Fishing spiders are an intriguing species known for their unique hunting habits near bodies of water. These fascinating creatures, from the genus Dolomedes, are commonly found near water and are known to catch small fish and aquatic insects as they walk on the surface. While their size and appearance might seem intimidating, it’s essential to understand their behavior, particularly when it comes to their interactions with humans.
Biting is a natural defense mechanism for spiders, but fishing spiders are generally not aggressive towards people. However, like most spiders, they may bite if they feel threatened or cornered. It’s essential to be cautious when encountering these spiders in their natural environment to avoid putting yourself at risk.
In any case, it’s crucial to educate oneself on these impressive arachnids to better appreciate their role in the ecosystem and coexist with them. Awareness and respect for their habitats is key to minimizing unwanted encounters.
What Are Fishing Spiders?
Fishing spiders belong to the Pisauridae family and the Dolomedes genus. They are commonly found across various continents.
- Size: Fishing spiders can range from 0.4 to 1 inch in body length, with a leg span of up to 4 inches.
- Color: They often have contrasting shades of brown and gray, with some species exhibiting stripes or patterns.
Fishing spiders have a wide distribution, inhabiting North America, Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa.
Fishing spiders are typically found near water sources such as:
They are known for their unique ability to walk on water surfaces and catch prey, such as small fish and aquatic insects.
|Continent||Presence of Fishing Spiders|
Behavior and Diet
Fishing spiders are known for their semi-aquatic lifestyle, which involves living near water and adapting well to both aquatic and terrestrial environments. These spiders can be found:
- Near ponds
- Along streams
- On trees close to water bodies
Fishing spiders have unique hunting techniques, which include:
- Walking on water: These spiders can walk on the water’s surface to catch their prey.
- Ambush: They wait for prey to come close before striking quickly.
Examples of their diet consist of:
- Small fish
- Aquatic insects
- Other spiders
Fishing spiders have a few predators, such as:
- Larger spiders
Comparison of Fishing Spiders and Other Spiders:
|Feature||Fishing Spiders||Other Spiders|
|Hunting Method||Walk on water||Web-based|
Overall, fishing spiders exhibit remarkable adaptability to a semi-aquatic lifestyle, employing unique hunting techniques that set them apart from other spiders. Their diet mainly consists of aquatic prey, and they face predators from both land and air. Their behavior and diet make them a fascinating topic of study for those interested in spider biology.
Reproduction and Lifespan
Fishing spiders reproduce by laying eggs that are protected in a silk-woven sac. Female fishing spiders create these egg sacs, which can store a large number of eggs, often reaching up to hundreds of eggs per sac. The sac is carried around by the female for protection, ensuring a secure environment for the developing spiderlings.
- Egg sacs provide a safe environment for spiderlings
- Female fishing spiders may lay hundreds of eggs at once
Once the eggs are close to hatching, females create a nursery web, thereby providing a safe haven for the newborn spiderlings.
- Nursery web protects the spiderlings from predators and harsh conditions
- Female fishing spiders are known to actively guard the nursery web
Nursery web spiders create their nursery for spiderlings by weaving a retreat with silk. This web is typically constructed near a water source, providing the perfect environment for spiderlings to molt and learn to hunt small aquatic insects.
Spiders, including the fishing spider, have a lifespan that varies depending on factors such as species, sex, environmental conditions, and predation. While some fishing spiders may only live for a few months, others can live up to a year or more.
|Feature||Egg Sac||Nursery Web|
|Purpose||Protects eggs||Protects spiderlings|
|Construction||Silk woven by females||Silk web near water|
|Eggs/Spiderlings||Houses developing eggs||Houses young spiderlings|
Do Fishing Spiders Bite?
Nature of Fishing Spider Bites
Fishing spiders, belonging to the nursery-web family, are not known to be aggressive towards humans. Their venom is primarily used for subduing their prey, which consists of small fish and aquatic insects. Though not considered poisonous, fishing spider bites can still occur when the spider feels threatened.
Symptoms of a Bite
In rare cases, a fishing spider bite may result in:
- Mild pain
Typically, these symptoms are short-lived and resolve without complications. The bite is far less severe than those from venomous spiders like recluse spiders and widow spiders.
While fishing spider bites are usually not a cause for concern, some individuals may experience more severe symptoms, such as:
In these cases, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. Keep in mind that reactions can vary among individuals, and symptoms might be mistaken for bites from more venomous spiders like brown recluse spiders or black widows.
