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 enemies 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.
- 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.
- The Bride of Nine Spiders, one of the Immortal Weapons, combines this with The Worm That Walks. Her body hosts a myriad of spiders which she can release at will to devour enemies alive.
- While not actually used, Spider-Man invokes this trope when dealing with a bank robber who takes a woman hostage.
Crook: YOU! QUIT! LEAVE! RIGHT NOW! This weapon has a hundred thousand volts and I'll tag this girl with every last one of them unless you...
Spider-Man: The spiders.
Crook: Uh, what?
Spider-Man: I'm summoning the spiders.
Crook: What are you...?
Spider-Man: I'm Spider-Man. And you're me making mad. I'm summoning the spiders. They will come to my call. Hundreds of them. Thousands. And all of them at my command.
Spider-Man: Because I'm Spider-Man!
Crook: I GIVE, DUDE! I GIVE!
- One of the Council of Spiders members who Tim fights at a League of Assassins base in Red Robin is a Pest Controller who is always covered in spiders and who can have his spiders lay eggs in people and then kill them while eating their way out.
- Spider-Man: The villain Miss Arrow is composed of thousands of hive-minded spiders.
- 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.
- Various Vytal Ventures: In "Bark and Bite", this becomes the case when someone lets a number of Aggromantulas out of their cages... in the middle of a White Fang faunus rally.
- Lost in Space: The Spiders appear to be collective, or at least attack in large number.
- Arachnophobia: Played Up to Eleven. 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 left 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.
- Eight Legged Freaks: The town the move takes place in ends up getting overrun by a large swarm of Giant Spiders.
- Kingdom of the Spiders: The use of DDT causes spiders to do this and swarm a town.
- Asterix: The first 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.
- Spiders II: Breeding Ground: Near the end, the entire ship is overrun by CGI Giant Spiders after the heroine opens their cages to distract the bad guys.
- In Hangman's Curse, it's revealed that the attacks are the result of planted pheromones causing an African Spotted wolf spider to bite the victims. Then, they breed with a brown recluse spider and infest the school. The climax of the film has the spiders blanketing part of the school.
- Jumanji: One of the final hazards unleashed by the game is a horde of oversized spiders that attack the players.
- The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins has a species of spiders called "Spinners" living as an entire race.
- Harry Potter: The giant spiders 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.
- The acromantula in the forbidden forest are forced out and swarm into Hogwarts during the final battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- Acromantulas were bred by wizards spiders to guard treasure troves, which explains their size, their sociality (Acromantulas, while acting otherwise like spiders, can communicate 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 giant intelligent talking spiders who all lived together in the trees and cooperatively hunted prey. justified by the fact that they are not normal arachnids, but rather demonic spiders. probably the Ur-Example though.
- In The 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.
- Worm: Calling up swarms of spiders is one of Skitter's main tricks, used for both poisonous bites and (more often) their webs. Usually she carries them with swarms of flying insects.
- In Malazan Book of the Fallen, Mogora, occasional wife of Iskaral Pust, is a shapeshifter who can become a swarm of hundreds of spiders. She torments her husband to no end with her abilities.
- 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.
- BIONICLE: The Visorak horde. While there are giant Visorak specimens called Kahgarak, all of them are soldiers who answered to the Brotherhood of Makuta and whoever they assign to be their king. Their objective is to overrun 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.
- Pathfinder: Shriezyx are spider-like aberrations that live in large hives, and when disturbed attack as moving carpets of chittering, swarming bodies.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse: The Ananasi werespiders, a periphery were-race, 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.
- Futuroscope: In Arthur, the 4D Adventure, Betameche flies you straight into a spiderweb, bothering a whole colony of spiders. These wouldn't count as Giant Spiders, except for the fact that you're reduced to Minimoy size...
- Disney Theme Parks: A swarm of spiders is included as a part of Hopper's army in It's Tough to be a Bug, where they drop down from the ceiling towards the audience, only for them to pull back up per Hopper's demands.
- Universal Studios: Occurs in Shrek 4-D, where after Donkey and Shrek disturb a lone spider, a whole horde of them come down on webs and drop to the ground, with the illusion then being given off of them crawling over the audience's legs.
- Bloodborne features the Nightmare Apostles, Giant Spider hordes which chase you throughout their home once they spot you. The red variant summoned by Chime Maiden are far worse, they can detect you without seeing you, catching most people off guard when they are idling.
- 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 their spells summons 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.
- The Legend of Zelda: 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.
- Donkey Kong Country Returns: One of the levels involves the Kongs having to outrun a gigantic swarm of invincible spiders after disturbing their nest.
- Dragon Age:
- 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.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition: One mission has you locate missing scouts in the Hissing Wastes, already considered the worst place in the world. You find the missing scouts alright, along with far more spiders in this one small camp alone than there are dragons across the entire franchise. The Forbidden Oasis has a sidequest where you fight roughly twice that number of the corrupted version in close quarters.
- Donkey Kong 64: The spider mini-boss will send groups of smaller spiders (possibly its children) after Tiny Kong.
- Dark Souls II: The Duke's Dear Freja 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.
- After Ophelia is injured in Brütal Legend, Eddie is told he needs to go to the lair of the Metal Queen to get bass strings thick enough for Killmaster to heal her, which is crawling with swarms of tiny spiders that will swarm over Eddie and drain his health, plus larger, human sized spiders, and the Metal Queen herself, who's as big as a house.
- In Power Pete, in Fairy Tale Trail, Little Miss Muffet will release this under her dress.
- Questionable Content has the Coffee of Doom's basement, also known (rightfully) as the Spider Zone.
- The party from Our Little Adventure is confronted once by several giant spiders and a full swarm of normal-sized spiders at the same time.
- In Wilde Life, this is actually a good thing—wolf spiders are the minions of the White-Faced Bear, and tend to show up when our protagonists are threatened (particularly Cliff, whom the WFB is invested in for unknown reasons). This does not mean that the person they're helping won't be freaked out when they swarm all over him.
- 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 intelligent, literate spiders who have organized themselves under a Marxist communist government.
- 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.
- Episode 5 of The Lost Cat, ironically entitled "They're Only Spiders," features an absolutely massive swarm of spiders that pours out of toilets and sinks and sends the townsfolk fleeing. They take shelter around the Hole of the Leviathan - due to its strange vibrations — and end up surrounded by a wall of spiders so thick it blots out the sky. By the next day, they're all dead and everyone eats them.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Campfire Tales", a camping trip is interrupted by the arrival of a huge swarm fly-ders, spiders with insect wings, that came there seeking food. This kind of swarming behavior seems natural for the fly-ders, which are able to force the characters to flee through through sheer numbers and multidirectional attacks. Applejack implies the fly-ders would have tried to eat them if they had managed to overwhelm them.
- "What Lies Beneath": Yona's trial involves facing an enormous swarm of spiders that comes boiling out from the walls of the cave, and which in several shots appears as a single, solid mass dotted with glowing red eyes. They're actually quite helpful.
- 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. As of 2015, only 25 of the 45,000 extant species of spiders known are considered "social".
- M. balfouri is a particularly noteworthy example, not in scale of number of individuals but in term of size of individuals. They are medium sized tarantulas but only form colonies of three to twelve individuals. Also bizarre in that they seem to evolving away from eusociality as they actively assist each other in breeding and surviving the experience of breeding for the males of colony. note
- 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.
- The harvestman, known in the southern US as the daddy long leg, isn't a true spider but they do look like them from afar. They are known for holing up in massive colonies that look like gigantic mass of black.