The Long-Jawed Orb Weaver is a fascinating spider that belongs to the family Tetragnathidae. These spiders are known for their elongated chelicerae, or “jaws,” which give them their distinctive appearance and name.
Typically found in vegetation near or over water, Long-Jawed Orb Weavers are well-camouflaged creatures with long, slim abdomens. When resting, they hold their rear pair of legs out to the back of their body and their front pairs of legs to the front. There are about 15 species of Long-Jawed Orb Weavers in North America, each adding a unique touch to the diverse world of arachnids.
These intriguing spiders build their own orb web with a few key differences from other orb weavers. One main distinction is the opening left in the middle of their web, making it easily identifiable. The webs are also generally built on a horizontal incline and measure about 20 cm in diameter.
Overview and Classification
Long-jawed orb weavers belong to the kingdom Animalia, which consists of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms that are heterotrophic, meaning they obtain their nutrition from other organisms.
Phylum Arthropoda contains invertebrate animals with exoskeletons, segmented bodies, and jointed legs. Long-jawed orb weavers fall under this group due to their shared features.
Long-jawed orb weavers belong to the subphylum Chelicerata, known for possessing chelicerae, specialized mouthparts. In the case of these spiders, the chelicerae are extended, resembling long jaws.
The class Arachnida includes arthropods like spiders, scorpions, and mites. Long-jawed orb weavers are part of this class due to their shared characteristics as spiders.
Araneae is the order of spiders, and long-jawed orb weavers belong to this group. The long-jawed orb weaver is part of the genus Tetragnatha, described by Anton Menge in 1866.
Long-jawed orb weavers are members of the family Tetragnathidae, which is characterized by their unique jaw structure and web-building habits. Features include:
- Long, slim abdomens
- Legs held in a distinctive posture
- Webs typically built over water or in vegetation
Here is a comparison table of two examples within Tetragnatha:
|Feature||Tetragnatha extensa||Tetragnatha mandibulata|
|Size||8-12 mm||5-10 mm|
|Habitat||Aquatic plants||Shrubbery near water|
In summary, long-jawed orb weavers are unique spiders found within the kingdom Animalia, phylum Arthropoda, subphylum Chelicerata, class Arachnida, order Araneae, and family Tetragnathidae. Their distinct long jaws and web-building behavior make them easily identifiable and fascinating members of the spider world.
Physical Features and Size
Long Jaws and Chelicerae
Long Jawed Orb Weavers, belonging to the genus Tetragnatha, are known for their distinct and long chelicerae. These spider “jaws” are almost arm-like, providing them with the necessary tools to catch prey. Examples of these spiders can be found in different North American species of the genus Tetragnatha.
Color and Camouflage
These spiders are well-camouflaged, taking on colors like green, brown, or a combination of both. Their slender abdomens and strategic resting positions, with two front pairs of legs extended forward and rear pair stretched backward, help them blend seamlessly into vegetation near or over water sources.
As members of the Araneae order, Long Jawed Orb Weavers possess eight eyes. This characteristic is common across various spider species and provides them with excellent vision while hunting or navigating their environment.
Size and Distribution
Long Jawed Orb Weavers are generally small in size, as is the case with many spider species. They can be found across North America, including countries such as the USA, Canada, and Mexico. Their distribution also extends to other parts of the world, as Tetragnatha contains various species found in different regions.
|Feature||Long Jawed Orb Weaver|
|Chelicerae||Long, arm-like “jaws”|
|Color||Green, brown, or a combination of both|
|Size||Small compared to other spiders|
|Distribution||Widespread in North America (USA, Canada, and Mexico) and beyond|
Habitat and Range
Long-jawed orb weavers typically inhabit areas with dense vegetation. They are commonly found in gardens, fields, and forests. Their webs often stretch between plants, enabling the spiders to capture flying insects with ease. Here are some key features of their preferred habitat:
- Dense vegetation
- Presence of suitable plants for web construction
- Ample insect prey
These spiders can also be found near water sources, such as ponds and streams. The availability of water provides an ideal environment for both the spiders and their prey. In fact, they are known to build their webs near or even above the water’s surface to catch aquatic insects. Some examples of water sources include:
North America Distribution
Long-jawed orb weavers are widely distributed across North America. They can be found throughout the USA, Canada, and Mexico. Their range extends from southern Canada all the way down to Central America. Here’s a quick comparison of their distribution:
In summary, Long-jawed orb weavers favor habitats rich in vegetation and often near water sources. Their distribution spans across North America, making them a common sight in gardens, fields, and forests.
