Glenys Harris of Dunedin asks :-

We have wind chimes and a spider has made its home in one. Can spiders hear?

Simon Pollard, a spider expert at Canterbury Museum, responded.

I imagine if spiders could hear like we do, then living among wind chimes would cause deafness just as it did in the world’s most famous hunchback and bell ringer, Quasimodo, who lived too close to the bells in Notre Dame Cathedral.

However, spiders do not have ears or delicate eardrums like we do. They listen to their world through special hairs and slits that are found on their legs. The slender vertical hairs are called trichobothria (try-ko-both-ree-ar) and they can pick up sounds in the air, by being moved by sound waves as they pass over the spider. The hairs are anchored to the spider’s body by a ball and socket joint, so sound vibrations from any direction can move the hair and this will tell the spider where the vibration is coming from. For vibrations coming through a surface, like the ground or the silken threads of a web, the spider uses special slits called lyriform (lie-ra-form) organs. When a vibration moves the spider’s leg, the organ picks up the movement of the spider’s exoskeleton or cuticle (cute-a-cool) as it bends. This also tells the spider very precisely the direction the vibration is coming from, which is very useful for finding insects that have crashed into your web.

For a spider living among wind chimes, there would be lots of background noise, but it could still pick up the tell-tale footsteps of an insect walking around or struggling to escape from a web.