Nursery Web Spider: All You Need to Know at a Glance

The nursery web spider is an intriguing species, known for its unique habits and fascinating behaviors. These spiders belong to the family Pisauridae and can be found in various parts of the world – from North America to Europe and even Asia. Their large size and distinctive appearance often catch the attention of spider enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the nursery web spider is its method of reproduction and care for its offspring. The female carries her egg sac in her jaws until the spiderlings are ready to hatch. At that point, she builds a special web called a “nursery” to provide a safe environment for the babies as they emerge. This behavior sets them apart from other spider species and highlights their protective instincts.

Another interesting characteristic of nursery web spiders is their hunting technique. Instead of building a permanent web to trap their prey, they actively hunt and ambush their victims. Their agility and keen eyesight allow them to chase and capture unsuspecting insects, making them efficient predators in their natural habitat.

Nursery Web Spider Overview

Family Pisauridae

Nursery web spiders belong to the Family Pisauridae. They are known for their unique maternal care, as females create protective silk nurseries for their egg sacs. These spiders typically have:

  • Long legs
  • Slender bodies
  • Lengthwise striping

(source)

Species and Genera

There are several species and genera of nursery web spiders. Some examples include:

  • Pisaura mira
  • Dolomedes tenebrosus

(source)

Comparison Table

Species Web-Building Behavior Common Habitats
Pisaura mira No orb-weaving Grasslands, meadows, and gardens
Dolomedes tenebrosus Semi-aquatic Near water sources, like ponds or streams

(source 1, source 2)

Nursery web spiders are fascinating creatures with unique maternal care behaviors that set them apart from other spiders.

Physical Characteristics

Size and Color

Nursery web spiders, belonging to the family Pisauridae, have a distinct appearance. These spiders exhibit various shades of colors, ranging from brown and black to white and gray. They are characterized by their slender bodies and long legs.

Typically, nursery web spiders possess a lengthwise brown stripe on their cephalothorax, the head region, which helps them blend into their surroundings 1.

Key Features

Nursery web spiders have several notable features. Here are a few key aspects:

  • Long, slender legs
  • Lengthwise brown stripe on the cephalothorax
  • Brown, black, and white color variations

Below is a comparison table showcasing some common characteristics between nursery web spiders and another spider species, the yellow garden spider:

Characteristic Nursery Web Spider Yellow Garden Spider
Size Medium Large
Body Shape Slender Bulgy
Color Brown, black, white Black, yellow
Web Pattern Nursery web Orb web

By understanding the physical characteristics of nursery web spiders, it is easier to identify them and appreciate their role in the ecosystem.

Habitat and Distribution

Geographical Range

Nursery web spiders are widely distributed across the globe, mainly in the following regions:

  • North America
  • China
  • India
  • United States

These spiders can be found from the Atlantic coastline to the Great Plains.

Common Habitats

Nursery web spiders typically inhabit:

  • Forests
  • Woods
  • Meadows
  • Grasslands

They are often seen climbing:

  • Shrubs
  • Bushes
Habitat Examples of Spiders
Forests Pale Spider, Blue Spider
Grasslands Blue Spider
Shrubs Pale Spider
Bushes Pale Spider, Blue Spider
  • Forests and Woods: These spiders prefer areas with dense vegetation, where they can easily hunt and build their nurseries.
  • Meadows and Grasslands: These open spaces provide plenty of prey and suitable locations for webs.