Web Building and Hunting
Long Jawed Orb Weavers, belonging to the Tetragnathidae family, are known for their distinct orb-shaped webs. These spiders typically build their webs on a horizontal incline and leave an opening in the middle of the web, which differentiates them from other orb weavers1.
Some features of their orb-shaped webs:
- Usually 20 cm in diameter1
- Built near or over water
- Horizontal incline
Silk and Spokes
The silk used by Long Jawed Orb Weavers is strong and flexible. Orb webs consist of radial spokes like a bicycle wheel with a spiral of sticky capture silk. The spokes provide support, while the sticky silk captures prey.
Long Jawed Orb Weavers are opportunistic hunters that feed on a variety of arthropods2. Their webs are efficient structures for capturing a wide range of insects and other creatures. Some common prey for these spiders include:
- Aquatic insects3
These spiders may also catch and eat fishing spiders and water striders3. The silk and structure of the orb webs make them ideal for trapping insects as they fly or move near the water’s surface.
Diet and Lifespan
Insects and Invertebrates
Long Jawed Orb Weavers primarily feed on small insects and invertebrates. Their prey includes:
These spiders catch their prey in their webs, which are typically built near or over water sources and are about 20 cm in diameter.
Birds and Earthworms
Apart from insects and invertebrates, Long Jawed Orb Weavers occasionally consume larger prey, such as:
However, these instances are less common and depend on the size and strength of the individual spider.
Lifespan and Natural Predators
Long Jawed Orb Weavers have a relatively short lifespan. The precise duration is not widely documented, but like many spiders, their lives span a few months to a year.
Natural predators of Long Jawed Orb Weavers include:
- Larger spiders
- Parasitic wasps
These predators pose a constant threat to the survival of Long Jawed Orb Weavers, impacting their overall lifespan.
Reproduction and Mating
The Long Jawed Orb Weaver’s mating process starts with a unique dance ritual. Males approach females with caution and do small vibrations or touches to avoid being mistaken as prey.
After mating, females create protective egg sacs, which consist of:
- Silk: Females spin silk around the eggs for protection.
- Placement: Egg sacs are often placed near water sources to increase the chances of survival for the spiderlings.
These sacs hold numerous eggs, ensuring the survival and continuation of the species.
The spiderlings hatch from the egg sacs after a certain period, with some key features:
- Size: They are tiny, around 1mm in length.
- Growth: Spiderlings grow and molt several times before reaching adulthood.
|Mating Rituals||Egg Sacs||Spiderlings|
|Males approach cautiously||Females create protective sacs||Tiny size (1mm)|
|Vibrations/touches as a signal||Silk spun around eggs||Growth through several molts|
|Placement near water sources|
Venom and Bites
Bite Effects on Humans
The Long Jawed Orb Weaver spider has fangs to deliver its venom, but its bites are usually not dangerous to humans. Here are the typical effects:
- Mild pain
For comparison, here’s a table of the Long Jawed Orb Weaver’s bite effects versus a more venomous spider, the Black Widow:
|Long Jawed Orb Weaver||Mild||Yes||Yes||No||No|
First Aid Steps
If you get bitten by a Long Jawed Orb Weaver, follow these steps:
- Clean the bite area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling and numb the pain.
- Elevate the bitten limb to minimize swelling.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary.
Remember, Long Jawed Orb Weaver bites are not usually dangerous, but it’s always good to keep an eye on your symptoms. If anything worsens, consult a medical professional.
Benefits and Other Facts
Free Pest Control Services
Longjawed orbweavers, of the genus Tetragnatha, play a helpful role in managing pest populations. They catch and consume a variety of small flying insects, contributing to a natural form of pest control. Their diet includes:
The scientific classification of longjawed orbweavers is as follows:
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Chelicerata
- Class: Arachnida
- Infraorder: Araneomorphae
These spiders are also known as Tetragnathids and sometimes referred to as “four-jawed” due to their large chelicerae and two long palps, which make it appear as if they have four jaws.
The posture of a longjawed orbweaver is quite unique. They hold the rear pair of legs out to the back of their body and the two front pairs of legs to the front when at rest. The shorter third pair of legs is held to the side.
One common species of longjawed orbweaver is the Leucauge venusta, also known as the orchard orbweaver. These spiders are known to build their webs on a horizontal incline and typically near or over water.
