Spiders are fascinating creatures that captivate and creep out humans in equal measure. With eight hairy legs and beady little eyes, spiders don’t always appear as the friendliest or most charming animals. And their ability to quickly scurry across floors and walls can make them seem like they’re chasing after us!
But do spiders actually chase humans? Or is this perception simply a misunderstanding of their behavior? As with many things in nature, the answer is complicated and depends on the species.
Do spiders chase humans?
The vast majority of spiders have no interest in chasing after humans. In fact, most spiders prefer to avoid us as much as possible. Here’s why spiders don’t make a habit of chasing people:
- Spiders are not predators of humans – We are much too large for them to catch and eat.
- They do not see us as threats – Humans don’t usually prey on spiders, so they have no need to flee from us.
- Chasing is energetically costly – It requires a lot of energy to chase down fast-moving animals like humans.
- Venom is expensive – Venomous species need to conserve their venom to catch food, not waste it on humans.
- Spiders are vulnerable – Getting stepped on or swatted is a major danger, so avoiding humans is safer.
So rather than expending energy chasing us down, most spiders opt to hide, freeze, or flee when encountering humans. They may sometimes inadvertently scurry in our direction while exploring, hunting, or looking for new hiding spots. But actively pursuing and chasing humans is highly uncommon behavior for the vast majority of spider species.
When do spiders chase humans?
Though uncommon, there are some specific circumstances that can cause spiders to appear to chase after humans:
- Accidental encounters – A spider may accidentally walk across your foot or land on your arm, causing you to jerk away and the spider to scurry after its disrupted web or hiding spot.
- Curiosity – Some species like jumping spiders are especially curious and may actively approach or follow moving objects like humans for a short distance.
- Maternal instincts – Female spiders guarding an egg sac may rush to protect their eggs if disturbed.
- Falls and jumps – Spiders that fall off a wall or jump across gaps may unintentionally land directly on humans and then quickly jump again, seeming to chase their new “perch.”
- Displaced from webs – Web-building spiders knocked off their webs may quickly rush back along the same pathways, sometimes crossing over humans.
In these cases, the spider is not actually targeting and chasing the human, but rather instinctively reacting to an accidental encounter or disturbance.
Do certain spider species chase people?
Though most spiders don’t chase humans, there are a few specific species that are more likely than others to actively approach humans straight on or run rapidly in our direction:
These very large, fast-moving spiders occasionally do make direct predatory approaches toward humans. However, most of their “chasing” behaviors are still motivated by escape or curiosity rather than hunting humans.
These elongate spiders are quick sprinters and maysometimes run across floors and walls rapidly to escape threats. Their speed can make them seem like they are charging toward humans.
Jumping spiders rely on stalking and pouncing straight at their prey. Their innate predatory instincts can cause them to occasionally misidentify moving human limbs as potential prey and approach rapidly before stopping short.
Wolf spiders are active hunters and may sometimes mistake human appendages for prey and make brief predatory approaches. But they quickly realize their mistake and break off the chase.
Females guarding egg sacs
Female spiders preparing to lay eggs and guarding newly laid egg sacs can become highly defensive and aggressive. They may rush out to chase away any potential threats.
|Spider Species||Chase Behavior|
|Huntsman spiders||May directly approach humans while hunting|
|Sac spiders||Rapid escapes can look like charging|
|Jumping spiders||Mistake humans for prey and approach|
|Wolf spiders||Brief predatory approaches before breaking off|
|Female guarding eggs||Aggressive defense of eggs|
But even in these species, cases of deliberately chasing down human prey are extremely rare events.
Why does it seem like spiders chase us?
When put together, spider anatomy, instincts, and capabilities can definitely make it seem like they are actively chasing humans at times. Here are some reasons this perception persists:
- Many spiders can run surprisingly fast, up to 2-3 feet per second for some species.
- Their multiple quick-moving legs create an illusion of speed and purposeful chasing.
- Sudden movements or drops/jumps in our direction startle us.
- We mistakenly ascribe intent and purpose to their actions.
- We subconsciously perceive spiders as threats so we misinterpret their behaviors.
In reality, genuine chasing with intent to catch a human is extremely rare. Spiders may quickly run across the ground or along walls, or even accidentally jump onto humans. But these behaviors are coincidental rather than purposeful. Their movement patterns simply create the mistaken perception that they are actively hunting and chasing us.