These habitats provide the ideal living conditions for nursery web spiders, where they can thrive and reproduce.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Hunting and Feeding

Nursery web spiders are predators that hunt down their prey instead of using webs for capturing them. They primarily feed on insects like flies, mosquitoes, and small moths. Using their agile eight legs, they run fast and jump to catch their victims. Here are some features of their hunting behavior:

  • Don’t build webs for catching prey
  • Prefer insects as their main source of food
  • Can jump and run fast to catch their targets

Movement and Activities

The movement of these spiders is unique, their long legs allowing them to cover distances rapidly. They can often be seen walking on windows or searching for shelter in grassy areas. Key characteristics of their movement and activities include:

  • Long legs for quick movement
  • Often found on windows or in grassy spaces seeking shelter
  • Excel at blending with their environment

Comparison Table: Hunting & Feeding vs. Movement & Activities

Category Hunting & Feeding Movement & Activities
Primary Focus Catching Insects Speed and Flexibility
Physical Features Eight legs, agile Long legs, ability to jump
Examples of Behavior Running and jumping Walking on windows, hiding in grassy areas
Outcome Provides nutrition Safety and shelter

Reproduction and Mating

Courtship Rituals

Nursery web spiders exhibit unique courtship rituals. The male spider offers a nuptial gift to the female, usually in the form of prey wrapped in silk. This gift serves two purposes:

  • Attracts the female for mating
  • Provides nourishment during copulation

Males sometimes deceive females with inedible gifts, but successful mating is more likely with a genuine offering. In some cases, males perform complex mating dances to charm the females.

Egg Sac Care

Once the female nursery web spider accepts the male’s gift and copulation occurs, she creates an egg sac to protect her eggs. The egg sac is often made of silk and attached to plants or other structures. The female carries the egg sac with her until the spiderlings are ready to emerge. As they approach maturity, she creates a “nursery” by weaving a silk tent, where the eggs can hatch safely.

Care for egg sacs involves the following:

  • Carrying the sac around by the female spider
  • Attaching the egg sacs to plants or other structures
  • Creating a nursery web for the spiderlings

Comparison of Male and Female Nursery Web Spider Roles:

Role Male Nursery Web Spider Female Nursery Web Spider
Courtship Offers nuptial gift & mating dance Accepts or rejects male’s gift
Mating Copulates with the female Carries out fertilization
Egg Sac Care No involvement Creates, carries, and protects

Spiderlings and Development

Hatching and Growth

Nursery web spiders, belonging to the family Pisauridae, overwinter as spiderlings and grow into full-grown adults by late-spring/early summer. These spiders hatch from egg sacs carefully guarded by their mother, who ensures their protection. Spiderlings are often found among leaves and vegetation, where they can be camouflaged and safe from predators.

  • Spiderlings: Hatch from egg sacs
  • Protection: Guarded by mother spider
  • Habitat: Leaves and vegetation

Molting Process

As the spiderlings grow, they undergo a series of molting events, shedding their exoskeleton to make room for a new, larger one. This can occur multiple times before reaching adulthood.

Here is a comparison table of the molt and growth of spiderlings:

Feature Spiderlings
Molting Process Occurs multiple times as they grow
Growth From late-spring to early summer
Protection Guarded by mother spider for a certain duration

For humans, it might be helpful to think of the spiderlings’ molting process as resembling the growth stages of children. Much like how children outgrow their clothes, spiderlings molt their exoskeletons to accommodate their rapidly growing bodies.

In conclusion, the development of nursery web spiderlings involves hatching from egg sacs, being protected by their mothers, and undergoing multiple molts. They can be found camouflaged in leaves and vegetation, making them a fascinating subject for those interested in spider development.

Venom and Interactions with Humans

Venom Properties

The venom of the nursery web spider, Pisaura mira, is not well-studied yet. However, some general properties of spider venom can be found in araneomorph spider venoms. Major components in such venoms include:

  • Small molecular mass compounds
  • Antimicrobial peptides (only in some spider families)
  • Cysteine-rich peptides

Bite Symptoms and Treatment

Nursery web spiders, like other fishing spiders, are not considered dangerous to humans. If a nursery web spider bites a person, it’s usually:

  • Accidental
  • Due to the spider feeling threatened

Symptoms

  • Pain in the bite area
  • Swelling around the bite

Treatment

  1. Wash the bite area with soap and water
  2. Apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce swelling
  3. If necessary, take over-the-counter pain relievers

Comparison:

Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mira) Other Dangerous Spiders
Mildly venomous Highly venomous
Minor pain and swelling Intense pain, potential for severe symptoms and complications

In summary, nursery web spiders and their venoms are not a significant concern for human health. While their bites may cause mild pain and swelling, they can typically be treated easily and are not considered dangerous.

