Though most North American homes only house three or four common spiders out of the almost 4,000 known species, spiders are almost universally disliked. Their unpopularity is undeserved, as most spiders are very beneficial predators that feed on insects, other spiders and arthropods, reducing pest populations in and around your home and yard.
Some of the most common house spiders include:
1. American House Spider
The American House spider is a comb-footed spider, which means that it has long, skinny legs with comb-like hairs. As adults, their size is between 4mm-9mm (.16in-.24in). They’re usually yellowish-brown with a dirty white, elongated abdomen with spots. Males are generally darker and smaller than females.
American House Spider Habitats and Habits
The American House spider usually lives in close proximity to humans—in closets, high corners, window frame angles, under furniture, and in garages, sheds, barns, basements, and crawlspaces. They like dark, moist, interior spaces where they can build their webs, which have the look of classic Halloween cobwebs. They generally feed on pests like flies, mosquitoes, ants, and wasps.
American House Spider Toxicity
American House spiders aren’t generally aggressive and have poor vision, preferring to run away rather than engage in confrontation. They only bite humans in self-defense, when grabbed and squeezed, for example, or crushed in clothing or furniture. Their bites can be painful, but are not lethal to humans, unlike their cousins, the Black Widow spider.
American House Spider Geography
American House spiders are common all over North America, and are the most commonly-encountered spider in the U.S.
American House Spider Pest Control
Prevention methods begin with locating possible entry points and sealing them. Following exclusion, homeowners should clean thoroughly to remove cobwebs and egg sacs. Outside, webs can simply be knocked down.
2. Wolf Spider
Wolf spiders are hairy arachnids with many genera of different sizes—from 10-35mm (0.4-1.38 in), and because they depend on camouflage, are usually gray, black, and brown. They’re very quick and relatively large, and are often confused with similar species, like tarantulas or brown recluse spiders.
Wolf Spider Habitats and Habits
Wolf Spiders are usually found on the ground and under stones in a variety of habitats, from woods, fields, and gardens to beaches or even riverbank gravel beds. They don’t build webs, preferring to live in burrows. They usually invade homes—windows, doors, garages, basements and houseplants—during the fall, in search of warmth.
Wolf Spider Toxicity
Wolf spiders are not at all aggressive, and make quite good pets. They will typically not attack unless they feel threatened. A Wolf spider bite will cause some pain, itchiness and redness that will subside quickly. Before biting, they will retreat or rear up on their rear legs, exposing their large fangs.
Wolf Spider Geography
Wolf spiders are common throughout all the U.S., but are particularly ubiquitous in Texas, California, and Missouri.
Wolf Spider Pest Control
The main sign of a Wolf spider infestation is actually sighting them. They can scurry under doorways, and a person can even carry a jumping one in on its clothing. If you think your home may have been invaded, the best thing to do is contact a local pest management agency.
3. Black Widow Spider
Black Widow spider females are shiny black, between 3-10mm (0.12-0.4in), with red, orange, or yellow spots or an hourglass shape on the underside of their abdomen. They can also be identified by their comb foot, a row of strong, curved bristles on the hind pair of legs. The males don’t have the red markings and are half the size of the females.
Black Widow Habitats and Habits
Black Widow spiders prefer building their webs near the ground, on the underside of ledges, plants, rocks, debris, outdoor furniture, railings, woodpiles or stone walls—any dry and dark place where they can build a web. In a home, this can include garages, sheds, barns, basements, and crawlspaces. They’re very solitary spiders, only socializing during copulation.
Black Widow Toxicity
Female Black Widow spiders are considered the most venomous spider in North America, and most bites occur between April and October. Their venom is fifteen times more toxic than a prairie rattlesnake’s, and three times more potent than a male Black Widow Spider’s. The bite will look like one or two fang marks like small red spots.
Symptoms can include muscle spasms that begin near the bite and then spread and increase in severity for 6-12 hours, chills, fever, nausea or vomiting, sweating, severe belly or back pain, headache, high blood pressure, stupor, restlessness, and shock. If you believe you’ve been bitten by a Black Widow spider, or feel any of these symptoms, get medical help immediately.
Black Widow Geography
Though you can find Black Widow Spiders all over the United States, they generally inhabit in the warmer regions, to a latitude of 45 degrees N and S. They can be found all throughout the American Southwest.
Black Widow Pest Control
The best way to avoid an infestation is by reducing clutter in unused areas of the home, in order to minimize possible hiding places. If spiderwebs are visible, use caution before approaching the area, and if you suspect Black Widow spiders, call a specialist immediately.
4. Brown Recluse Spider
Brown Recluse spiders can be identified by the violin-shaped markings on their back, which leads to their commonly being referred to as fiddleback or violin spiders. They only have six eyes arranged in pairs in a semicircle, as opposed to the regular eight. They’re 6-11mm (0.24-0.43in), and light to dark brown, with a uniformly-colored abdomen covered in fine hairs.
Brown Recluse Habitats and Habits
Brown Recluse spiders take their name from their notorious shyness. They’re nocturnal, and generally prefer avoiding humans as much as possible, building their webs in dark, secluded spaces, such as beneath porches and in deep closets. They’re notoriously difficult to control or even observe, due to their reclusiveness and nocturnal habits.
Brown Recluse Spiders hitchhike on furniture boxes and other items from infested structures. A single female transported this way can infest a new building on her own, as they’re long-lived, can go many months without eating, only need to mate once to produce eggs, and can have 150 or more spiderlings in a year.
Brown Recluse Toxicity
Brown Recluse Spiders are venomous, but they rarely bite unless provoked. Many times this happens by mistake, when they get caught in bedding or clothing. Bites usually go unnoticed until the effects manifest after a few hours, and the severity of symptoms varies depending on the amount of venom, and the person’s sensitivity.
For some people, a small white blister appears soon after the bite, the tissue may become hard, and develop a red, white or blue lesion. In extreme cases, the surrounding tissue can become gangrenous, leaving an open wound as large as a human hand, which can take eight weeks or longer to fully recover. There is no effective antivenom, but if you’ve been bitten, you should obtain medical care immediately.
Brown Recluse Geography
Brown Recluse Spiders are native to the U.S. and are endemic to the Midwest and the South.
Brown Recluse Pest Control
To help avoid Brown Recluse Spiders, don’t leave clothing or shoes on the floor. If you find even one Brown Recluse, contact an exterminator as soon as possible, since this is usually an indication of an infestation.
Surprisingly, most people living in infested homes, even when the invasion is heavy, don’t report spider bites. In 2001, more than 2,000 Brown Recluse Spiders were found a in a Kansas home, yet the residents had never been bitten, despite living there for years.
5. Daddy Longlegs
The term Daddy Longlegs is used to refer to two different animals: opiliones arachnids or harvestmen, and pholcidae, or cellar spiders. Harvestmen generally have the long, thin legs of their name, but their bodies are fused, giving the appearance of one long oval structure. Pholcidae have cylindrical abdomens, and are gray to brown with banding or chevron markings.
Daddy Longlegs Habitats and Habits
Daddy Longlegs spiders build their tangled, messy webs in dark, damp places—cellars, basements, under rocks or loose bark, crawlspaces, sink cabinets, and dark corners or sheltered places. Since Harvestmen have no silk glands, they don’t build webs, but tend to also like the same sorts of dark and damp areas. They both eat small insects like mosquitoes and flies, and can therefore be quite effective at pest control.
Daddy Longlegs Toxicity
Daddy Longlegs spiders do possess venom sacs, but their venom is very mild and virtually non-toxic to humans. Harvestmen don’t have any venom at all. Despite the prevalence of an urban legend claiming that Daddy Longlegs have the most potent venom of any spider in the world, but that their fangs are too small or weak to puncture human skin, this has been disproven many times over.
Daddy Longlegs Geography
Both Daddy Longlegs spiders and Harvestmen are found on every continent, except for Antarctica where is is too cold for them to survive.
