Are Spiders Insects? Top Similarities & Differences

A spider with one leg raised in the air as if asking a question.

When you see some sort of creature crawling, flying, jumping, or swinging across your home, you may or may not be concerned with classifying it correctly.

However, if you want to be accurate and scientific, you should know that there are key differences between spiders and insects. 

Are spiders insects? All spiders are classified as arachnids, not insects. Their physical characteristics differ significantly from insects’ features as spiders have eight legs instead of six, lack wings, have two body segments as opposed to three, and do not have antennae.

Let’s take a look at how exactly spiders and insects differ and discover the best ways to effectively get rid of spiders.

What Are Spiders?

Spiders are eight-legged creatures that live on every continent. They are a member of the arachnid class.

Although many of the spiders you’ll run across will be brown or black, many others can be found in all colors of the rainbow, such as the bright yellow banana spider and the peacock spider with its blue iridescent abdomen.

Known for their ability to spin webs from spinnerets in their hind ends, spiders are primarily carnivorous.

They build webs in order to trap their prey, then they use their fangs to inject venom to stun or kill the prey.

Specifically, spiders prey on other arthropods, including fellow spiders and insects, such as millipedes, roaches, flies, mosquitoes, moths, butterflies, and other spiders.

Though they are carnivores, most spiders do not have standard jaws to chew their prey.

Instead, once they have used their fangs and venom to manipulate the bug, they feed on the blood and liquified insides via a sucking mouthpart.

Some spiders across the world are aggressive toward humans and will attack quickly. 

However, most spiders in domesticated areas are docile toward humans and will not bite or attack unless provoked. Their first line of defense is flight.

Even those spiders that you’ve always been warned about, such as the black widow and brown recluse (learn more about them here), would rather escape or ignore you than put up a fight.

What Is an Insect?

The term insect defines a class of animals. The insect class has over a million different species alive today.

They are primarily defined by their physical characteristics:

  • Have three pairs of legs for a total of six.
  • Bodies are typically divided into three sections: head, thorax, and abdomen.
  • Two to four wings (generally marked by two fore and two hind wings).
  • Two antennae.
  • Two compound eyes.

Because of their hard exoskeleton, insects are in the arthropod phylum.

They are found on every continent including Antarctica and the Arctic, making them some of the hardiest organisms in the world.

This is due to the fact that they have adapted over long periods of time, learning to survive in almost every type of environment. 

Many insects are also benefited by their ability to fly. When danger arises or food becomes scarce, they can flee quickly and cover long distances.

An organism does not have to fulfill all of these requirements to be considered an insect. If they fall into most of these categories or are known descendants of insects, they are classified in this way.

Why Are Spiders Not Insects?

While a spider is in the arthropod group, it does not have the other characteristics to classify as an insect. 

The most telling characteristic is that spiders have eight legs instead of six. They also have no wings and no antennae. 

Most spiders have four pairs of simple eyes instead of the two pairs of complex eyes of an insect.

Instead of the three body parts of an insect, spiders have two: the cephalothorax (which contains the same organs as an insect’s head and thorax) and the abdomen. 

Instead of being a member of the insect class, spiders are members of the arachnid class.

What Is an Arachnid?

Like insects, arachnids are defined by their physical characteristics:

  • Four pairs of legs for a total of eight.
  • Bodies are typically divided into two segments: the cephalothorax and abdomen.
  • Legs with joints.
  • No wings.
  • No antennae.

Spiders are joined in the arachnid class by scorpions, mites, ticks, and a host of other family members.

Fun fact: scientists have found more than 100,000 species of arachnids around the world.

Spiders are further narrowed into the order of Araneae. Species in the Araneae order are defined by an ability to spin webs via silk spinnerets and carnivorous diets. 

Most Araneae have a certain amount of venom that they use to stun or kill prey once they are entangled in their web. They also have fangs that inject this venom.

Are Spiders Bugs?

The technical, dictionary definition of “bug” is a small insect that can be further specified to the order Hemiptera.

These insects have strong forewings, no teeth, and use a straw-like mouthpart.

These straws, called stylets, are used to suck the juice from plants or blood from prey. 

Popular members of the Hemiptera order, also known as “true bugs” are aphids, bed bugs (learn all about bed bugs here), leafhoppers, and planthoppers. 

Though this is the scientific definition of bug, language is determined more by its use than its definition.

Thus, the popular, common definition of a bug is any sort of creepy, crawly organism. 

