Currently viewing the category: "Cobweb Spiders"
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American Homebody, our mother site, just sent in this photo of a female Black Widow spider spotted in their Jefferson Park offices.

(01/31/2004) Not True but False Widow

Hi,
Great site!
Have a question about black widows. When we lived in the New Orleans area, we saw several spiders that were black and shaped just like a black widow, but had red markings on the top side of the abdomen.
I have not been able to find anything online that resembles them , and thought you might be able to help.
Thanks,
Mary P

Hi Mary,
First, the red hourglass is on the under side of the abdomen. There is a spider known as the False Widow, Steatoda grossa. Both the true and false widows belong to the Comb Footed Spider Family Theridiidae. The False Widow is a beneficial spider, reported to prey on its more poisonous relative. It also eats Sow Bugs. It is a hardier spider than the true Black Widow. We find them in our yard all the time, and will take a photo the next time.

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Please identify this spider.
Hi,
These pics were taken in the corner of our non-airconditioned/heated warehouse, by my window. Sometimes during the spring my window gets partially covered in web. There are at least 4 or 5, from ceiling to floor(~30ft) hanging in the same corner. It looks like the daddy long-legs family, but I can’t find a picture to identify it anywhere. Most of them have a 1/4″-1/2″ body with legs spreading from 2″-4″. Late nights, with the light on in my office is probably keeping them near-by. These same spiders are all over the warehouse along the walls and under shelving. BTW, we’re in Wilmington, NC. We mostly want assurance that they’re not dangerous, since we’re running into them all the time. Thanks!
Glen

Hi Glen,
It looks like a Cobweb Spider, Pholcus phalangioides. According to Hogue: “This strictly domestic spider is another species imported from Europe. It is the major contributor to ceiling cobwebs and is common under eaves of homes in tree shaded neighborhoods. The spider is drab gray-brown, with an elongate abdomen;…. It’s very long slender legs and small rounded body give it a superficial resemblance to a daddy long-legs. When disturbed, it gyrates wildly in its web.” They are benign spiders.

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Hi.
Spiders, in general, freak me out. Your page makes me squirm and squint. I could use some help identifying a spider I found in abundance in my garage. The brown spider was with a dozen of his buddies… and dozens of eggs. They took over some shelves we had in our garage. I’m an over-protective new parent. Should this spider concern me? I also attached a spider that almost made my hair turn white. My wife and I came across it hiking in BVI. Is that thing poisonous?
Thanks
Scott

Hi Scott,
The brown spider in your home is Theridion tepidariorum, the most common of all house spiders. They spin a tangled maze of threads in the corners of neglected rooms. They are sedentary, spin webs to catch prey and to place their egg sacs. Off all the spiders that inhabit our dwellings, this is the most familiar, so it is sometimes called the Domestic Spider. It is exceedingly variable in color and markings. The female is larger. They are harmless.
The frightening spider from BVI (where is that?) is a silk spider called Nephila clavipes. They build enormous strong webs. They occur in the tropics and the American South. Your photo is the female which is about 100 times the size of the diminutive male. They may bite, but are relatively harmless. They are sometimes called Banana Spiders, but that is a common name used on Giant Crab Spiders as well.


Correction:  May 21, 2014
Just a few weeks shy of the tenth anniversary of this posting, we received a comment from Kalandria correcting our identification and indicating that the Cobweb Spider is
Steatoda triangulosa which we verified on BugGuide.

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I have a juvenile Southern Black Widow in a jar at my house. She’s very small and has striped legs, a red stripe down the topside of her abdomen and of course, the tell tale hourglass on the underside of her abdomen. I’ve had her now for approximately 3 weeks. I would very much like to keep her but since I have a 10 year old daughter I cannot just let her roam about freely. I don’t want to put her outside because I live in Oklahoma and the temperature is decreasing daily. The jar that I have her in is a gallon glass jar with a metal lid. We’ve poked holes in the lid so she can breathe and put dirt, rocks, leaves and plenty of sticks in the jar. She seems to be content because she has spun a very nice web in there. We’ve fed her a variety of things including flies, little bees and other spiders. She liked all of those just fine but now that the weather is turning much colder it is getting harder to find suitable bugs for her. So, I went to the pet store and bought her some crickets. There is only one problem, the crickets are much bigger than she is and she won’t eat them! Last night she was hanging upside down in her web as she always does and one of the crickets walked right up to her (via a stick) and she retreated. The cricket then stomped all over her web and went back to the bottom of the jar. I have a few questions concerning this amazing spider of mine.
First of all, will she eat the cricket if she’s hungry or is he just too big for her?
Will the cricket eat her?
How often do Black Widows need to eat?
Does she need a fresh supply of water or does she get this from her prey?
If she does need a fresh supply of water, how much?
When will she molt?
When she does, how long afterwards should I wait to feed her again?
I very much adore this spider and want her to live through the winter. Please let me know what I can do to keep this truly wonderful creature alive and well. Thank you!
Misty McClain