Scientific Classification

The Nursery Web Spider belongs to the family Pisauridae, which is a part of the large group of arthropods known as spiders. They can be found in various locations, including a wide distribution across North America, such as in Iowa and other states.

These spiders are known for their unique features, such as:

  • Long legs
  • Slender bodies
  • Lengthwise striping
  • Spinnerets for producing silk

Although not known to be aggressive, Nursery Web Spiders are skilled hunters. They do not create intricate webs like many other spiders. Instead, they prefer to actively hunt and capture their prey during the day.

Nursery Web Spiders differ from another common spider family, Orb Weavers (Araneidae), in several aspects:

Feature Nursery Web Spider (Pisauridae) Orb Weavers (Araneidae)
Hunting Active during the day Weave intricate webs
Body Long legs, slender body Various shapes & sizes
Silk Primarily for egg sac protection Used in web construction

In conclusion, Nursery Web Spiders are fascinating creatures with distinct features and hunting strategies. They play an essential role in their ecosystems by controlling insect populations.

Identification and Accuracy

Nursery web spiders (Family Pisauridae) can be identified by their distinct features. Here are some characteristics to help you identify them more accurately:

  • Yellowish-brown body color
  • Gray bands or markings on the legs
  • Long, slender legs

These spiders are commonly found in gardens or near homes during late-spring and early summer1. Knowing how to identify them accurately is essential to have the right information about their behavior and habitat.

One interesting aspect of nursery web spiders is that they can be cannibalistic2. This means they may prey upon other spiders, including their mates. So, knowing how to identify them accurately helps to understand their predatory behavior better.

In some cases, nursery web spiders may cause painful bites when they come into contact with humans3. Although they are not considered dangerous, it’s useful to know the difference between them and other spiders.

Please note that it’s vital to have accurate information to avoid confusion or panic when dealing with spiders. Misidentifying a nursery web spider could lead to unnecessary concerns or taking incorrect actions. Just remember to look for the yellowish-brown body color, gray markings on the legs, and slender legs while trying to identify them.

Footnotes

  1. Missouri Department of Conservation 2

  2. Cannibalism in spiders

  3. Spider Bites: Treatment, Symptoms, and Identification

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 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Hello
Hi my name is Danielle from NJ and I stumbled upon this spider outside on my mom’s garden bench. A few weeks before I saw this spider there were thousands of baby spiders all over my front door and all around it. They had orange legs. Please let me know what kind of spider this is. I believe it to be the mother of all the babies. I have attached 2 pictures. Thanks. I look forward to finding out it’s type. Although it is dead now. My father killed it. I would still like to know.

Hi Danielle,
This fascinating spider is a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira. We are sorry to hear it met with an untimely end.

Letter 2 – Nursery Web Spider

 

What kind of spider?
Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas
April 29, 2012 1:25 pm
Dear Bugman, We found this spider in a plastic bag in a drawer. Can you identify it? Many thanks!
Signature: Jacob Adler

Nursery Web Spider

Hi Jacob,
The manner in which this spider keeps its front legs together as well as the general shape of the spider indicates it is a Nursery Web Spider,
Pisaurina mira.  The markings are atypical of most images of this species we receive, however, there is a photo on BugGuide that matches your individual.

