only member of the Argyroneta genus of spiders that can live in water, and they belong to the Dictynidae family. The diving bell spider is only one species, and there are no different types of diving bell spiders.

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Appearance: How To Identify Diving Bell Spiders

The diving bell spider has an interesting appearance that looks striking underwater. Females reach a total size of 7.8 to 13.1 millimeters, while males reach a size of 7.8 to 18.7 millimeters, making them much larger than females.

Female diving bell spiders have shorter front legs (chelicera) with a larger abdomen that they use to build and maintain their underwater webbing. Male diving bell spiders have shrunken abdomens and longer front legs that they use for diving.

The diving bell spider’s coloration varies on land and underwater, as the bubbles surrounding their bodies can make them appear silver. However, diving bell spiders have a brownish-black color with a velvet abdomen and brown cephalothorax.



Like all arachnids, the diving bell spider has eight legs and a rounded abdomen that has a bubble surrounding it underwater. The abdomen has fine hairs around it that help to hold and capture the air bubble that holds the oxygen they need to breathe underwater.

diving bell spider on icy water

The diving bell spider lives exclusively in and on water.

©Maximillian cabinet/Shutterstock.com

Habitat: Where To Find Diving Bell Spiders

Diving bell spiders are indigenous to Europe and northern parts of Asia, and they can be found in the following places:

  • British Isles
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Iran
  • China
  • Caucasus

The diving bell spiders’ habitat is in freshwater, making them an aquatic species of spider. Diving bell spiders live in ponds, marshes, eutrophic lakes, slow-moving streams, and swamps with plenty of rocks, fallen branches, and vegetation where they can create their webbing. They prefer waters with a low oxygen concentration (usually stagnant waters) and a low pH that makes it slightly acidic.

The diving bell spider will spin a bell-shaped web that they live inside and spend most of their time. They will leave this web to catch prey, find a mate, or replenish the air bubble found on their abdomen.

Diet: What Do Diving Bell Spiders Eat?

Diving bell spiders primarily eat a diet of small aquatic inhabitants, making them a hunter and carnivores. Their diet includes mosquito larvae, small crustaceans, water mites, mayfly nymphs, phantom midge larvae, and daphnia.

They will leave the web to catch prey that they will later bring back to eat, or they will wait until their prey gets stuck in their intricate webbing.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Female diving bell spiders will lay between 30 to 70 eggs in a single egg sac after mating with a male. Once the spiderlings hatch, they will spend most of their time with the mother diving bell spider until they are mature and can leave the nest to live out the rest of their adult lives.

Diving bell spiders only have a maximum lifespan of a year.

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About the Author

Sarah is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering aquatic pets, rodents, arachnids, and reptiles. Sarah has over 3 years of experience in writing and researching various animal topics. She is currently working towards furthering her studies in the animal field. A resident of South Africa, Sarah enjoys writing alongside her pets and almost always has her rats perched on her shoulders.

Diving Bell Spider (Water Spider) FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are diving bell spiders dangerous?

Diving bell spiders deliver a painful bite to their victim, which can cause swelling, inflammation and pain that lasts for a few days. However, they are not particularly harmful to humans. If you are bitten by a diving bell spider, you may also experience a severe reaction causing nausea, vomiting, and a fever that requires medical care.

The diving bell spider may be small, but they have fangs that are capable of piercing through human skin. It is unclear whether a diving bell spider is venomous. Getting bitten by a diving bell spider is rare, and you are more likely to get bitten if you accidently harm the diving bell spider swimming in waters where diving bell spiders are present.

IMPORTANT: If you have been bitten or suspect you have been bitten by a diving bell spider, please consult with your doctor or health practitioner immediately for treatment and pain relief. If you are experiencing pain, fever, and vomiting after being bitten, please go to the nearest hospital or have someone help transport you there for medical care.

How many legs do diving bell spiders have?

Since the diving bell spider is an arachnid, they have 8 legs in total. Female diving bell spiders have shorter front legs than males.

How do diving bell spiders breathe underwater?

The diving bell spider breathes underwater through a bubble that surrounds their abdomen and gets caught on the hairs of their abdomen. This oxygen-rich bubble acts as a gill that allows the spider to inhale oxygen underwater.

The diving bell spider will surface the water to capture a new air bubble when the other one runs out of oxygen, allowing them to survive in stagnant oxygen poor waters. Even though they live underwater, diving bell spiders still breathe oxygen

What do diving bell spiders eat?

Diving bell spiders eat a variety of small aquatic insects, small crustaceans, and mosquito larvae.

What eats diving bell spiders?

The main predators that eat diving bell spiders include frogs and fish that are found in the diving bell spiders’ habitat.

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Sources
  1. Spider Identifications , Available here: https://spideridentifications.com/diving-bell.html
  2. Diving Bell Spider, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diving_bell_spider#:~:text=The%20diving%20bell%20spider%20or%20water%20spider%20%28Argyroneta,give%20it%20a%20dark%20grey%2C%20velvet%20-like%20appearance.

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