Dear Misty,
Thank you for your sensitive letter. I will try to answer all your questions. First, while it is possible for your juvenile spider to feed off of the crickets, the size differential might be a problem. Find out from your pet store what their source of crickets is. You might be able to contact the breeder and get juvenile crickets. Another solution which might be fun for your daughter as well is to raise Drosophila, fruit flies, which can be obtained from a biological supply house for schools, or you can just try to attract the flies to an overripe banana in your kitchen. The fruit flies are very easy to raise as any home maker who has forgotten to remove fruit from the kitchen or fogotten to take the garbage to the compost pile. I always have some fruit flies swarming in my kitchen. Crickets are omniverous, and they might try to eat your spider. Not to be evasive, but your spider will eat when hungry. In the wild, they do not eat daily, but rather when they catch prey. Sometimes this happens several times a day, and at other times it might be weeks between meals. The spiders are resilient. Black Widows are fond of damp dark places but they will not drink water. They get their water from the life giving juices sucked out of their prey. She will molt when she has outgrown her current skin. This happens several times over the course of her life. At her final moult she will achieve the glossy black color that typifies her species. it is also possible that you have a male spider which is colored similarly to the juvenile. I hope this answers your questions, and good luck.

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Dear Daniel,
I’m sorry to report that my captive black widow has apparently expired, without warning, and before her time (I think), and I’m hoping that you might be able to offer some possible causes of death.
I found this brave arachnid in my house, right next to the front door, where she had constructed a nice web in the corner. This was surprising, because these spiders are typically shy-er and aviod the insides of our home, keeping to the piles of garbage and debris that surround it. I dusted off my spider cage and tossed her in with some sticks, and she set up shop immediately, dispatching every bug I could capture and introduce into her one-spider ecosystem. She ate four flies in about three weeks, and then, last night I caught three June beetles almost at once and decied to toss them all in and see how she’d handle an overabundance of supplies. She caught and wrapped all three in quick succession, then set to work on one, and I went to bed. This morning she was curled up in a ball on the bottom of the cage (see photo). Now there’s a giant bead of clear fluid emerging from her mouth-parts-area, and her legs are sort of clenching up and slowly releasing, over and over.
Could all this be the result of a tainted june beetle? Is she going to suddenly pop out of her old exoskeleton and finish off the three meals left un-eaten in her web? Please advise.
Yours,
Sean Dungan

Dear Sean,
I have never heard of a spider stuffing herself to death, but I guess that is always a possibility. I guess you should just wait and see what happens. Her typical lifespan would be three years, and it is entirely possible that you had a senior citizen move in with you.

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Friends;
It’s summertime in the Canyon, so that means it’s bugtime. I killed a number of these over the holiday weekend, but thought I’d take a picture of this lady before I smushed her with a broom.

I would’ve tried to get in closer, but admittedly, I was a little scared.
Chris

Hi Chris,
Thanks for the update on the buggy canyon. Just two days ago I overturned an old piece of wood while planting an oak seedling, and lo and behold, there was a big fat black widow snuggled in a crack on the underside. I gingerly replaced the wood. I have heard it said that there isn’t a house in southern California that isn’t home to at least 15 black widows, despite the actions of paranoid home owners and the attempts of exterminators to eradicate the species from the planet. Though she is a desert creature, the Western Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus hesperus, seeks out dark, cool, and usually damp locations to spin her indefinite web. Look for her in wood piles, hollow stumps, crawlspaces and among refuse stored in garages and attics. The water heater area is often a favorite site. The sexes exhibit pronounced dimorphism, looking like two entirely different species. The male is small and greyish while the much larger female is usually a glossy black, with a red (though sometimes orange or even yellow) hourglass marking beneath her bulbous shiny abdomen. The size difference contributes to her reputation as a man eater. The bite of both sexes is poisonous, and the venom is reported to be 15 times as strong as that of a rattle snake. Though they are not aggressive, preferring to hide in the dark, they occasionally bite people. Avoid contact with the spider and immediately call a physician if a bite occurs. An ice bag should be placed on the wound and the victim should be kept calm.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination