Nature,  Science

Scientists In 1995 Gave Spiders Drugs – Here’s How Their Webs Changed When High

Some of the stoned spiders gave up halfway while others spun their webs frantically – check out their wacky designs for yourself


NASA once fed spiders drugs like LSD and marijuana and then watched as the stoned bugs made “deformed” webs.


The space agency published the results of its bizarre experiment in 1995 – and they were as fascinating as you’d expect.

You can see the abstract creations below, including webs weaved by spiders high on marijuana, LSD, caffeine and chloral hydrate.

“The more toxic the chemical,” wrote the researchers in their paper, “the more deformed a web looks in comparison with a normal web.”

They then quantified the alterations in each web using statistical tools and image processors to test the impact of different chemicals on spiders.


Check out the results for yourself in the pictures below:


Spiders exposed to LSD

A normal web on the left next to a web made by a spider on LSD


Spiders given low doses of LSD – a class A drug in the UK that can land you up to seven years in prison for possession – made more geometrically regular patterns than when they were sober.

The same can’t be said for the creepy crawlies given the other drugs.


Spiders exposed to marijuana

A web made by a spider on marijuana on the right


This stoned spider seems to have given up on its web halfway through.

Nasa said the spiders who sampled the drug were easily sidetracked while building and left their webs unfinished.

They didn’t say whether they had the munchies too.


Spiders exposed to chloral hydrate

A normal web on the left and a web made by a spider on chloral hydrate (sleeping pills)

The spiders fed chloral hydrate gave up on their webs even faster than the ones who’d had a little cannabis.

That may be because the chemical is a sedative that’s used for the short-term treatment of insomnia in humans.


Spiders exposed to caffeine

Spiders who’d sampled caffeine made webs with disorganised cells

A cup of coffee may wake you up in the morning, but it plays havoc on spiders.

The webs they made were characterised by disorganised cells and a lack of the normal “hub and spoke” pattern, according to Mental Floss.


Spiders exposed to Benzedrine

A spider who’d been given Benzedrine spins a deformed web

These webs had large gaps as the spiders weaved them energetically without planning or attention to detail.


Surprisingly, scientists have been getting spiders intoxicated since the late ’40s.

Back in 1948, zoologist H.M. Peters had been staying up all night in an effort to research the web-spinning abilities of orb-web spiders.

He then roped in pharmacologist Peter N. Witt to help him find a solution.

It was Witt who decided to feed the spiders sugar water spiked with caffeine, mescaline, amphetamine, LSD or strychnine – a toxic chemica used in pesticides – in an effort to make them weave at a different time of the day.

NASA replicated Witt’s original study in 1995 and found similar results. The only difference was the astronomers used house spiders as part of their analysis and modern computing tools to dissect the outcome.