In Real Life
, spiders tend to be rather lonely creatures. A lot of species have females eating their males after breeding
, and, in many cases, the mother herself ends up eaten by her own children once they hatch.
In fiction, though, things tend to be different. Occasionally, especially in a Science Fiction
or Fantasy setting, a work will depict 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
and The Swarm
. Can arguably be related to Horde of Alien Locusts
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- 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.
- Game Of Touhou: Ser Yamame is skilled in warging spiders and other tiny creatures to point of making huge swarms. And that's how she ends Yukari Yakumo's life.
Films — Live-Action
- The Spiders in Lost in Space appear 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.
- Par for 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.
- The first Astérix live-action movie, Asterix & Obelik Takes on Caesar, has a swarm of spiders in a pit used by the Romans as obstacle for their games. Asterix gets swarmed from head to toes, while Obelix get rid of them by blowing very hard.
- Lone Wolf: In Book 5, Shadow on the Sand, Lone Wolf can upset a whole colony of fist-sized steam spider while trying to climb out of the Baga-darooz by a steam vent. It's even worse if he'd contracted limbdeath earlier, and can't use his free arm to defend himself against the spiders.
- 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.
- Acromantula were wizard-bred spiders, created to guard treasure troves, which explains their size, their social grouping (Acromantula, while acting exactly like spiders, were capable of communicating with humans through speech), their preference for human flesh, and why they tend to favor humans they hatch under the care of.
- 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.
- In Quest Of The Unaligned, one fire-spider is pretty easy to defeat. Unfortunately, they tend to run in swarms of 500+. When Alaric and Laeshana have to fight through a tunnel infested by such a swarm, it quickly becomes one of the book's tensest and most epic scenes.
- Dr. No sent James Bond through a “torture tunnel” to see how far he would make it. One of the obstacles was about two dozen tarantulas restrained by a mesh screen that Bond was required to break through. He knew that their bite was not fatal, but certainly painful.
- The Bugs from Starship Troopers qualify, being human sized spiders with Worker, Warrior, Brain, and Queen castes.
- 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.
- The Visorak horde from BIONICLE. While there were giant-sized Visorak specimens called Kahgarak, all of them were soldiers who answered to the Brotherhood of Makuta and whoever they assigned to be their king. Their objective was to run over entire islands, trap, kill or mutate the locals, and claim the universe for the Brotherhood.
- 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).
- Literal swarms of spiders (as well as other insects and small animals) are often encountered — they occupy a ten foot square area, and do damage by being in the same square as their prey. Often they are not easily damaged by conventional means, making them the bane of many a low-level party.
- The Ananasi werespiders, a periphery were-race from Werewolf: The Apocalypse, have this as one of their forms. A single werespider can transform into an equivalent mass of regular-sized spiders with the human-level mind guiding the swarm as a sort of Hive Mind semi-distributed among the arachnids.
- Diablo III:
- Act I has you going through the Caverns of Araneae, an ancient ruin filled with spiders that follow this trope under every aspect, in pursuit of Maghda and the Coven following the death of Deckard Cain at their hands. The Witch-Doctor is delighted.
- Talking about the Witch-Doctor, one of his/her spells actually involve summoning swarms of spiders. At higher 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.
- One of the levels in Donkey Kong Country Returns involves the Kongs having to outrun a gigantic swarm of invincible spiders after disturbing their nest.
- Much like in Skyrim, Dragon Age: Origins features Giant Spiders that are apparently social, since you usually meet them as packs. The number you usually met by group can range from three of five to an entire swarm of them.
- The spider mini-boss in Donkey Kong 64 will send groups of smaller spiders (possibly its children) after Tiny Kong.
- The Duke's Dear Freja in Dark Souls II commands an army of relatively smaller giant spiders. Interestingly enough, if you manage to chop off one of Freja's heads, the spiders will run away from it. This implies that the spiders are being driven by their fear of Freja.
- We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
- Jane and Fool end up fighting a swarm of Ariados while searching for Troll Orbs.
- A swarm of Ariados nearly killed Every in his backstory, leading to a lifelong fear of the species.
- The SCP Foundation has several:
- SCP-859 can apparently make these appear from out of nowhere.
- SCP-1006 is a huge colony of English-writting Marxist spiders.
- SCP-1506 is a phenomenon that spontaneously generates spider webs arranged in such a way that it can fly long distances with the wind's help. The webs contain several species of spiders that feed by lowering to an altitude of under 500 meters, then using webs to pull prey (including humans) upwards, where they will be slowly digested over 5 days (for humans, different animals take more or less time). The horror comes from being completely restrained while thousands of spiders crawl over your body and slowly drain your fluids. An especially large colony collided with a plane in flight, causing the spiders to fill up the plane. The pilots decided to crash the plane in a way that would burn up all the spiders.
- 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.
- Even among solitary spiders, there are some occasions where they will swarm. It is not unheard of in the Southwest United States to find a gigantic swarm of tarantulas migrating across the desert together during mating season. Phrases like "the ground itself seemed to be moving" are often used to describe such events.
- Trees covered by webs of thousands of spiders have occasionally been sighted during floods or other disasters, because they'd drown otherwise. This is actually a really good thing, since floodzones are also likely to be swarming with mosquitoes and the like, and the spider swarms keep their populations down.