Letter 3 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Subject: A good Upstate NY Nursery Spider pic for your site
Location:  Upstate New York
July 2, 2013 6:13 pm
Hi folks,
After checking out Nursery Web spiders on your site, I thought you might appreciate having this photo possibly for posting on your site.
I took this photo on June 3, 2013, on my front porch in Saratoga Springs New York. We have begun seeing a LOT of these in the past 2 years in this area and we have some friends who are a bit freaked out by them, but by doing some reading (here and other sources) I’ve been able to calm some concerns and let people know that these are basically harmless. Just big and kind of intimidating.
I believe that this one is a female full of eggs ready to birth soon.
Feel free to use it if you like. (and let me know if you want original full images, I took several).
Dave
Signature: Dave

Nursery Web Spider
Nursery Web Spider

Hi Dave,
Your Nursery Web Spider is Pisaurina mira, and she really is quite lovely and an excellent addition to our site.

Letter 4 – Nursery Web Spider

 

yellow star-fish like spider
Dear Mr. Bug Man,
I am wondering if you could please help me identify this rather large and intrusive spider. He was found on the inside of my 17 month old’s bedroom window screen. We live in Massachusetts. Thank you,
Jenn Romano

Hi Jenn,
This is a harmless Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira. The photos we have received of this species in the past are a decidely different color pattern, but we did locate a matching individual on BugGuide.

Letter 5 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Spider type?
Found this in our back yard in Westchester County, NY. Any ideas? Thanks so much,
Mathew Price
Ossining, NY

Hi Matthew,
What a nice image of a harmless Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira.

Letter 6 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Pisaurina Mira going for a dip
Hey Bug Man,
After yesterday’s encounter with a probable dolomedes, I spotted this little fellow in another area of the garden. It seems to be a pisaurina mira, and I think this photo shows off its distinctive markings quite well. I may have to invest in a macro lens. Cheers,
Matt

Hi Matt,
Thank you ever so much for sending in your Nursery Web Spider image. She is quite a beauty.

Letter 7 – Nursery Web Spider

 

help identify?
Hi there, I spent a lot of time on your site but can not find another spider that resembles the one I have outside. It is quite large, 2 inches end to end, and not afraid of being moved around. He was on the screen tent in the yard, climbing all over it. I live in south-central Ontario. Any help is appreciated, since he is hanging out so close to the house, I want to know if it is a safe neigbour seeing as it is so BIG! Thanks!
Sara

Hi Sara,
What a marvelous specimen of a female Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to witness her spin her nursery web and guard her eggs. She is harmless and you have nothing to fear.

Letter 8 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Nursery Web Spider?
Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 5:27 AM
I snapped this photo of what I believe is a nursery web spider out on my deck in July. Until I happened upon your site, I was terrified and repulsed by spiders. Since I have been reading more about them, I have a better understanding of our eight legged friends. Of course, you won’t see me cuddling up to one anytime soon. But they make fascinating photo subjects.
Chris Walker
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Nursery Web Spider
Nursery Web Spider

Hi Chris,
You are correct.  This is Pisaurina mira, a Nursery Web Spider.

Letter 9 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Who was spying on my photo session
Mon, May 25, 2009 at 1:51 PM
I found this spider crawling on the ground next to me while taking photos of a big ol’ wolf spider. I went ahead and gathered him up to get him in on the photo shoot. He didn’t seem quite as content sitting on top of the rock as the larger wolf spider, camera shy I guess. Obviously I cant seem to figure out what it is, the guides on the net seem to be pretty lacking. The closest I can gather is this is another species of wolf spider, some characteristics look similar but not distinct enough for me to tell.
Scott
Northern Michigan, USA

Nursery Web Spider
Nursery Web Spider

Hi Scott,
Though the markings are atypical, we suspected that this was a Nursery Web Spider.  Upon looking through the images posted to BugGuide, we located an individual with nearly identical markings identified as Pisaurina mira.  The Nursery Web Spider, which is related to the Dolomedes Fishing Spiders, is a beautiful and fascinating species.

Letter 10 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

Large brown and white spider and cocoon in the making
February 22, 2010
Hi- we found this spider near a boardwalk in Corkscrew Swamp, in or around Collier County, FL in mid-October. It was too far away to see clearly without the camera, but it seems in the picture to be “furry.” When it was scrunched up it was about the size of a half – dollar. The other picture was in the same place on the same trip. It was right on the edge of the swamp surrounded by a myriad of cypress trees. There were tons of these cocoons all over, and the leaves they were on were practically stripped (by the caterpillars, I’m guessing). I.D. would be appreciated!
Sammy
Collier County, FL

Six Spotted Fishing Spider

Hi Sammy,
Crazy:  the letter and photo we just posted also came from the Corkscrew Swamp.  Your spider is a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina Mira.  The female is a hunting spider that is related to the Fishing Spiders, and she constructs a web in the branches for a Nursery.  BugGuide has photos and information on this beautiful spider.  We will address your other image in a separate posting.

Correction thanks to Eric Eaton
Hi, Daniel:
The “nursery web spider” from “Sammy” in Collier County, Florida, dated Feb. 22, is actually the six-spotted fishing spider, Dolomedes triton, in one of its various color forms.
Eric

Letter 11 – Nursery Web Spider

 

ID this for me please, so I can impress my girlfriend!!
May 19, 2010
This lil gem was found on a very large cinnamon fern in Fall Creek Falls State Park, Pikeville, TN. He’s approx. 1″ long in the body, not including the legs. Maybe it’s a she? seems quite feminine, but what do I know. May 17. 2010. It would be a serious coup if I could get an identification before my girl does, so please help!!
Alfred Crabtree
Fall Creek Falls State Park, TN.

Nursery Web Spider

Dear Alfred,
We think it is just awesome that you want to identify a spider to impress your girlfriend.  This is a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira.  The family Pisauridae also contains the Fishing Spiders.  Female Nursery Web Spiders carry their egg sacs in their chelicerae or fangs until they find a suitable location to construct the Nursery Web.  They then guard their young until the spiderlings begin to disperse.  Your individual is a female.  BugGuide has some great photos that document this behavior.

Letter 12 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Nursery Web Spider?
June 7, 2010
We found this, the largest spider I’ve ever seen, in the basement garbage can. We took the 2 photos (attached) then released her outside and took the third. She was over an inch long (plus legs).
Dawn L.
Hampton Bays, NY

Nursery Web Spider

Hi Dawn,
Thanks for sending us your awesome photo of a female Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira, and also thank you for your sensitivity to creatures that many people find frightening.

Letter 13 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Seeking warmth in the garage
Location: Hatfield, MA
November 9, 2010 7:04 pm
I found this beauty underneath my recycling bin tonight while putting out the garbage. I assume he/she was looking for refuge from the weather, as he/she was moving rather slowly as most insects do in the cold. We’ve had a few nights in the upper 20’s here already! The specimen was 1 1/4” to 1 1/2” in length, and was quick to hide after I moved the bin. In the photos, she’s crawling across my lawn mower; and spinning some web as she goes. Looks similar to some varieties of huntsman spiders, house spiders, garden spiders…etc. You guys would know better than I what this particular specimen is. Any ideas?
I thought maybe you’d appreciate these photos to add to your (impressive) online collection.
Signature: Kyle C.

Nursery Web Spider

Dear Kyle,
This is a gorgeous specimen of the female Nursery Web Spider,
Pisaurina mira.  She may be looking for a sheltered location to lay her eggs.  Nursery Web Spiders include the Fishing Spiders in the genus Dolomedes, and they are among the most protective parents exhibiting strong maternal behavior.  Should this beauty lay her egg sac in your garage, we would love additional documentation.

Letter 14 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Spider I between front door and glass door
Location: Gloucester, Virginia
January 14, 2011 12:43 am
I have never seen a spider like this before, nor have I since taking this picture. I took it with my cell phone so its not the best in the world but you can get the idea. It was whitish with a dark maybe black line all the way down its body. It was pretty big also.
Signature: Sleeps

Nursery Web Spider

Dear Sleeps,
This gorgeous spider is
Pisaurina mira, a harmless Nursery Web Spider, and by the looks of her full body, she is ready to lay eggs.  A Nursery Web Spider constructs a nursery web for the eggs and spiderlings and fiercely guard her brood.