Comparing longjawed orbweavers to invertebrates like crayfish and shrimp helps to emphasize their ecological roles:
|Habitat||Vegetation near water||Freshwater habitats||Aquatic environments|
|Role in Ecosystem||Pest control||Scavengers/Detritivores||Scavengers/Omnivores|
To summarize, longjawed orbweavers provide valuable pest control services and display fascinating characteristics, like their unique posture and jaw-like structures. They are an important part of their ecosystem, helping to control insect populations, similar to their invertebrate counterparts such as crayfish and shrimp.
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 – Elongate Long-Jawed Orb Weaver
what’s this spider?
Can you tell me what this spider is? We found it on a fern in a bog in NE Alabama in June of 2003. His fourth set of legs are not real apparent, but it is a spider. The two large extensions on the head, are they palps or chelicera….they don’t looked clubbed, actually, they look like spears. Can you tell me what is it we found? Thanks so much!
In randomly choosing what to post on a given day, we often miss gems. Luckily, on slow days, we return to unanswered letters, and thus we found your submission of an Elongate Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha elongata. This spider is usually found near running or standing water. It is found throughout much of North America, mostly in the East. The Long, diverging jaws with many teeth are Chelicerae. Thank you for a wonderful new species for our site. Here is a photo we located online of a pair of this fascinating spider. We will get Eric Eaton to substantiate our identification, and we suspect he may request we also post this on BugGuide if you don’t mind.
Letter 2 – Long Jawed Orb Weaver
why hello there…..PLEASE READ!
I have written you guys a few times….no, im not going to complain or anything. i completely understand you are busy and have lives! I have recently become addicted to photographing bugs and such. I like to identify what i find hence i came across your site. absolutely wonderful , by the way! for real i love it. well anyhoo, i take alot of these pictures and most are very closeup and detailed. they are pretty good if i say so myself. that being said, i have nothing to DO with them. i mean i post them on myspace but thats about it….would you mind if i sent you guys some photos with the bug names in the subject line and you can decide if you want to post them? i figured you could just look at the subject line and decide if you need a pic of that specific bug or not… also….i took this photo of this LONG-JAWED ORB WEAVER yesterday: then when i brushed his web with my lens he ran to a leaf and did this little falling on his back number: is that normal behavior?
Your Long Jawed Orb Weaver images are great. Many spiders whose webs are disturbed seek shelter in foliage. Including the name of the insect in your email would capture our attention and might result in a better chance of your photo and letter being posted. Also, we like getting details about the insect or experience of taking the photos.
Letter 3 – Long Jawed Orb Weaver
We are in Michigan and took pics of these 2 bugs. We would like to know what kind of caterpillar this is. This one was found in the cosmos flowers. We have a lot of these caterpillars like this right now. Hopefully it is going to be a beautiful butterfly. The other pic is some kind of weird spider, we think. It looks like it is making the web, or trying to get out.
Your spider is a Long Jawed Orb Weaver in the genus Tetragnatha. Tetragnatha laboriosa is a common species that ranges throughout the U.S. Your caterpillar is either a Tiger Moth or Tussock Moth.
Letter 4 – Long Jawed Orbweaver
Was wondering if you can help me identify this spider. I live in Sacramento, CA and this spider currently lives amongst the papyrus plants in my pond. It builds a web between the tall fronds of two different papyrus plants (see pic) and then eats the gnats that get caught in the web. The plants are two feet apart from eachother, so I’m guessing that the spider swims from one plant to another to initially anchor it’s web? I’ve never witnessed it swimming though. The web generally measures about 2 feet across, because that’s how far the plants are apart from each other.
Based on your spider database, I feel like it looks closest to the Cyclosa family due to the oddly shaped abdomen, but I’m not sure. It I had to guess it’s size, I’d say it’s 1-1.5″ long, with it’s legs extended as in underleaf pictures. Thanks for your help and I love your site,
Your spider is a Long Jawed Orbweaver in the genus Tetragnatha. Most likely, the spider has a single anchor line to the web from which to rebuild each day, or that the spider drops a line of silk and the wind carries it to the opposite side. We do not believe the spider is swimming across the pond daily.
Letter 5 – Long Jawed Orbweaver
male long-jawed orbweaver
May 28, 2010
I searched WTB for “long-jawed” and found only the long-jawed beetle; I thought perhaps you might like these images of a male long-jawed orbweaver. These were taken in my backyard in northwestern New Jersey on this coolish late-spring morning (5/28/10). I love spiders and was thrilled to find this guy out walking about.
newton, new jersey
Your photos of a Long Jawed Orbweaver in the genus Tetragnatha are gorgeous. BugGuide does not provide any information on the info page, and browsing reveals 9 different species, but we aren’t certain which species is represented in your photos.
