Female Southern House Spider

Subject: Southern House Spider?
Location: Richmond, VA
December 17, 2013 10:22 pm
I found this little friend behind my couch while looking for something. She appears to be a southern house spider.
What are they like — temperament, environment, bite, etc?
I have her in a jar. I might find a more semi-permanent solution for her later (a container I used to house a baby terrestrial tarantula who outgrew it). I don’t want her to go back to her home behind my couch (I found her webs as well as evidence of past feasts she made of escaped tarantula food — I think we’ve been “roomies” for some time, and I’ve found young males inside before as well) because I don’t want her to get squished or for her to end up in a situation where she might feel the need to bite — or to get eaten by my dog. However I don’t want to throw her outside because it’s very cold right now (I realize she is a native wild animal, but I don’t know what her species does to combat the cold, if anything special — I don’t want to just throw her out into the cold unprepared). I was thinking I could feed her for a few months and release her in an abandoned barn on a local plantation this spring.
Can you give me any general information on these guys, and confirm that she is what I think she is? Thanks!
Signature: Denise Elliott

Female Southern House Spider
Female Southern House Spider

Hi Denise,
We concur with your identification of this female Southern House Spider which looks exactly like this individual posted to BugGuide.  There is not much information on the Southern House Spider on the BugGuide info page, except for this comment: “Females are frequently mistaken for small tarantulas or trapdoor spiders. Males are often mistaken for recluse spiders (Loxosceles). This is a totally harmless species that builds “messy” webs emanating from crevices, often on the outside of homes.”  So, she is totally harmless, but that does discount that a large individual might bite if carelessly handled.  We will turn elsewhere to seek additional information.  According to Featured Creatures:  “Females may live up to eight years” which means you might want to entertain the idea of keeping her as a pet as long as you have tarantula rearing experience.  While Spiders.us does not have any information on the bite, there is a photo of a large female being held.  Some of the best firsthand information we found is on a BugGuide posting by Mamata Polle who writes:  “These make suprisingly good house guests if you can tolerate their highly effective, (Though not very pretty,) web making style. Females tend to stay put until either they grow out of their retreat, they are starving to death, or their web is destroyed. For the past 13 years I’ve been living with this type of spider and have never been bitten by one, they are docile and very good at snaring flies, roaches and other household invaders. Usually when I see their webs I just leave them be, but one of our cats has recently decided he likes to eat spider webs… (Weird huh,) and that is how I ended up with Kholi, (Pictured above.) She was wandering around looking to rebuild her web where it had been, (And said cat would have come back to eat it again!) so I decided to capture and provide a home for her. She produces webbing as needed and without hesitation, which is good because she won’t eat without it! Southern House Spiders totally depend on their webs to catch food; their eyesight is poor, so they seem to, “Feel” their prey when it gets stuck and squirms, then they pounce. It is VERY dificult to get them to eat from a pair of tweezers, one must be very… patient. However they will take water very easily when they’re dehydrated, even off your finger. The first time I had one do this I thought it was biting me, but it wasn’t, it was just sucking the water out of my damp hands, which didn’t hurt. One of the best ways to distiguish this species other than their general appearence is the very fine silver hair they possess, which is most visible at the joints.  BTW: They will sometimes very convincingly play dead when threatened…:P And if they don’t mate, they can live an incredibly long time. (I have been watching one adult female for three years!)  Be Well, God Bless and Thanks for Reading. :)”
Regardless if decide to keep her as a pet or to release her back into a plantation barn in the spring, because of your sensitivity regarding the welfare of this female Southern House Spider, we are tagging your posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

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