Spider Indentification

One of my fondest memories growing up was when my grandma would read to me. My favorite book was Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham. It was a story about a helpful little spider named Helen at a zoo. My dad would always catch & release spiders, instead of killing them. These influences sparked my lifelong love of these creepy little arachnids. As I got older, I began researching spiders’ roles as spirit guides/totems. Grandmother Spider is the weaver of creativity, the keeper of destiny & knowledge and the guardian of ancient languages & alphabets. She connects us to the energies of the spirit worlds and is a lunar symbol for death and rebirth, who teaches us that through polarity and balance creativity can be stimulated. 

Most spiders are really just misunderstood friends!  Here are some facts about some of the most common spiders: 

Black Widows:

Location: The United States. They are usually found in dark, dry areas such as rock/wood piles, basements, and garages.

Identification: These guys are shiny black or brown with a red hourglass on their abdomen

Bite: While a bite can cause severe pain, their bites are seldom deadly. Young children and the elderly are at the most risk of having severe reactions. Symptoms include nausea, sweating, cramps, fever, and dizziness, and you should seek medical attention if bitten.

Behavior:  These ones are nocturnal, build webs, and typically stay in one spot unless disturbed. They are shy and rarely bite unless provoked. 

Friend or Foe: Friend unless provoked, and they eat harmful insects.

Brown Recluse:  

Location: Found in warmer states between the Rockies and Appalachians. They like dark corners. 

Identification: Small brown, approximately the size of a quarter, with a violin pattern on their backs. They have six eyes instead of eight.

Bite: While their bites can lead to necrotic skin lesions, only around 10% of bites require medical attention and are not fatal. One of the most misdiagnosed bites, they typically look like small pimples or mosquito bites. The fangs are too small and short to bite through clothing. Biting is usually a response to being crushed or provoked.

Behavior: These fellas are not aggressive and run for cover when disturbed. They are nocturnal and shy away from daylight.          

Friend or Foe: Friend unless provoked, and they eat harmful insects.

Cellar Spider:

Location: Everywhere except Antarctica. They like dark, damp areas, as well as basements/sheds.

Identification: There are over 1,500 species of cellar spider, and are usually up to ¾ inch length, and skinny & fragile with long legs. Pale, yellow, light brown, or gray.

Bite: These guys are not aggressive; they have short fangs and don’t bite humans.

Behavior: This species is at least 400 million years old. They groom themselves and vibrate rapidly in response to predators!

Friend or Foe: Friend to us, but they eat other insects, including spiders!

Grass Spider:

Location: United States & Russia. You will find them in grassy areas.

Identification: Brown or gray with two parallel dark lines running lengthwise, with prominent spinnerets.

Bite: Lucky for us, grass spiders are not aggressive; they don’t bite humans.

Behavior: They build non-sticky funnel webs, and are often mistaken for wolf spiders.

Friend or Foe: Friend, of course! They provide excellent pest control.


Location: Pacific Northwest States. You will spot hobos scuttling in dark areas, flower beds, rock/wood piles, and basements.

Identification: Brown with a zigzag pattern on the back, smooth even-colored legs, and the hobo males have two large palps between their front legs.

Bite: These friends are not aggressive, but will bite if threatened or pressed against the skin. Only about half of their bites are venomous, and none are strong enough to be life-threatening. Get bitten by these, and you might see redness, pain, headache, nausea, weakness, and fatigue. Seek medical attention with these ones.

Behavior: Hobos have poor vision and can only see a few feet away so they may run when spooked, sometimes towards people. They are funnel web weavers and don’t have sticky webs. They are nocturnal and are poor climbers.

Friend or Foe: Friend unless provoked, and they eat insects.

Jumping Spider:

Location: These guys live everywhere except Antarctica & the Arctic and you will find them in a variety of habitats.

Identification: Black, brown, tan, gray, or white with pale markings. Fuzzy, they can be ⅛”-¾” long. 

Bite: Not aggressive or capable of biting humans.

Behavior: Jumping spiders are active during the day, these fellas like sunshine, plus they have fantastic eyesight except at night. As you can infer, they are great at jumping! These are the most prominent family of spiders in the word and account for 13% of all spiders.

Friend or Foe: Friend, naturally. They eat flies, gnats, and other spiders.

Orb Weavers:

Location: The United States & Canada. They like gardens and vegetation.

Identification: With over 4,000 species, orb weavers are typically brightly colored with patterns and ¼”-1”, long, spiny legs. They can usually be identified by their intricate, wheel-shaped webs. Catface spiders are in this family.

Bite: These are not aggressive and will only bite in self-defense. Their bite is not venomous and produces localized pain no more significant than a wasp's sting.

Behavior: Because of their poor eyesight, they rely on vibrations to tell them what is around them.

Friend or Foe: Friend, they provide natural pest control.

Wolf Spider:

Location: Everywhere except Antarctica. They prefer grassy areas, woold/rock piles, and basements.

Identification: These guys are up to 1”, brown with black markings, and hairy.

Bite: These ones are not aggressive unless provoked, but their bite is painful like a bee sting and can cause red bumps, swelling, and itchiness. Allergic reactions can include nausea and dizziness. Seek medical attention if you run afoul of these ones.

Behavior: They are fast moving hunters who don’t spin webs, with excellent eyesight. They are nocturnal and carry their babies on their backs.

Friend or Foe: Friend unless provoked, and they eat harmful insects.

While you might find these little guys creepy or scary, most spiders are more afraid of you than you are of them! They eat other insects, they are a crucial part of the ecosystem, and they saved Wilbur! 

Comments (1)

  • Dusty on May 16, 2022

    Loved the article on spiders! I, too, do not kill spiders…I do have a spider jar that I put them to take them outside. If they are small they can stay…bigger ones have to live outdoors.

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