Spiders and Cannabis

In 1948, German Zoologist H.M. Peters was studying web building behavior in spiders. He was pretty annoyed that spiders usually worked between 2-5 in the morning and was hoping that he would be able to give spiders a chemical stimulant that would get them to build their webs at times when he was not asleep!

Peters reached out to his friend P.N. Witt (a pharmacologist) and asked if there was anything he could give the spiders to get them to work at a more reasonable hour.  Over the course of the next few decades, he gave spiders a variety of stimulants including: 

  • Cannabis
  • LSD
  • Caffeine
  • Mescaline
  • Amphetamine

Spiders given stimulants in one of two ways. 

  1. Dissolved in sugar water and fed to the spiders
  2. Injected flies with stimulants and then fed the flies to the spiders. 

Each drug affected how the spiders looked!  Peters was able to work with other researchers and closely studied how the characteristics of the spider webs changed. Spiders on cannabis were easily distracted and usually gave up on their webs about halfway through.

At the time, there really was no practical use for studying spiders on cannabis or caffeine, so unfortunately the experiment was discontinued. Then, in 1995, NASA repeated some of Peters and Witt’s experiments for themselves and continued to build upon their research!



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