Flying Spiders

Flying Spiders
© Mehmet_photography/

Written by Krishna Maxwell

Updated: September 19, 2022

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Key Points:
  • Flying spiders don’t possess wings, allowing them travel like birds, bees, or bats do. Instead, the have the ability to glide, or balloon, through the air with strands of silk.
  • An example of a flying spider that uses silk is the Gray Cross spider, also called the bridge spider, which is often seen on bridges. They are attracted to bodies of water and natural light where food is abundant.
  • Flattie spiders fly differently than the typical flying spider, using their extremely flat bodies to stay aloft and glide through the air to their chosen destination. Flattie spiders can make sharp right or left turns by repositioning their legs mid-flight.

Though spiders aren’t winged creatures like birds, some are still able to take to the air. There are some spiders that fly with the help of silk threads made inside their body. Others fly using only their body structure to stay aloft!

What Are Flying Spiders?

The phrase flying spiders may bring up visions of winged spiders flying like birds, bats, butterflies, or bees. But instead of actively flying like those animals, some spiders are able to glide, or balloon, through the air using strands of silk made inside their bodies.

Some spiders glide for a short distance while others travel thousands of miles! There are spiders that have been observed flying two and a half miles up in the air! These small creatures are moved along wherever the air currents take them.

Scientists believe these spiders steer themselves using their front legs. Furthermore, they think these creatures may be able to speed up or slow down by making adjustments in their body position. However, scientists are still not completely sure how these spiders navigate their way through the sky.

There is recorded evidence of these spiders crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to relocate from one side of the world to the other. They are carried by the Jet Stream and the trade winds just as sailing ships have. They are also transported over vast distances by storm winds, particularly, hurricane winds.

Flying Spiders
A colorful spider flying in the air. Spiders seem to steer themselves through the air with movements of their outstretched forelegs.

© Durmus

Are Flying Spiders Real?

Yes. Spiders that glide through the air are real. In fact, there are several types of spiders that glide. Many of these belong to the species Larinioides sclopetarius.

The Gray Cross spider is known for its gliding skills. This arachnid is sometimes called the bridge spider because they are often seen on bridges. They build their orb-shaped or circular webs on the sides and underneath these structures. They are found across the United States especially near the Great Lakes region. These creatures are found in Central Europe as well.

Bridge spiders are gray or brown with a brown and tan pattern on their legs. Adult female bridge spiders can be half an inch long while adult males reach about one-third of an inch in length.

These spiders are attracted to bodies of water as well as artificial light. They may glide to find another habitat that contains a more powerful source of light in order to find a larger supply of food. It makes perfect sense. Brighter artificial lights will attract more bugs for a spider to eat!

The furrow spider is another example of an arachnid that glides through the air. Adult female furrow spiders measure about half an inch in length while males are one-third of an inch long. They can be brown, black, or even reddish in color. They are notable for their thick, bulbous abdomen. Furrow spiders live in North America and South America as well as northern Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Another type of flying spider belongs to the Selenopidae family. They are called wall crab spiders or flatties. This is because their bodies are only about as wide as a nickel. Its body design along with its black and brown coloration helps these arachnids stay hidden while resting on tree trunks or branches. With their legs spread out, flatties can be half an inch to almost an inch in length.

Flatties are different in their approach to flying. They don’t use silk threads like other flying spiders. This spider’s extremely flat body helps it to stay aloft and glide through the air as it moves toward its destination. Flattie spiders can make sharp right or left turns by repositioning their legs mid-flight. Normally, these spiders stay up in the high branches of trees to avoid the dangers of the forest floor.

Flattie spiders are found in Central and South America as well as in Africa. In North America, they can be found in Florida and live in a range spanning from southern California to western Texas. They can also be seen in the Caribbean Islands.

Where Do Flying Spiders Live?

Flying spiders live on many continents including Asia, North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Australia. Many live in tropical habitats. For instance, flattie spiders are found in the Peruvian rainforest and in the jungles of Panama. Alternatively, Gray Cross spiders aka bridge spiders are found throughout the United States.

Flying spiders typically hide during daylight hours and watch their webs at night, awaiting prey to become captured. In America, they are commonly seen from May to August. In some cities, hundreds of flying spiders can be spotted during their peak times of flight. In fact, in Chicago, there’s a cycle known as “The Chicago Phenomenon,” where these ballooning spiders travel in such high volumes that residents in high-rise buildings are cautioned to shut their windows during the month of May!

Do Flying Spiders Have Wings?

Flying Spiders
Flying spiders crawl to the highest points of their habitat—say a fence pole, or a tall plant—and send out silk strands that allow them to be lifted on air currents.

©Anggi Paramita Sovinc/

No, flying spiders aren’t winged creatures. They glide through the air using a silk thread as a kind of parachute. These creatures use the earth’s electric field to take flight.

First, a spider climbs onto a tall flower or a rock located on high ground. Next, it releases a silk thread from its abdomen that scientists call anchor silk. The anchor silk attaches to the rock or flower to prevent the spider from falling before it takes off. Then, the spider raises its front legs into the air to evaluate the electrical conditions in the atmosphere. It takes in this atmospheric information via hairs on its legs. If it decides it’s safe to take off, the spider raises its back end or abdomen and releases a gathering of long silk threads from its body. This thread can be as long as 6 feet! Finally, the spider breaks the anchor silk and is carried away by the wind. From there? The spider travels in whatever direction the breeze blows!

Why Do Spiders Fly?

Scientists have a lot of theories as to why spiders glide or balloon through the air. One theory is spiders could be looking for a new habitat with more insects available to eat. Or they could be looking for a mate. Another possible reason is they may feel threatened in their current habitat and are looking for a different habitat with fewer predators around.

Scientists still have a lot more to learn about this amazing spider behavior. In the meantime, keep an eye on the sky and maybe you’ll spot an adventurous spider taking a trip by air!

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About the Author

Krishna is a lifelong animal owner and advocate. She owns and operates a small farm in upstate New York which she shares with three dogs, four donkeys, one mule, and a cat. She holds a Bachelors in Agricultural Technology and has extensive experience in animal health and welfare. When not working with her own animals and tending her farm, Krishna is helping other animal owners with behavior or management issues and teaching neighboring farmers about Regenerative Agriculture practices.

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