Daddy Longlegs Pest Control
If the infestation is outside your home, make sure to clear up any loose debris, wood, trash and other objects around the perimeter of your house. Both Harvestmen and Daddy Longlegs spider populations inside homes are generally quite small, and don’t require control measures. You can remove them with a vacuum or a broom, but if the infestation is large, seek the assistance of a pest management professional.
6. Domestic House Spider
Domestic House spiders are dark or orange brown with a pale mark on the breastplate, striped legs and two black longitudinal stripes along the head and thorax. Females are generally between 7.5-11.5mm (0.3-0.45in). Males usually have longer, more flexible legs, but their bodies are smaller, between 6-9mm (0.24-0.35in).
Domestic House Spider Habitats and Habits
Domestic House spiders are active and agile hunters that build funnel-shaped webs to catch their prey. The nest in dark, dry crevices behind furniture, in cupboards, attics, basements, closets, storage rooms, barns and undisturbed corners. They feed on the small insects they trap in their webs, and can live as long as seven years.
Domestic House Spider Toxicity
Domestic House spiders are not a particularly aggressive species, preferring to retreat when confronted. As long as its web is undisturbed, they will usually hide in the funnel area, and not respond. They rarely, rarely bite, but if they do, it’s completely painless.
Domestic House Spider Geography
Domestic House spiders are all over North America, as far north as Maritime Canada and as far south as Louisiana.
Domestic House Spider Pest Control
Domestic House spiders rarely produce enough individuals to develop an infestation. One of their possible benefits is that it can out-compete its relative the Hobo Spider, which is venomous.
If you find one or more in your home, the easiest way to catch it is to place an empty container in front of it, and use the lid to gently nudge or corral the spider from behind. A spider’s first reflex when disturbed from behind is to move forward, so odds are it will retreat into the container in front.
7. Hobo Spider
Hobo spiders can often be confused with the Domestic House spider, as they are very similar looking, with the same dark orange or brown coloration, and pale mark on their breastplate. Their abdomens, however, have v-shaped chevron stripes, and lack their cousin’s distinct longitudinal dark stripes along the head. They’re also larger, between 11-14mm.
Hobo Spider Habitats and Habits
Hobo spiders weave funnel shaped webs in which to catch their prey. They feed on various insects and can also eat other spiders. Nests also serve as mating grounds, and are generally built in dry, warm environments, such as attics, closets and storage rooms, or behind rarely disturbed furniture.
Hobo Spider Toxicity
Hobo spider toxicity is a contested subject among arachnologists. Though an initial study in the late 80s seemed to indicate that their bite was highly venomous, subsequent attempts to reproduce the results failed to produce necrotic lesions. Additionally, despite being quite common in Europe, the relative lack of both bites and lesions from said bites puts the Hobo Spider’s purported toxicity in question.
Hobo Spider Geography
Hobo Spiders are common in Europe, where they are believed to have originated. In the U.S. they concentrate in the Pacific Northwest, but can also be found in smaller numbers all along the Western United States.
Hobo Spider Pest Control
The signs of an infestation are the funnel-shaped webs and the spider itself. Though Hobo Spiders are no longer considered medically threatening, if you believe there’s a population living in your home, it may be best to contact a pest control professional.
8. Jumping Spider
Jumping spiders are compact, medium-sized spiders that get their name from their habit of jumping onto their prey, often leaping up to 25 times their own body length. There are more than 5,800 described species of Jumping Spider, but their distinguishing characteristics are the shape of the cephalothorax (fused head and thorax), and their eye patterns.
The front row of four eyes are on roughly rectangular, flat “faces”, and are larger than the posterior four located at the highest point of the carapace.
Jumping Spiders Habitats and Habits
Jumping spiders are diurnal, and particularly abundant in grassland and prairie environments, where they prey on small insects. They can enter a home on clothing or plants, but are unlikely to establish themselves once in your home.
Though they can produce silk to make shelters called “pup tents” or to protect eggs, Jumping Spiders don’t build webs, and are most likely to be found in yards or barn areas. They’re some of the fastest-moving arthropods on Earth, famous for their agility.
Jumping Spiders Toxicity
Jumping spiders are not considered especially dangerous to humans, especially since they tend to prefer to flee rather than attack. While they do produce venom, it isn’t medically threatening.