Can certain spiders outrun humans?
Some of the world’s fastest spiders can indeed sprint at speeds exceeding human running when you take size into account. But outright chasing us any meaningful distance is highly unlikely. Here are top spider sprinters and how they measure up:
Giant house spider
Max speed: 2.5 feet/sec or 1.7 mph
Relative speed: 130 body lengths/sec
Marbled cellar spider
Max speed: 1.9 feet/sec or 1.3 mph
Relative speed: 322 body lengths/sec
Sunburst diving beetle
Max speed: 2.8 feet/sec or 1.9 mph
Relative speed: 171 body lengths/sec
For their size, spiders are clearly among the fastest land invertebrates. Their top relative speeds far exceed what humans can manage over long distances. So for very short bursts, some spiders can technically outpace an average human.
However, spiders tire quickly and cannot maintain these speeds for more than a few seconds. Trying to actually chase a human any meaningful distance would exhaust the spider very quickly. So while brief rapid movements are possible, actively hunting humans by chasing them across rooms or down streets is essentially impossible for even the speediest spiders.
Do spiders chase their prey?
While they don’t chase humans, spiders do use their speed and agility to chase down more typical prey items. Here are some examples:
Wolf spiders patrol open habitats and chase down crickets, grasshoppers and other small invertebrates across the ground.
Jumping spiders rely on stealth and pounce attacks to chase down smaller spiders and insects from close range.
Crab spiders use speedy lateral movements to chase prey on flowers and leaves, rather than building webs to catch food.
Fishing spiders dart out onto the water surface to chase aquatic insects, using their legs as paddles to propel themselves.
When chasing more typical prey their own size or smaller, spiders can fully leverage their speed and agility to quickly overtake and capture their targets. But attempting the same strategy on much larger animals like humans simply isn’t practical.
Can you outrun a spider chasing you?
Trying to outrun a spider chasing you is highly unlikely to ever become truly necessary. As discussed above, spiders essentially never chase humans with any serious intention or ability to catch us. So virtually any adult human could easily outpace even the fastest spiders.
Usain Bolt’s peak competitive sprinting speed reached 27.8 mph. Even typical fit adults can manage brief sprints of 15-20 mph. The absolute highest recorded spider speeds are around 1-3 mph. So even the slowest, most out-of-shape person could outrun a spider over a short distance of a few feet or yards.
The only exceptions would be people with severe mobility limitations or medical conditions that prevent rapid movements. But even children and the elderly could briskly walk away from a spider hot on their heels. Trying to escape a genuinely chasing spider poses little physical challenge for any able-bodied person.
Do spiders chase laser pointers?
Chasing laser pointer dots on the wall is a beloved pastime for cats, but spiders generally show little interest. Here’s why:
- They rely on vibrations and direct contact to sense prey, not visual cues.
- Their eyesight is relatively poor for detecting small moving points of light.
- The lack of any chemical prey cues makes laser dots unconvincing.
- Their hunting strategy is to wait for prey to come near them, not chase prey.
Certain jumping spiders with excellent vision may watch and even make short darting moves toward a laser dot out of curiosity. But sustained chasing behavior aimed at capturing an elusive dot is not something spiders naturally display.
Can spiders chase each other?
Spiders from the same species may chase each other for a couple specific reasons:
Male spiders defending a territory will aggressively chase rival males trespassing into their areas.
Some spiders may chase smaller or weaker individuals of the same species to prey on them.
Eager male spiders may vigorously chase females of their species prior to mating.
However, prolonged chasing between spiders is still relatively uncommon. Once contact is made, they typically move to immediate grappling rather than extended running pursuits. And females chasing males or spiderlings chasing adults essentially never occurs.
The vast majority of spiders have no motivation or ability to chase down humans. Their anatomy and hunting strategies make chasing large, fast-moving mammals completely impractical. In unusual circumstances like defending an egg sac, certain species may make brief predatory approaches toward humans. But even the speediest spiders cannot physically keep pace with an average adult human over any significant distance.
Spiders rely on stealth, concealment, trapping webs and pounce attacks to catch more typical prey their own size. Our huge relative size and imposing footfalls signal that we are not suitable prey items. So rather than waste energy chasing humans, spiders opt to freeze or flee from us in most situations. While startling spider movements may create the illusion of chasing from our perspective, genuine pursuit with intent to catch a person almost never actually occurs in the spider world.
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