Herding giant vegetarian spiders for their silk: a plausibility deep dive

Eleanor Konik

Eleanor Konik

Professionally, I teach world history. In my downtime, I enjoy combining storytelling with my love of sharing obscure history and science.


I'm working on fleshing out a nomadic society and decided that having them herd sheep or goats didn't quite suit what I was trying to do with the scene. I wracked my brain to figure out what could take their place, culturally, economically, and ecologically. Finally, I decided on herds of giant spiders. It's more plausible than I expected, to whit:

Fun Facts

  • The world's most vegetarian spider was named for Rudyard Kipling: their scientific name is Bagheera kiplingi. They occasionally eat insects—but honestly, most "vegetarian" animals also eat the occasional insect, so whatever.
  • Acacia trees, which are part of the pea family, produce red thorns that are rich in lipids, sugars, and proteins — and so make up the diet of Bagheera kiplingi.
  • Some plants (like the aforementioned acacia trees) have large, hollow spines called domatium where ants make their nests as part of a symbiotic relationship.
  • Spidersilk has antiseptic properties and is rich enough in vitamin K as to aid in blood clotting, which is why Carpathian peasants used it for wound dressings.
  • The earliest surviving example of silk fabric dates from about 3630 BCE in China.

Social Spiders

Although many spiders will devolve into eating each other if penned together, making cultivation difficult, some spiders aggregate into colonies that build communal webs and cooperate in hunting large prey and child-rearing. [Read More]


Part of the reason that Bagheera kiplingi are so remarkable is that all other known spiders are carnivorous predators and most other nutritional mutualism exploiters, like jumping spiders, are typically hunters, not foragers. [Read More]

Who's Bigger?

The giant huntsman spider is the world's largest spider: it has a leg span of up to 1ft and lives in Asian caves. Goliath birdeaters are bulkier, though; they're native to the upland rainforests of South America.  [Read More]

Fried Spider

Spider is a delicacy in Cambodia, either pickled in wine or fried with butter and garlic, then eaten like a crab; pull off the legs for some little meat, but there's more meat in the head and body.  Skip the organ & poo filled abdominal cavity. [Read More]


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