Water 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.

There are many unusual spiders in the world, but the water spider is one of the most unique. Read this lesson to find out all about the water spider, and learn how it is able to live underwater!

What Is a Water Spider?

Diving Bell

Did you know that there is a spider that lives most of its life underwater? They are called water spiders, or diving bell spiders, because the web that they spin underwater looks like a diving bell. Diving bells were used by people when they first started to explore underwater, and they contained oxygen so that people could breathe under the water.

The scientific name for the water spider is Argyroneta aquatica. Some scientists say the name comes from the Latin word for ''silvery net,'' and others think it's from the Greek words for ''spinner of silver.'' These spiders usually live for about two years.

Water Spider Appearance

Adult male water spiders grow to 18.7 mm (0.74 in) long. This means that if the largest of these spiders sat on a U.S. penny, it would cover it from edge to edge. Female spiders are a little smaller.

Water Spider

Water spiders look grayish brown when they aren't in the water, but in the water they have a shimmery silvery look. Their legs and abdomen, or stomach, are covered all over with very fine hairs.

Water Spider Habitat

Water spiders usually live in freshwater ponds, swamps, or small streams. They need water that has many plants in it, because the spiders build their webs underwater, using the plants as anchors to keep their webs from floating away.

Water spiders live in Europe and northern and central Asia. They are carnivores, which means that they eat other animals. They eat mostly tadpoles, fairy shrimp, and insects such as water mites, water fleas, and water boatmen.

Living Underwater

To help them breathe, water spiders go to the surface and trap tiny air bubbles in the hairs on their legs and abdomen. The spiders actually breathe with organs on their abdomens. They carry the air bubbles under water, where they release them into their underwater ''diving bells.'' The spiders do this as often as every 20 to 40 minutes, so they can breathe inside their webs.

If the spiders live in water that has a lot of oxygen in it, they can stay in their diving bells longer without going to the surface. Their webs actually let oxygen come in to the diving bells from the water, and let carbon dioxide go back out. When the spiders are in water with less oxygen, they have to go to the surface more often.

Water Spiders

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