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Common Spiders in the Landscape

Stephen Bambara, Extension Entomologist

CAUTION: This information was developed for North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.

Spiders should be considered beneficial to the landscape. They don't feed on plants, and do feed on the many insects in shrubs, garden and turf.  Few spiders are dangerous. The best recommendation is to not handle any of them.  Carol O'Meara of Colorado State University showed that more complex landscapes (higher percent woody or herbaceous plants) supported greater numbers and diversity of spiders.

Crab Spider
(Thomisidae)

These easily recognizable, free-living spiders sit in wait for any prey to pass near.  They are colorful and cryptic and commonly found in or around flowers.  They have excellent eyesight and can remain static for many days at a time prepared to ambush their food. One species can change color to match the flower upon which it sits, which is unusual among spiders.

crab spider

Jumping Spider
(Salticidae)

Jumping spiders have distinctive flat faces with one pair of eyes much larger than the rest. They are fast moving and active hunters that can be found in many places in the landscape. They don't use webs and stalk prey as a cat does. Females will build a silken case off the ground to house their eggs.

jumping spider

Wolf Spider
(Lycosidae)

These are robust shorter legged spiders that are usually grey, black and brown.  They are active hunters usually on the ground and may be plentiful among leaves, mulch and grassy areas. They have been reported to bite, but are not considered dangerous.

Fishing Spider
(Dolomedes sp.)

These are commonly found near water and damp places.  Some can walk across water to catch prey.  These fast runners can have up to a three inch leg-span and are sometimes residents of basements. They are related to wolf spiders, but are usually seen on vegetation or vertical surfaces.

fishing spider

Black and Yellow Garden Spider
(Argiope aurantia: Araneidae)

This is one of the orb spiders, well known for its large symmetrical webs.  They are most abundant in late summer and fall.  They will retreat when disturbed.  The Black and Yellow Argiope garden spider is one of the most noticed and photographed species.

See another orb weaver, Acacesia hamata or Verrucosa arenata.

yellow garden spider

White Micrathena
(Micrathena mitrata: Araneidae)

Micrathena is genus of small, but common orb spiders with "spines" on their abdomen.  They are more often found in woods-edge habitat.  Anyone who has ever walked in the woods in the Fall has probably walked into a Micrathena web.

Arrow-shaped and Spined Micrathenas
(M. sagitatta and M. gracilis)

Similar in habit to white Micrathena. Web has a hole in the center.

white microthena spider
Micrathena mitrata

Goldensilk Spider
(Nephila clavipes: Araneidae)

These are among the largest orb weavers in the country.  They are mostly a southern species with NC being the northernmost range.  They are more common on woods edges.  It may be found in the summer but large females become more obvious in August. This is not a poisonous spider but has been known to bite if handled.

goldensilk spider

Black Widow
(Latrodectus sp.)

This cobweb spider may be found under rocks, pots, timbers or in sheds. Their webs appear disorganized. There are two species reported in North Carolina. Around 2,500 black widow spider bites were reported in 2002 to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, however no deaths have ever been reported to Poison Control since its first report in 1983.

black widow spider

Funnel Web
(Agelenidae)

These spiders are of slender build and easily identified by the funnel shaped web. They tend to remain hidden at the botton of the funnel until prey falls inside, at which time they rush out.  They shed their skins as they grow and these can often be found left in the web.  They are not related to the Austrailian funnel web spiders.

spider in funnel

Grass Spider
(Agelenidae)

This is a type of funnel spider that builds its flattened funnel in grass and shrubs.

webs on ilex shrub

Trap Door Spider
(Ummidia sp.)

Trap door spiders live in a small tunnel in the ground covered by a silken trap door. There they wait until prey passes by.  At that time they spring from their hidding place and drag the prey down into the tunnel. They are closely related to tarantulas and may live for several years.

trap door spider

Harvestmen
(Phalangiidae)

Sometimes called "Daddy Longlegs", these Opiliones have one body part and are NOT SPIDERS. They cannot bite.  They are generalist predators and scavengers. A study by Bradbury and Cady showed that supplying shelters for Harvestmen increased their presence and coorelated with reduced damage and increased yields to cucumber and brussel sprout plots.

harvestman on leaf

"Gram for gram and fang for fang, spiders are the number one predator in the garden." - C. O'Meara.

References:
Abstracts American Arachnology Society 2002
Brown recluse spider identification
See also: Residential, Structural and Community Pests Note on Spiders
And the Pugh collection of NC spider photos

Other Resources


Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.


Prepared by: S. B. Bambara, Extension Entomologists. Photos © J.R. Baker and S.Bambara, Mike Waldvogel, Jim Kalish, Tanja Sova. Permission required. The author thanks David Stephan for his help.

ENT/ort-137. November, 2005

Web page last reviewed January, 2011 by the webperson.