Created By: Theokal3 on September 19, 2013 Last Edited By: Paradisesnake on September 20, 2013
Troped

Spider Swarm

Spiders are portrayed in a fictional material as collective creatures similar to ants or bees.

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Page Type:
Trope
In Real Life, spiders tend to be rather lonely creatures. A lot of species have females eating their males after breeding, and, in many case, the mother herself ends up eaten by her own children once they hatch.

In fiction, though, things tend to be different. It's not uncommon, especially in a Science Fiction or Fantasy setting, to despict a species of (often but not necessarly) Giant Spiders that attack in large number, or even live in colony, the same way ants, termites and bees do. They will often have a "Spider Queen", which they protect and which will be often much bigger than they are. And they will have eggs, a lot of eggs, that can hatch anytime, unleashing entire swarms of small spiders on you.

The reason for this trope is quite obvious. Spiders Are Scary, so an entire colony of spiders will be even scarier, much more so than one of giant ants or termites. There is also the fact a spider nest can easily be imagined as filling the role of a hive for bees.

A very common trope in Video Games, where spiders are typically featured as small but numerous ennemies who obey to a bigger one.

Notice that the trope, while it can be a case of Artistic License – Biology or Critical Research Failure, can also be, to an extent, justified if the species of spiders involved is fictional. Also, as noted in the Real Life section of this page, this trope actually is, to some extent, Truth in Television: there are species of spiders that are social, just not to the extent presented in fiction.

A subtrope to Giant Spider. Can arguably be related to Horde of Alien Locusts.

Examples:

In General
  • In The Future Is Wild, one of the speculative future creatures is the Silver Spider, which has a similar eusocial caste system to ants or bees.

Comic Books
  • Thorgal once runs into a woman whose true form is a Giant Spider due to a curse, who can control her tens of thousands of children.

Literature
  • The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins has a species of spiders called "Spinners" living as an entire race.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the giant spiders (also known as Acromantulas) appear to be social, although instead of a queen, they are led by an elderly male spider named Aragog. It's explicitly stated that Aragog had a bride, so apparently, Acromantulas females don't feed on their male.
  • In The Hobbit, one area of Mirkwood forest was full of intelligent talking spiders who all lived together in the trees and cooperatively hunted prey.

Film
  • The Spiders in Lost in Space appears to be collective, or at least attack in large number.
  • Played Up to Eleven in Arachnophobia. The Venezuelan spider species presented in the film consists mostly of drones that lack sex organs, and they have a hive with a queen similarily to bees or ants. It is implied that if let to breed freely, the spiders would eventually give birth to a new queen capable of birthing fertile offspring, eventually leading to the whole world being overrun by the extremely aggressive and venomous strain of spiders.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, As Indy and Satipo are exploring the South American temple, Satipo's back becomes covered with tarantulas, which Indy brushes off. Tarantulas are usually solitary.
  • Part of the course in Eight Legged Freaks.
  • The entire premise of Kingdom of the Spiders is the fact that the use of DDT has caused spiders to do this and swarm a town.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Early editions had a variety of giant spiders, all of whom appeared in packs. The maximum number varied by type, including Huge spiders (up to 12) and Large (up to 20).

Video Games
  • Diablo III
    • One level has you going through a cave full of Spiders that follow this trope under every aspect. The Witch-Doctor is delighted.
    • Talking about the Witch-Doctor, one of his/her spells actually involve summoning swarms of spiders. At highter levels, it can summon a Spider Queen that spawns armies of smaller spiders.
  • Nerubians in Warcraft III are spider-men with a social structure, with Queens and Spider Lords as the most powerful units. Though they're more of a mishmash of various arthropods including spiders, beetles and mantids.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
    • While they aren't explicitly stated as collective creatures, and no Queen has been featured yet, you usually meet Frosbite Spiders in large numbers. They usually are met by group of five, but you can easily meet several groups in the same dungeon, as well as one giant one as an occasional boss.
    • Then Dragonborn gives us the Albino Spiders and their variants, which are all significantly smaller but much more numerous than the Frostbites.
  • In Don't Starve, the spider enemies live in a spider nest, attack all together, and a nest can spawn a "Spider Queen" who spawns spider followers.
  • In Metro: Last Light, Artyom encounters nests of Spiderbugs, Giant Spider-scorpion hybrids who are Weakened by the Light. A few rounds of flashlight tag and they're Flipping Helpless.
  • Twilight Princess: The Temple of Time dungeon is infested with tiny baby spiders watched over by four-legged spiders. After defeating the Giant Spider Armoghoma, it drops to the floor, surrounded by a swarm of the tiny spiders.

