Fishing spiders are fascinating creatures, belonging to the genus Dolomedes. These spiders are often found near water sources, and they possess a unique ability to catch aquatic insects, tadpoles, and even small fish by walking on the surface of the water. A common question regarding these intriguing arachnids is about their lifespan.
Determining the exact lifespan of fishing spiders can be challenging, as it varies depending on factors such as their environment and prey availability. However, it is important to learn about these creatures, as understanding their natural life cycle can contribute to their conservation and help maintain a healthy ecosystem around them. So let’s dive in and explore the world of fishing spiders!
Fishing Spiders Overview
Fishing spiders belong to the family Pisauridae and the genus Dolomedes. These spiders are often found near water and have unique hunting abilities. Some key features of fishing spiders include:
- Belonging to the family: Pisauridae
- Belonging to the genus: Dolomedes
- Living near aquatic environments
- Hunting small fish and aquatic insects
Fishing spiders are known for their ability to walk on the surface of water. They catch their prey, such as small fish or aquatic insects, by tapping the water’s surface with their legs to create vibrations. This lures the prey closer, allowing the spider to catch them quickly.
One interesting example of a fishing spider is the spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton). This species lives in aquatic habitats and has a distinctive appearance, with a smaller oval abdomen compared to its broad cephalothorax.
Comparison of Fishing Spiders and Other Spiders:
|Walking on water surface
|Small fish, aquatic insects
Fishing spiders are similar to other arachnids in the taxonomic order, but their unique abilities make them stand out. These spiders exhibit fascinating behaviors and provide insights into the diverse world of arachnids.
Fishing spiders are known for their distinctive appearance, with long legs and a unique abdomen shape. These spiders have good eyesight and are equipped with hydrophobic hairs that help them walk on water surfaces.
- Long legs
- Unique abdomen shape
- Good eyesight
- Hydrophobic hairs
Fishing spiders are generally large, with some species like the white-banded fishing spider having a leg span of up to 3 inches. The six-spotted fishing spider is slightly smaller with a leg span of around 2 inches.
- White-banded fishing spider: up to 3 inches leg span
- Six-spotted fishing spider: around 2 inches leg span
These spiders exhibit various colors and patterns. The white-banded fishing spider has dark-colored femora (the part of the leg closest to the body) and paler tibia (the part of the leg closest to the tip). The six-spotted fishing spider can be identified by its greenish-brown coloration with six black spots on its abdomen.
|White-banded Fishing Spider
|Six-spotted Fishing Spider
|Up to 3 inches
|Around 2 inches
|Dark femora, paler tibia
|White bands on legs
|Six black spots
Habitat and Distribution
Fishing spiders can be found in various habitats across North America, specifically in the Eastern United States, Southern Canada, Maine, Florida, and Texas. In these regions, they live near:
- Slow-moving streams
Some common places they inhabit include rocks and vegetation by the water’s edge1.
In Europe, fishing spiders are distributed across the continent2. Similar to their North American counterparts, they live near water bodies such as:
European fishing spiders also prefer habitats with rocks and aquatic vegetation3.
Moving towards Asia, fishing spiders can be found in diverse countries and environments. Like in North America and Europe, they are found near water sources, including:
- Swampy areas
They are typically found on rocks, plants, and other surfaces close to the water4.
Lastly, in New Zealand, fishing spiders are prevalent near water bodies. Their habitats include areas surrounding:
These spiders can be observed on rocks and plants near the water5.
Comparison of Fishing Spider Habitats
|Lakes, ponds, slow-moving streams
|Lakes, ponds, streams
|Ponds, streams, swampy areas
|Lakes, ponds, rivers
Behavior and Skills
Feeding and Hunting
Fishing spiders are generalist predators mainly catching aquatic insects and small fish. Some examples of their diet are:
- Insects such as mosquitos and dragonflies
- Small fish like minnows
These spiders have evolved the ability to walk on water, which allows them to hunt for prey near water sources.
Moreover, fishing spiders use their excellent vision to locate their prey. These spiders, like raft spiders, do not build webs to catch prey but rely on their hunting skills.
Mating and Reproduction
The mating process of fishing spiders involves males attracting females with their displays. After mating, females lay eggs and guard them until they hatch. The spiderlings are then left to fend for themselves.
Fishing spiders have long legs, which they use for:
- Walking on water
- Running quickly to catch prey
Their legs help them remain afloat in the aquatic ecosystem.
Fishing spiders typically hibernate during the winter months. This allows them to persist in their environments even when the temperatures drop and food sources are scarce.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Fishing spiders exhibit unique mating rituals. The male fishing spider approaches the female holding a small prey item in his mouth, offering it as a nuptial gift. The female eats the prey while they mate, preventing her from eating the male during the process1.
Egg Laying and Nursery Webs
Female fishing spiders lay eggs in a silken sac:
- They spin silk around the eggs to form the protective sac
- The female carries the egg sac in her jaws, sometimes for days
- Before hatching, she constructs a nursery web2
Nursery webs are crucial for these spiders:
- Larger than typical webs, they protect the developing eggs
- Made from layers of thick, silk lines
- Covered by a sheet of silk to protect eggs from predators
Once the eggs hatch, spiderlings make their home in the nursery web:
- They shed their skin once, usually inside the web3
- After the first molt, they leave the nursery to disperse and live independently
- Life expectancy for fishing spiders varies, but generally, they live for less than a year4
Venom and Bites
Fishing spiders, like other spiders, have venom which they use to immobilize their prey. However, the venom of fishing spiders is not considered dangerous for humans. Comparing with a bee sting, their bite is generally less painful.
For example, two common species of fishing spiders include Dolomedes tenebrosus and Dolomedes triton. Their bites may cause some discomfort, but nothing serious for most people.
Unique Hunting Abilities
Fishing spiders exhibit remarkable hunting skills, such as:
- Walking on water, similar to water striders
- Diving underwater, and staying submerged for up to 30 minutes to catch prey or avoid predators
- Waterproof bodies that resist water damage
- Feeding on a variety of aquatic creatures like tadpoles, small fish, mayflies, and even small frogs
In addition to water-dwelling creatures, fishing spiders are known to prey on wharf spiders, minnows, and even some small frogs.
Fishing spiders are not currently listed as endangered or threatened species. However, their existence is essential for maintaining a healthy ecosystem, as they help control populations of insects and other creatures. In some parts of the world, like New Zealand, fishing spiders are considered a major component of freshwater ecosystems.
The life cycle of fishing spiders typically involves egg-laying in spring, with the spiderlings emerging in summer. The spiders reach maturity within a year and live for at least two years in the wild. Their population numbers can fluctuate depending on environmental conditions and prey availability.
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 – Running Crab Spider
February 18, 2010
I spotted this spider lurking on my bedroom ceiling this evening. My first thought of course was “Is it the dreaded recluse?” So I got on to comparing it to pictures on the internet. Since it was up on the ceiling it was hard to get a good look at it in detail without putting my face under it. Using my camera’s zoom function I managed to take a whole bunch of really blurry pictures, finally getting 2 decent ones before I ran down the batteries 🙂
For size reference the extents of its legs would poke just a bit beyond the edges of a half-dollar coin.
I read on wikipedia that recluses don’t have patterns on their abdomen/legs so I’m thinking it’s not one of those. Also his little head-crest looks like it is light on a dark background as opposed to the dark on light that I see in the recluse pictures. I wasn’t quite close enough to count the eyes in my picture so I’m not sure how it stacks up on that feature.
I just moved a bunch of empty cardboard filing boxes that were stacked up to the ceiling near the spot where I saw it so it may have been hanging out in those and got out in the open during the disturbance.
I am in central Texas and it is mid-February. We just had some cold-warm-cold weather transition which I think woke up all the bugs and then sent them indoors looking for warmth. A week or two ago I found a scorpion moseying across my bedroom floor a couple of feet away from my bed. I was able to catch/relocate him. This guy though will have to come down off the ceiling to where I can reach him. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch him.
I’m considering sleeping in the living room tonight though… 🙂
Thanks for sharing all the cool bug pictures you get, I learn something new every time I wander by this page.
Dear prospective couch-potato,
Your spider is a harmless Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, probably Dolomedes tenebrosus, which is pictured on BugGuide.
Correction thanks to Eric Eaton
The “fishing spider” from Austin, Texas, dated Feb. 18, is actually a species of “running crab spider” in the genus Philodromus, family Philodromidae.
Letter 2 – Fishing Spider
An 8-legged beast from Nova Scotia
Hi Bugman (Bugmen?)
I spent a few days camping in Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia with a few of my friends, and opened my eyes one morning to this fellow’s silhouette above my face. Evidently he decided to clamber onto the top of the tent during the night for the heat, or the mosquitos trying to get in. Although spiders freak me right out, I respected that this one was not on me, and did not pose any major threat. Now, who is he? Until we were able to get close, I thought he was a dock spider, as we get those fairly commonly by lakes in Nova Scotia, but the coloring was very different. He resembles the small spiders we get in firewood piles, but he was approximately 6 centimeters across, much larger than any I’ve seen before, aside from dock spiders. As I approached to take a picture and usher him onto some firewood for deposit in the forest, he stood his ground and waved his two front legs at us…very intimidating! In any case, I’d love to know what sort he is, besides tenacious. He turned up the next morning too, and was just as reluctant to leave! Thanks!