Your photos are so nice, we are posting all three.
Letter 6 – Long Jawed Orbweaver
Spider with eyes on stalks?
June 2, 2010
We were boating on the Buffalo in May, and pulled up on the rocky shore with our canoe. When my friend went to put her overshirt on, this guy had taken up residence. Maybe 2 inches across (legs included!) He seemed to hide amongst the rocks once I’d shaken him off the shirt (my friend had sought shelter after seeing this guy).
Buffalo River, Arkansas
Dear Arkansas Boater,
This is a Long Jawed Orbweaver in the genus Tetragnatha, but we are uncertain of the species. You can browse through the species on BugGuide to try to match your specimen to the photographs there.
Kinda looks like tetragnatha elongata, but I’ll have to investigate more.
Thanks so much for your assistance! I really appreciate it!
Letter 7 – Long-Jawed Orbweaver
Found him on my peach tree
Location: Houston, TX
March 3, 2011 2:43 pm
Should I be worried about this guy hanging out on my Sam Houston peach tree? Also, do you know his name?
You have nothing to be worried about. This is a Long-Jawed Orbweaver in the genus Tetragnatha. You can compare your image to this image on BugGuide.
Thank you for the quick reply. I never would have guessed it was a spider.
Letter 8 – Long Jawed Orbweaver
Subject: Strange, two-headed (or split, maybe?) arachnid
Location: Old Saybrook, Connecticut
July 24, 2012 9:11 pm
Hi there! This little guy (or possibly girl) decided to say hello… By dropping in less than half a foot away from my face! It startled me, but I was more fascinated than anything. It ended up falling to the ground while trying to climb up it’s web, so I decided to take a picture. What I found interesting is with a closer look, it appeared to have a somewhat longish ”head”, maybe a centimeter long, and then those odd stalk-like things protruding from it. Another thing I found interesting was it seemed to be dazed after falling (which I guess is understandable after falling from about fifteen to twenty feet) and was having trouble moving. I looked away for a moment and when I looked back it was gone! I couldn’t find it anywhere nearby, and it was at least a good four feet from anything to climb on. I would’ve taken more pictures otherwise. Thanks ahead of time!
Your spider is a Long Jawed Orbweaver in the genus Tetragnatha, and you can compare your specimen to this male from BugGuide. This information is also provided by BugGuide: “These spiders spin circular (orb) webs, mostly in the horizontal plane, often just inches above the surface of water where they can intercept emerging insects like midges, mayflies, and stoneflies.”
Letter 9 – Long Jawed Orbweaver
Subject: Most Intimidating Spider I’ve Ever Seen
Location: NE PA, Walnut Creek, Millcreek, Asbury Woods
May 12, 2013 5:48 pm
I was filming on the banks of Walnut Creek in NE Pennsylvania in the Lake Erie watershed when I saw this on my walking stick. I assumed it was an arachnid of some kind since it has eight legs (two being shorter than the others). It can also make a web. I have spent a year looking myself for information on what it is but cannot find anything. Now I’m branching out to other sources.
I apologize for the quality of the following pictures. They are screen shots of the raw footage I have of it. If I remember correctly, it was maybe two inches big, including leg span.
Signature: Adam S.
This formidable looking spider is a Long Jawed Orvweaver in the genus Tetragnatha, but we are uncertain of the species, so we are contacting Mandy Howe for assistance. According to BugGuide: “These spiders spin circular (orb) webs, mostly in the horizontal plane, often just inches above the surface of water where they can intercept emerging insects like midges, mayflies, and stoneflies.” BugGuide also notes: “Larger species near water, especially along the shores of rivers and streams. Smaller species in fields and meadows.”
Letter 10 – Long-Jawed Orbweaver
Subject: A Web with a View for a longjawed orbweaver
Location: Naperville, IL
July 21, 2013 7:28 pm
A longjawed orbweaver, I presume, but Tetragnatha sp. is as far as I could get. This spider was in this exact same position on this asclepias tuberosa every time I passed it for about 48 hours, after which I could no longer find it.
Have a beautiful day!
Signature: Dori Eldridge
We agree that this appears to be a Long-Jawed Orbweaver. Your milkweed does have a diverse ecosystem occupying it.