To reduce the risk of fishing spider bites, follow these prevention tips:
- Avoid disturbing areas where spiders might reside (e.g., near water, in wooded habitats).
- Wear gloves and long sleeves when working in spider-prone areas.
- Keep your home and surroundings clean, reducing potential hiding spots for spiders.
It’s essential to remember that fishing spiders are not aggressive towards humans and play a vital role in controlling insect populations. Avoiding unnecessary contact with them and respecting their natural environment can help prevent fishing spider bites.
Species and Identification
Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes Tenebrosus)
The Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes Tenebrosus) is a species of fishing spider mainly found near water sources. Their habitat could include areas like ponds, streams, and swamps.
Some key features of Dark Fishing Spiders:
- Can walk on water surfaces
- Capable of catching small fish and aquatic insects
- They have eight eyes arranged in two rows
Color and Size
Dark Fishing Spiders are usually brown or gray with a distinctive pattern. Their cephalothorax (the front part of the body) has a whitish-yellow stripe surrounding the dark carapace.
Dark Fishing Spiders are considered large spiders. They have long legs and an oval abdomen that is smaller than their cephalothorax. Male spiders are smaller than females, with a body length of around 0.3-0.6 inches, while females range from 0.6-1 inch. Leg spans can reach up to 3 inches.
Comparison of male and female Dark Fishing Spiders:
|Body Length||0.3-0.6 inches||0.6-1 inch|
|Leg Span||Up to 3 inches||Up to 3 inches|
To summarize, the Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes Tenebrosus) is a notable species of fishing spiders. They’re characterized by their brown or gray coloration, large size, and affinity for aquatic habitats.
Quick Facts and Trivia
- Fishing spiders are large, often found near water, and belong to the genus Dolomedes1.
- They can catch small fish and aquatic insects while walking on the water’s surface1.
- Bites are rare, and they are not aggressive or dangerous2.
Fishing spiders are interesting creatures with unique behaviors and abilities. They share similarities with larger wolf spiders in terms of size, shape, and coloration1. These spiders are generally found near water, and some can even walk on water to catch prey, like small fish and aquatic insects1.
Although these spiders might appear intimidating due to their size, they are not aggressive or dangerous to humans2. Bites from fishing spiders are rare, and there is no need to be overly concerned about them2.
Some fascinating characteristics of fishing spiders include their great vision and hunting capabilities3. A quick comparison between fishing spiders and wolf spiders can be seen below:
|Aspect||Fishing Spiders||Wolf Spiders|
|Hunting methods||Walk on water||Crawl on land|
|Danger to humans||Low||Low|
Fishing spiders might also remind you of the spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton)4, which is known for its ability to run across the water surface and distinctive dark-colored appearance with a smaller oval abdomen compared to the cephalothorax4.
- Fishing spiders are not aggressive and bites are rare.
- They use their unique abilities to catch prey near water sources.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Fishing Spider takes up residence in Swimming Pool
Subject: Large spider by swimming pool
Location: Rollingwood, Texas
August 3, 2015 6:01 am
This approx. 3 inch spider has been lying in wait for prey (we think) right inside the opening to one of our pool’s skimmer baskets. There is some rather loose webbing spun inside where we can reach in to remove the basket proper.
I can’t find a spider with similar markings – everything I find has lighter color bands between darker bands rather than dark bands in the center. The legs are slightly banded as well.
I’d like to get proper ID so I can assure folks using the pool the spider isn’t after them and is harmless to swim around? Thank you very much.
This is definitely a Nursery Web Spider in the family Pisauridae, and we are relatively certain it is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton, which is a variable species that can be viewed on BugGuide. Fishing Spiders in the genus Dolomedes are frequently found in the immediate vicinity of a body of water, hence the attractiveness of your pool. Though they get quite large, Fishing Spiders are not aggressive towards humans and they are not considered dangerous. There is always the possibility that a bite might occur if carelessly handling a larger spider, but we feel the chances of being bitten are quite slim.
Daniel: Thank you! We have two adult children (one of whom brings his dog over to swim) and though neither is particularly skittish around spiders, due to the size of this one I wanted to be able to assure them there’s no reason to try and harm the spider or even chase it off. We don’t spray (with rare exceptions) and try to take a no-kill approach whenever possible. I always feel proper ID is one of the best adjuncts to that approach, but simply couldn’t make the identification in this case.
I sincerely appreciate your help. /Deb Wilson
Letter 2 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider catches Tree Frog
Nursery Web or Fishing Spider? (plus, they’re just cool pictures!)