We believe this is Dolomedes scriptus, one of the Fishing Spiders. Based on the size of the abdomen, we also believe he is a she. We are not certain what a Dock Spider is, but Fishing Spiders are often found near water and we suspect your Dock Spiders are probably the same species. BugGuide has many examples posted of Dolomedes scriptus, and there is variation in the coloration and markings.
Letter 3 – Fishing Spider
What the is this trantula-sized spider that I found in my house in Virginia?
My sister found this spider under a pumpkin that had been in our house since October. My mom actually thought this spider was fake when my sister first discovered him because it was so huge. We live in Northern Virginia and we found it today, May 29, 2008. It was about 3 1/2 to 4 inches (including its legs). I was looking up pictures of spiders trying to find out what it was, and I thought maybe it was a fishing spider of some sort, but this one did not have little black, spikey hairs on it like most of the ones in the pictures did. It was more furry. What is it?!
You are correct in thinking it is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. There is much information online about these fascinating spiders that are actually capable of catching fish.
Letter 4 – Fishing Spider
Can you help with this giant spider we found at a friends house, In northern Ontario. The spider was at least 4 inches from leg tip to tip. I have seen a similar looking spider on your site called a fishing spider. Could this also be one?
We believe you are correct in the Fishing Spider theory. Looks like Dolomedes tenebrosus, one of the largest members of the genus. They can be identified by the well-marked black chevrons on the posterior half of the abdomen, with a light brown spot at each end of each chevron. Your photo shows these marking quite well.
Letter 5 – Fishing Spider
My mom took this picture in North or South Carolina last year. I was hoping you could tell me kind of spider it is. Maybe another Dolomedes Fishing Spider?
You are absolutely correct, a Dolomedes Fishing Spider.
Letter 6 – Fishing Spider
What kind of spider is this?
Attached is a spider that was found at 6 mile lake Muskoka, Ontario Canada. It was 5" sitting. Please tell us…What kind of spider is this?
The Toronto Sun Creative Staff
Dear Creative Staff,
This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. They are capable of running across water and diving beneath the surface, and occasionally catch small fish.
Letter 7 – Fishing Spider
Is this a fishing spider?
I spotted this one while on a day trip to Ste-Adèle, Quebec, Canada. It was easily 2.5” to 3”. It was on a rock right beside a lake. I was surprised to see a spider this size in this neck of the woods!
Yes Mark, this is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. Thanks for the photo.
Letter 8 – Fishing Spider
My children have found a spider in our garage that is sure to visit me in my dreams tonight. Could you tell us what it is? It was very large. I wasn’t going to get close enough to measure it but, with its legs it was about the size of my hand! It is missing a leg, but because of its size it seems to be a survivor. It’s body is brown and black in color, with is legs having alternating bands of both colors. My grandmother always had a spider in her house and called it her pet, but I am not sure I want to share my house with this large fellow! Looking forward to you telling us how harmless he (or she) is.
Your grandmother is our kind of gal. This is a female Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. They are fascinating spiders that usually live near water. They can run across the water’s surface and dive beneath for up to 30 minutes. They sometimes catch small minnows giving them their common name. They are harmless.
Letter 9 – Fishing Spider
Great site. Any chance you can identify this spider? Found it crawling up the window, and one in the basement. It also spins a web. Thanks,
Joe in Boston
This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. They are large hunting spiders that do not build webs to trap prey. If your specimen spun a a web, it is a nursery web, created just to protect the eggs and young spiderlings. These spiders are generally found near bodies of water. that do not build webs.
Letter 10 – Fishing Spider
Hello, This fellow startled my friend after he put his shoe on- which he removed rather quickly. The spider appeared to be fine, but we are not sure what species it is. It is much larger than the ones we see in Georgia, but the photo was taken in Pennsylvania.
This is a Fishing Spider, probably Dolomedes tenebrosus.
Letter 11 – Fishing Spider
I think this is the fishing spider that I see a few pictures of, on your site. However, the ones I read said Maryland and Nova Scotia for locations and I am in southwest Louisiana. It was found in the greenhouse where I work, so it could have come from another state. Most likely it would have been from Florida. Is this a fishing spider? What region are they found in? Any information would be helpful. Thank You,
This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. We located a checklist of Louisiana spiders that indicates six species documented in Louisiana.
Letter 12 – Fishing Spider
Dolomedes scriptus or tenebrosus, maybe?
Location: Fairfield, Maine USA
August 23, 2010 12:23 pm
I was heading fishing and found a colony or family of fishing spiders on the side of the dock. I think they were all the same type, but I could not be certain. The longest legged one was carrying an egg sac.
If we had to chose between the two species, we would guess that your Fishing Spider is Dolomedes scriptus based on this photo posted to BugGuide.
Yes, that does look correct. Thanks a bunch and keep up the great work on the site!