Jumping Spiders Geography
Jumping spiders are common all over North America.
Jumping Spiders Pest Control
Jumping spiders are very unlikely to infest a home. However, their presence can be lessened by keeping a clean environment. Clear away any debris around your home, seal any cracks they might use to get in, and vacuum storage spaces.
9. Southern House Spider
Southern House spiders males and females look completely different, though both are covered in fine hair. Females are charcoal gray, dark brown or black, whereas males are khaki or amber brown. Their bodies are slightly different as well, with longer legs on the males and large, bulbous bodies on the females.
Females are often mistaken for tarantulas, and males for Brown Recluse Spiders. The male Southern House spider can be differentiated by his eight eyes to the Brown Recluse’s six, larger size, and
Southern House Spiders Habitats and Habits
Southern House spiders can be found in the dark recesses of window sills, shutters, overhangs, and other dark places in the home, and are frequently associated with human habitations. They particularly enjoy building webs in yucca plants.
The females are rarely seen, as they build radial webs in dark crevices, and seldom move except to capture prey caught in their webs. They can live up to eight years. Males are much more active and have a much shorter lifespan, wandering in search of insects and females to mate with. Though males may appear aggressive, they do not bite unless trapped, and their mouthparts are too small to easily penetrate human skin. They have an unnerving tendency to crawl across anything in their path, but this is simply due to being almost blind and simply being unable to see larger animals.
Southern House Spiders Toxicity
While the Southern House spider’s size can be intimidating, their bite is relatively harmless, and they’re even kept frequently as pets by arachnid enthusiasts.
Southern House Spiders Geography
The Southern House spider is most common in the Southern United States, with some distribution along the Southern West Coast.
Southern House Spiders Pest Control
Signs of an Southern House spider infestation are the presence of adult spiders, their spiderlings, webs and egg sacs. Prevention should concentrate on sealing any entry point cracks in the home, removing ground litter outside the home, and minimizing the spider’s food source. If you need assistance to control the population, contact a pest control professional.
10. Yellow Sac Spider
Yellow Sac spiders are small, with a body between 5-10mm. They’re a pale beige to yellow color which can even present a hint of green, while the tips of their legs are dark brown. Generally, the top part of the abdomen has a dark, v-shaped mark that runs down to its midpoint.
Yellow Sac Spiders Habitats and Habits
Yellow Sac spiders commonly feed on other spiders, as well as agricultural and garden pests and their eggs. Their preferred habitats are in dark spaces in the yard, but they will invade homes in search of warmth during the colder months. Indoors, their protective sacs are often seen in the corners of rooms, where walls and ceiling meet.
Interestingly, they have an affinity for the smell of gasoline, which led to a recall of around 65,000 Mazda6 vehicles from 2009 and 2010, due to Yellow Sac Spiders were found building nests in their fuel systems.
Yellow Sac Spiders Toxicity
Though Yellow Sac Spiders are venomous, and their venom can cause small lesions in humans. They may be very painful to begin with, and then develop redness, itching or swelling. Other symptoms may include fever, malaise, muscle cramps, and nausea.
Yellow Sac Spiders Geography
Yellow Sac Spiders are found all over North America.
Yellow Sac Spiders Pest Control
The probability of a Yellow Sac Spider infestation increases significantly in the fall, as they generally experience a population boom around that time. The warning signs are the appearance of adult or immature spiders, as well as their distinctive sacs. Prevention is best accomplished by sealing any holes, cracks and gaps in windows, doors, or the foundation of your home.
Though you can certainly vacuum any sacs you find on your own, it’s best to contact a pest control professional, as Yellow Sac Spiders are venomous and caution should be used.
General Spider Prevention
The main way to prevent a spider infestation in your home is to make sure they don't have any entry points, like cracks and poorly screened windows or doors. If you find spiders in your home, contact a pest management company, so they can conduct an inspection and create a control plan. A good place to start looking is our list of top ten pest control companies.
Cover Image: Brown Recluse Spiders Found in Apartment Home, Missouri, U.S. (Source: KOMUNews)