Real Life
  • Some real life spider species actually are social, but not to the extent of eusocial insects (like bees, ants, and termites). These species will band together in colonies, cooperate in capturing prey, share food, and communally watch over their eggs. A few species even have division of labor between dominant, reproductive females and subordinate females that only occasionally reproduce—whether this constitutes true eusociality is under debate by biologists.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • September 19, 2013
    aurora369
    There may be no frostbite spider "queens" formally named such in Skyrim, but occasionally there is one giant spider in a nest of normal frostbite spiders.
  • September 19, 2013
    Chernoskill
    It's debatable however, if the spider encounters in Skyrim count as "swarms". The most one would encounter are about five.
  • September 19, 2013
    Snicka
    • In The Future Is Wild, one of the speculative future creatures is the Silver Spider, which has a similar eusocial caste system to ants or bees.
    • In Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, the giant spiders (also known as Acromantulas) appear to be social, although instead of a queen, they are led by an elderly male spider named Aragog.
  • September 19, 2013
    RoseBride
    In the The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins there a species of spiders living as an entire race, it's just they're called "Spinners"
  • September 19, 2013
    Theokal3
    Chenoskill: I am aware of that, but that's the number you meet at the time. If you took a dungeon as a whole, they are actually quite numerous in it most of the time. Also, Dragonborn brings Albino Spiders', which are smaller but much more numerous.
  • September 19, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Film
    • Played Up To Eleven in Arachnophobia. The Venezuelan spider species presented in the film consists mostly of drones that lack sex organs, and they have a hive with a queen similarily to bees or ants. It is implied that if let to breed freely, the spiders would eventually give birth to a new queen capable of birthing fertile offspring, eventually leading to the whole world being overrun by the extremely aggressive and venomous strain of spiders.
  • September 20, 2013
    MetaFour
    It's worth noting that some Real Life spider species are social, but not to the extent of eusocial insects (like bees, ants, and termites). These species will band together in colonies, cooperate in capturing prey, share food, and communally watch over their eggs. A few species even have division of labor between dominant, reproductive females and subordinate females that only occasionally reproduce—whether this constitutes true eusociality is under debate by biologists.
  • September 20, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced work titles, corrected two cases of bad Example Indentation and some spelling errors.

    Film
    • Raiders Of The Lost Ark. As Indy and Satipo are exploring the South American temple Satipo's back becomes covered with tarantulas, which Indy brushes off. Tarantulas are usually solitary.

    Literature
    • The Hobbit. One area of Mirkwood forest was full of intelligent talking spiders who all lived together in the trees and cooperatively hunted prey.

    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons. Early editions had a variety of giant spiders, all of whom appeared in packs. The maximum number varied by type, including Huge spiders (up to 12) and Large (up to 20).
  • September 20, 2013
    Theokal3
    Does anyone has an idea for the picture ?
  • September 20, 2013
    Snicka
    ^ This painting by Ted Nasmith, an illustration for The Hobbit.
  • September 20, 2013
    Theokal3
    Thanks. That can work.
  • September 20, 2013
    animeg3282
    In Dont Starve the spider enemies live in a spider nest, attack all together, and a nest can spawn a "spider queen" who spawns spider followers.
  • September 20, 2013
    Generality
    Eight Legged Freaks, par for the course.
  • September 20, 2013
    arbiter099
    In Metro Last Light: Artyom encounters nests of Spiderbugs, Giant Spider-scorpion hybrids who are Weakened By The Light. A few rounds of flashlight tag and they're Flipping Helpless.
  • September 20, 2013
    Bisected8
  • September 20, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Nerubians in Warcraft III are spider-men with a social structure, with Queens and Spider Lords as the most powerful units. Though they're more of a mishmash of various arthropods including spiders, beetles and mantids.
    • Twilight Princess: The Temple of Time dungeon is infested with tiny baby spiders watched over by four-legged spiders. After defeating the Giant Spider Armoghoma, it drops to the floor, surrounded by a swarm of the tiny spiders.
    • Thorgal once runs into a woman whose true form is a Giant Spider due to a curse, who can control her tens of thousands of children.
  • September 20, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Fixed the link in the page picture (it read "litterature").

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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=6asvxjz82f89prpkjm9oc0z3&trope=SpiderSwarm