Trapdoor Spider Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

The trapdoor spider is a very tricky animal that lives all over the world. Read this lesson to find out all about these unusual spiders, including how they use their trapdoors for hunting and for protection.

Spider Homes: With Trapdoors?

Do you remember playing with a Jack-in-the-box toy when you were young? You'd turn the crank and all of a sudden, the door on the top of the box would pop open and the Jack-in-the-box would pop out (and probably scare you)!

Would you believe that there are spiders that build nests that have trapdoors? They build their homes underground, in small burrows, which are holes that they dig into the dirt about five inches deep. They line their underground homes with silk, like the silk used by other spiders to make webs. This silk is important because it helps keep moisture in the burrow and makes it easier for the spiders to walk around inside.

Drawing of a trapdoor spider burrow with the trapdoor open and closed. It is camouflaged with leaves.

Each burrow has a trapdoor with a hinge on one side that lets it open and close. They are about an inch across, which is a little bit bigger than a U.S. quarter. When the trapdoor is closed, the spider's home is hidden. Trapdoor spiders spend time using silk, dirt, and bits of moss or plants to camouflage, or hide, the trapdoor. The spiders make sure there are little holes in the bottom of the trapdoor, and they hold on to the door using these holes. They use their legs to push the door open, but they can also use their legs to hold the door closed in case a predator is trying to get into the burrow.

What Do They Look Like, and Where Can You Find Them?

Trapdoor spiders have bodies that range in size from about 1.5 cm to about 3 cm, which means the largest ones are about same length across as a U.S. half-dollar coin. They are usually black or brown.

There are many different kinds of trapdoor spiders. Some of them actually live in trees instead of in the ground! They are found all over the world, so they are very common.

African trapdoor spider

Because they live underground, they aren't seen very often. Trapdoor spiders are related to tarantulas.

Trapdoor Spider Habits

Trapdoor spiders are carnivores, or meat eaters, that eat mostly insects and hunt for their prey. They leave strands of sticky silk outside the burrow, and this catches their prey. Insects land on the silk or walk over it. When there is an insect walking on the silk, the spider can feel the vibrations inside the burrow and it pops out of the trapdoor and catches its dinner!

Female trapdoor spiders lay their eggs inside the burrow, often laying up to 300 eggs at one time.

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