Do Fishing Spiders Bite? Unraveling the Mystery

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?

Scientific Classification

Fishing spiders belong to the Pisauridae family and the Dolomedes genus. They are commonly found across various continents.

Physical Description

  • 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.

Distribution

Fishing spiders have a wide distribution, inhabiting North America, Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa.

Habitat

Fishing spiders are typically found near water sources such as:

  • Lakes
  • Ponds
  • Streams
  • Wetlands

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
North America Yes
Europe Yes
Asia Yes
South America Yes
Africa Yes

Behavior and Diet

Semi-Aquatic Lifestyle

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

Hunting Techniques

Fishing spiders have unique hunting techniques, which include:

  1. Walking on water: These spiders can walk on the water’s surface to catch their prey.
  2. Ambush: They wait for prey to come close before striking quickly.

Examples of their diet consist of:

  • Small fish
  • Aquatic insects
  • Other spiders

Predators

Fishing spiders have a few predators, such as:

  • Birds
  • Lizards
  • Larger spiders

Comparison of Fishing Spiders and Other Spiders:

Feature Fishing Spiders Other Spiders
Habitat Near water Various
Hunting Method Walk on water Web-based
Diet Fish, insects Insects
Size Larger Varies

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

Egg Sac

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

Nursery Web

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.

Comparison Table

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:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • 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.

Medical Attention

While fishing spider bites are usually not a cause for concern, some individuals may experience more severe symptoms, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sweating

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.

Prevention

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:

Feature Male Female
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
Habitat Near water Terrestrial
Vision Good Good
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.

In conclusion:

  • Fishing spiders are not aggressive and bites are rare.
  • They use their unique abilities to catch prey near water sources.

Footnotes

  1. Fishing Spider 2 3 4

  2. Spiders | UMN Extension 2 3

  3. Fishing Spiders and Wolf Spiders

  4. Aquatic Spiders Fishing Spiders; Water Spiders 2

Reader Emails

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.
Signature: AnxiousPoolMom

Fishing Spider
Six Spotted Fishing Spider

Dear AnxiousPoolMom,
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.

Six Spotted Fishing Spider
Six Spotted Fishing Spider

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!
Samantha

Hi Samantha,
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

 

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,
james

Hi James,
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

Hi Jon,
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
Brandy

Hi Brandy,
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

 

Big One!
Mornin’ Bugman,
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…
R.G. Marion

Hi R.G.,
The Dolomedes Fishing Spiders can sure be frighteningly large. Thanks for the anecdote and wonderful accompanying image.

Letter 7 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider

 

Spider ID
Greetings,
Is this A fishing spider. I saw it in my garage. Thank you for our help,
Tom Stone

Hi Tom,
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?
JFCisme
Aspenhof, Missouri

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Hi JF,
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.
R.G. Marion
Cosby, TN

Female Fishing Spider carrying Egg Sac

Hi R.G.,
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.

Male Fishing Spider

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

3 thoughts on “Do Fishing Spiders Bite? Unraveling the Mystery”

  1. I Live in Gatineau Quebec Canada I have thiese Spiders living in my shed. They are so large that you hear them when they run or jump. Does anyone know if they are poisonous?

    Reply
  2. Hi Kevlee,
    All spiders are poisonous, but Fishing Spiders are not dangerous. They will probably not bite a person, and if that happened, the bite would be very mild.

    Reply
  3. Thanks very much for the identification assistance. We take a no-kill approach here and I wanted to be able to (accurately) assure swimmers this alarmingly large poolside occupant is not a potential threat.

    Reply

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