The question we are looking to answer here is whether or not spiders hiss, and if so, then why? Well, the short answer is that some species do indeed make a hissing sound, but it’s perhaps not along the lines you would expect a hiss sound to be.
Many types of spider are able to make a hissing sound which is called ‘stridulation’. They often make the hiss by rubbing hairs on their body together at great speed. Tarantulas and Wolf Spiders are probably the most famous examples of spiders that hiss.
The fact that a spider is capable of making these sorts of noises does come as a surprise to many. After all, we mainly think of a spider as being virtually silent, but that’s not the case.
So, which spiders make this noise, and how do they make it? Those are just a couple of the questions we are going to answer in this post.
It’s Called Stridulation
Perhaps the first point to mention is that this hissing sound actually has a name, and it’s called stridulation. It’s not a direct hissing sound, like you are probably imagining it to be. Instead, it’s softer and more subtle than most imagine.
The actual sound differs depending on the spider. It may be a low hiss sound, which is tough to hear, while others are known to make more of a purring sound, or even something that sounds more like a click. As you can see, that’s some real variation just in the sound department.
When it comes to stridulation, the spider in question uses parts of its body to create the noise that we can then hear. For a hiss, some spiders will rub together hairs on their body, and do so at an amazing speed. It then leads to this hiss sound being created.
But if you are struggling to imaging this happening, then we recommend thinking about it in this way.
The hairs on their legs hook on one another when they bring two of their legs together. The hairs effectively become entangled, and then they move their legs with this then creating the sound. Some scientists have likened it to the same way as velcro and how it all sticks together, and that is actually a very good explanation. [Source]
So, which legs do they use? Well, it tends to be their first two, and they will also bring their pedipalps into the equation as well. Their pedipalps are on their head, which is why it’s believed that only the front two legs are involved.
Everything is then rubbed together in a controlled frenzy, in order to create some vibrations. Exactly how quickly and how long they do this for is also something that will vary depending on the species.
This is pretty much the same as you will hear on other insects, such as crickets or grasshoppers, so it’s nothing unusual in the animal world. However, most people remain unaware that a spider can also produce any kind of noise.
But that’s not the only way in which the spider is capable of producing a sound. They have another trick up their sleeve.
How Do They Make Other Sounds?
The way in which they make other sounds is quite clever, and it shows just how intelligent a spider can be. The male spider is capable of producing vibrations, and it’s these vibrations that we can hear.
They do this by creating the vibrations with their legs and body, which then hits dried leaves or other items around them. This then makes them vibrate, and it causes the sound. They do this in the hope that the vibrations can then be picked up by a female. The male then hopes that this will attract the female to allow them to mate.
It should be added that this noise is less like the hissing sound made by a Tarantula, and it’s more in line with a purring or clicking noise. This will, once again, vary depending on the species, along with the material that’s being used to create the noise.
It really is as simple as that, but it’s cool that they can produce this sound and that it’s loud enough for us to be aware of it.
So, there are a couple of ways in which a spider can create this hissing sound, but who does it?
Which Spiders Hiss?
Not every spider is going to make this hissing sound. Also, it would be too difficult to list every single one thanks to there being over 38,000 species of spider in the world.
A Tarantula and Wolf Spider are perhaps two of the most well-known that do hiss, but even then there’s a difference in the noise they achieve. For the Tarantula, it’s certainly far more in line with the hiss sound, while the Wolf Spider is more of a purring noise. [Source]
There is even a species of Tarantula known as the Whistling Tarantula, and it’s all connected to their ability to make this hissing sound at various times. In fact, this whole hissing thing is more in line with the Tarantula species, but others, such as the Wolf Spider, are capable of producing their very own noises when required.
They will also tend to create the hiss sound when they are feeling threatened, and it’s viewed as a way of letting it be known that they are not happy. For that, just think about the way in which a rattlesnake will make a noise to let others know that it’s there and to stay away.
In the case of a Tarantula, it may rear up in a threatening pose as an added extra to the noise. Of course, they will also be preparing themselves for throwing their hairs, but that’s the last thing any Tarantula wants to be doing. So, they emit this hissing noise as an added warning before they have to venture into making a bald spot on their body.
So, it’s a warning system as such, but do remember that they can also produce those vibrations for mating purposes as well.
Also, a quick note, the average house spider won’t make that kind of noise, and nor will jumping spiders. However, like we said earlier, it’s impossible to know every single spider due to the sheer number, so there may be a few others out there that have just not yet let rip with their noise making talents.
Are There Any Other Reasons Why a Spider Would Hiss?
Even though it cannot be ruled out, and we are still learning more about this entire hissing noise aspect of a spider, it does seem to be the case that it’s either a defensive thing, or to help attract a mate. As you have read previously, exactly why it’s making the sound does depend on the species.
But look at it this way. Does a spider need to make a noise for any other reason apart from those two? Probably not.
A Quick Recap
Spiders can indeed hiss, but how they do it does vary slightly depending on the species. Also, the reasons why they produce this noise will vary from seeking a mate to scaring off a potential predator.
This isn’t something that a spider is going to be doing on a regular basis. It’s more of a last resort kind of thing rather than anything else. Keep in mind that it may be tough to hear them making this noise, as it is very quiet, so if you were expecting some kind of show, then you will be sadly disappointed.
However, if you own a pet Tarantula, then it may be possible to hear that hiss, but only if you have done something to upset them in some way. So, as an owner, you might not want to encounter this sound only because it means there’s a problem.