Letter 11 – Long Jawed Orbweaver
Subject: Long fangs
Location: Western PA
August 13, 2014 4:49 am
This spider was on my car the length of the spider was about two inch when it was laying flat. I don’t scare easy when getting close to spiders that made webs but he was quick. This guys fangs are very long easy to see without my macro lens on my camera.
First time iv ever see one like this I was unable to if any info on the net with my descriptions. Hope you can help.
The last picture is with a flash to better see the patterns on it’s back.
Letter 12 – Long Jawed Orbweaver
Subject: What is my little buddy?
Location: Rock Hill NY
April 14, 2015 5:40 pm
Hello, I just discovered this website and I love it! I’m hoping you can help me figure out what my new little friend is. Yesterday my sister was complaining that a bee was stuck in her window so I went to go free it (I’m pretty sure it was actually a wasp) but I also noticed a tiny green spider in her window too, sitting right on the screen! I watched some kind of fly get caught in a small barely visible web, and little green friend casually walked over and started feeding! My sister has a lethal prejudice against anyone with too many legs so they couldn’t stay there. While my little friend fed, I removed the window screen (with them on it) and put it in my own window. Now they’re safe and enjoying the gnats that hang out around my house plants near by. It’s newly spring here after a long winter. I’ve never seen anyone like this before. I think they have transparent hair on their legs but they’re so small its difficult to see. When I shine a fla shlight there appears to be some gold along the center of the orange stripe. Eight teeny tiny black eyes. Gooey looking fangs. Walks slowly sometimes but mostly stays in one spot. All together probably the size of a dime.
I’m sorry about the image quality, all I have right now is my iphone. If they hang out for a while I’ll try to update with better pictures. Thank you so much 🙂
This little beauty is a Long-Jawed Orbweaver, Tetragnatha viridis, and we quickly identified it on BugGuide. We were totally charmed by your email and we are awarding you the Bug Humanitarian Award for your kindness to this harmless spider. Out of curiosity, how many legs are too many?
Letter 13 – Long-Jawed Orbweaver Parasitized by Mites
Subject: What’s on my orbweaver?
Location: Nova Scotia
August 4, 2017 3:47 pm
I was working in and around a culvert and the longjawed orbweavers love to hang out on the ceiling, but this one has a few orange bulbs on him/her. Has this beauty been parasitized?
This Long-Jawed Orbweaver in the genus Tetragnatha is carrying several Mites. We found similar images on Buy Pet Armor and Mirrorless Macro, but we can’t locate any information on the type of Mite and the degree of harm it causes the Spider. Spiders of North-West Europe has an image on their Spider Enemies page, so we are presuming the Mites are not beneficial.
Letter 14 – Longjawed Orbweaver
Location: Montgomery, Illinois (near Aurora)
October 2, 2011 10:03 pm
I sent you some pictures early in September of an arachnid that I could not identify. I have not yet seen a post of my picture or letter, but I have since found on your website a similar arachnid (posted March 5 this year) identified as a long-jawed orbweaver spider, and the photo from Bug Guide which you referred to in that post showed more clearly the resemblance. I am sending you another picture of my arachnid; there are some differences in that the body marking are different and the forelegs of my arachnid appear to be a bit longer. The plant it is shown on is a milkweed.
Signature: wildflower photog
Dear wildflower photog,
We apologize for not responding to your earlier email, because we would have surely posted the photos had we seen them. Alas, our tiny staff hasn’t the time to even read all the submissions we receive. You are correct that this is a Longjawed Orbweaver, but there are numerous species in the genus Tetragnatha. We have just identified your individual as Tetragnatha elongata, and it is a near perfect match to this photo posted to BugGuide. According to BugGuide, it is a wide ranging species in North America.
Letter 15 – Longjawed Orbweaver
Subject: Florida Spider
Location: Polk county Florida
November 9, 2012 3:38 pm
I have some common beggars tick in my yard that I allow to stay to attract bees, butterflies, wasps, etc. I was out shooting them today and noticed this spider clinging to a stem. it is very small so I had a difficult time getting a detailed shot. Any ideas?
Signature: Wendy H.
Your spider is a Longjawed Orbweaver in the genus Tetragnatha. You can compare your photo to some of the images posted to BugGuide where it it stated: “These spiders spin circular (orb) webs, mostly in the horizontal plane, often just inches above the surface of water where they can intercept emerging insects like midges, mayflies, and stoneflies.”