Bug is a safe and acceptable word to use when you see a small, multi-legged creature crawling or flying and cannot determine exactly what species it belongs to.

Basically, you know a bug when you see it, and will probably not offend anyone (except maybe scientists) if you call a spider a bug.

What Is the Best Way to Get Rid of Spiders?

Like many predatory creatures, spiders are attracted to places where their prey is plentiful.

Since spiders’ prey is made up of other bugs, a practical way to get rid of spiders is to remove their prey from your home.

Be sure to check out our Comprehensive Guide for Getting Rid of Spiders Quickly.

Make Sure Your Home Is Clean

Spiders and their prey like hiding in warm, dark spots. Remove their hiding spots by cleaning up.

Throw away tissues and trash, pick up dirty clothes, avoid clutter, and dust often.

Vacuum up every web you can see; spiders recognize that a destroyed web means there is danger in the area.

Don’t forget to keep your garage clean and tidy too, as spiders don’t mind a bit setting up shop in little used corners and old, dusty boxes.

Eliminate Food Sources

While you are cleaning, pay attention to things that might attract other bugs that spiders like to eat.

Don’t store food (like fruit or vegetables) in the open air. Take out the garbage frequently.

Since many bugs are attracted to moisture, make sure your home doesn’t have standing water and has relatively low humidity. 

Kill or Relocate Spiders When You See Them

If you have a vacuum cleaner handy, suck spiders up whenever you see one. The force and heat of the vacuum cleaner should kill them quickly.

If you don’t have a vacuum, place a cup upside down on the spider and slide a piece of paper underneath the rim of the cup.

Use this contraption to take the spider to a toilet or at least 20 feet away from your home.

Note: Relocation is not recommended for spiders that are considered dangerous, like the black widow. This article shows you the best approach for these potentially harmful pests.

Purchase Traps or Sprays

If all else fails, spider traps or sprays might be your best option. 

Glue traps are often effective ways to get rid of spiders. The JT Eaton Pest Catchers are recommended for their simple and clean design and maximum effectiveness.

They are baited with a scent most people can’t detect but spiders find very attractive.

J T Eaton 076706844002 Spider and Cricket Glue...

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You could also consider using the Miss Muffet’s Revenge. This is a residual spray, so one application will continue to work for up to 12 months.

Apply this around the perimeter of your home or spider-friendly room to keep spiders away.

Wet & Forget Miss Muffet's Revenge Spider Killer

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Foggers can be used as well, though they should contain pesticides known to be lethal to spiders, like deltamethrin, tetramethrin and pyrethrins.

Hot Shot Fogger with Odor Neutralizer utilizes tetramethrin and is formulated to leave no visible residue or odor behind.

When used as directed, Hot Shot will continue to kill pest for up to two months after application.

Hot Shot Fogger6 With Odor Neutralizer, 3/2-Ounce,...

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Head over to our article “Best Fogger for Spiders” to learn what to look for in a fogger and see the other foggers we recommend specifically for spiders.

Will Insecticides Kill Spiders?

Insecticide, a typically chemical-based solution used to kill insects, is actually poorly named.

Because insecticides contain toxins, they have the potential to harm most living things, not just insects.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to produce a highly specialized insecticide that only harms certain organisms.

This is why it is important for humans to use caution when using insecticide and to always follow the safety instructions on the container.

The way insecticides work is by putting the right amount of toxins in the product to kill bugs (which have much smaller nervous systems than humans) without harming pets and humans. 

Insecticides kill bugs by attacking the bug’s nervous system.

They interrupt connections between nerve cells and make it so the bug’s body cannot communicate with itself.

Unless the spider is big enough to not be affected by the insecticide or is able to avoid the product because it spins webs, most chemical insecticides will also kill spiders.

Be sure to read the label to ensure that the insecticide is concentrated enough to kill spiders and that it is safe to use in your home.

Fun fact: Although it’s not an insecticide technically, hairspray can be used to “freeze” spiders if you happen to some handy. Find out why it works here.

Summary

Though spiders can be called bugs and are susceptible to insecticides, they do not meet the criteria to fall into the category of insects.

Instead, they are arachnids because of their eight legs, hard exoskeleton, four pairs of simple eyes, lack of wings, and lack of antennae. 

It’s perfectly normal to be a bit nervous around spiders, but if you know the proper prevention methods and elimination techniques, you won’t have to worry about your home becoming a welcome haven to these creepy bugs.

Visit our spider page for tons of spider information and useful tips that you can put to use right away.

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