I live in the lowcountry of South Carolina and found this spider on my back patio a couple of weeks ago. The toad is a baby one, maybe about 1″ – 1 1/4″ long. I took so many pictures, this guy (gal?) must have gotten sick of my camera’s paparazzo flashblub because he took off across the lawn, taking the toad with him. I haven’t seen him since. I understand that, assuming this is the type of spider I think it is, that the bite is not lethal or particularly dangerous, but what if they get into a house and bite a small pet? Or even a baby or toddler? Thanks so much!
Wow! What a wonderful photo. This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider, and it appears to be feasting on a Tree Frog. All spiders have venom, and it is possible that a bite could affect a sensitive person in a negative way. It is a sure bet that it would cause discomfort like swelling and or itching.
Letter 3 – Fishing Spider
On the way back to camp, after a good day of fishing on the Buffalo River in Arkansas. I was turning over rocks near the bank looking for fossils, and I found a rather large spider instead. It didn’t seem bothered that I disturbed his or her hideout, so I took a picture. It’s thorax was about the size of a quarter. I would like to know if it’s a fishing spider, or what. Your website is fantastic. It helped me identify a very strange wheel bug, which I will send you a picture of soon. Thanks,
You are correct. This is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes.
Letter 4 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider
help identifying spider
Please help us identify this spider. We live in Maryland in the woods. The body is about 2 to 3 inches. The legs are about 3 inches. The spider is about 6 inches from side to side. Attached is a photo.
Thanks, Jon Hall and family
We get many questions about the Dolomedes Fishing Spiders. We probably have photos and information on any of our four Spider pages or use the brand new search engine we just installed.
Letter 5 – Brownish-gray Fishing Spider
what kind of spider is this
I found this spider in my house what kind is it and is it poisonous. ITS HUGE!! Thanks
Yes, the Fishing Spiders can be startlingly large. All spiders have venom, but few pose a danger to humans. Your Brownish-Gray Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus, which is also known as the Dark Dolomedes, is harmless. They are amazing spiders, and are usually found near water. They can dive below the surface and remain there motionless for thirty minutes. They also catch small fish. They breath air that is trapped by hairs on their bodies. It ranges throughout New England, into Canada and other areas of the Eastern seaboard.
Letter 6 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider
This large an’ lovely critter was in the bathroom basin last evening struggling to escape the slippery slopes. Before retiring for the night, I placed a piece of rough cardboard in the sink and, when I checked first thing this morning, she was gone! Success without squirming on my part nor injury on the spider’s part was achieved. Of course, where she is now is the question of the day! 😀 From The Great Smoky Mountains…
The Dolomedes Fishing Spiders can sure be frighteningly large. Thanks for the anecdote and wonderful accompanying image.
Letter 7 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider
Is this A fishing spider. I saw it in my garage. Thank you for our help,
You are correct. This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider.
Letter 8 – Female Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Male and Female Spider Near St Louis, Missouri
I found these two in a concrete cistern that I converted to a storage area. It has an abundance of crickits in it. I took these pictures in June. The female has an egg sack and allowed me to get quite close to take her photo. The male was more cautious and would move away when I got too close. They are about 5 to 6 inches across. I have never seen anything this size or color in the area. What are they?
Your photo depicts a female Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. Because of the maternal care they provide, this family of spiders is known as Nursery Web Spiders. At some point, after carrying the egg sac around, the Fishing Spider will select a good location and spin a large nursery web. We actually believe both of your photos are of female Fishing Spiders.
Letter 9 – Bug of the Month June 2010 Redux: Fishing Spider
The cycle is complete – once again
July 14, 2010
Hello Daniel and Lisa,
I know I’m a month late, but my world up here on my little hill seems to be an ecosystem unto itself. It is, generally, two or three weeks behind those of the lower elevations. Every 100′ in elevation in the Smokies is like driving 12 miles north, I’ve heard.
Thanks so much for being such a faithful reader and contributor for so many years, even though there are times we are unable to post your images. Despite being a month late for our Bug of the Month posting of a Fishing Spider for June 2010, we love your explanation of the altitude affecting the times creatures appear. We are making an exception in your case, and doing a redux of the June Bug of the Month so that we can showcase your marvelous images of a female Dolomedes Fishing Spider carrying her egg sac in her chelicerae or fangs and a deceased male Fishing Spider whose life span is considerably shorter than that of the female because he does not care for the young.