I am glad I caught her and released her in the woods then.  I normally kill spiders that get inside the house but this one looked different so I decided to let it go.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness.  She is much better off in the woods where she can protect her brood.

Letter 15 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Cornucopia of 6-legged spiders
Location: Toledo, OH
August 2, 2011 10:23 am
Whilst at my favorite park yesterday, I found two of these guys (which I am pretty sure are the same species, but please correct me if I am wrong.) Both of them seem to have endured some trauma and are lacking two legs. A friend affectionately, albeit a little politically incorrectly, referred to them as ’spiders from ’nam.’ I’m not sure what poor trauma befell these beauties, but I can assure you that based on the isolation of the environment I was in, it had nothing to due with human interference. Birds or frogs, perhaps?
Signature: Katy

Nursery Web Spider

Hi Katy,
Both of your spiders are Nursery Web Spiders,
Pisaurina mira, but while one appears to have lost two legs on the same side, the alleged symmetrical amputee does have eight legs.  Look closely at the front leg on each side and you will see that they are actually two legs held together.  Compare your photo to this image on BugGuidewhich makes the illusion created by this particular posture more apparent.

Nursery Web Spider amputee

 

Letter 16 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Subject: What is this
Location: Hopkinton, Ma
May 27, 2013 7:30 pm
My son-in-law found this tonight in Hopkinton, Ma. He said it was 3-4 inches.
Signature: Suzanne

Nursery Web Spider
Nursery Web Spider

Dear Suzanne,
This spectacular spider is a harmless Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira.  There is a more common color variation, but this particular coloration is pictured on BugGuide.  Female Nursery
Web Spiders exhibit extreme maternal care of eggs and young spiderlings.  We will be away from the office in early June, so we are postdating your submission to go live on June 1.

Letter 17 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Subject:  Spider
Location:  Vermont
July 26, 2014
Thank you!
No one identified my spider from a couple months ago?
Attached.
Notice her front 2 leggies are together, so dainty.
I wondered at first, as you might well imagine.
She was larger than your usual Vt spider…
Best!
MG

Nursery Web Spider
Nursery Web Spider

Dear MG,
This is a Nursery Web Spider,
Pisaurina mira.  We are unable to respond to all of our mail, and it is possible that this arrived when we were away from the office.  If you don’t hear back from us within a week or so, we would urge you to resend the request, and remember to attach the image again.

Letter 18 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Subject: Orange Spider in Michigan
Location: Big Rapids, MI
September 15, 2015 11:31 am
Hi,
I’m just trying to help a friend ID this spider he came across while clearing some brush out in the woods near Big Rapids, MI. It was the size of a half dollar.
Signature: CC

Nursery Web Spider
Nursery Web Spider

Dear CC,
This gorgeous spider is a harmless Nursery Web Spider in the genus
Pisaurina, and it is more brightly colored than the typical common member of the genus Pisaurina miraBugGuide includes some images of orange individuals.

Letter 19 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Subject: What kind of spider is this?
Location: South Mississippi
April 6, 2016 7:55 pm
Hi bugman! There seems to be a lot of debate online about what kind of spider this is. Can you help?
Signature: Very scared of spiders!

Nursery Web Spider
Nursery Web Spider

Dear Very scared of spiders!,
This is a harmless Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira, and it appears to have met an unnatural end, prompting us to tag this posting as Unnecessary Carnage.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison, and we believe most people would agree that the living spider is much more attractive than the dead individual.

Letter 20 – Nursery Web Spider

 

Subject: What Spider is this?
Location: Simsbury, CT
June 7, 2016 6:57 pm
Found this guy/gal outside of my house? Was concerned it might be a brown recluse but can’t find the signature violin markings. Other people are suggesting a wolf spider, but again I don’t think so.
Signature: Brooks Parker

Nursery Web Spider
Nursery Web Spider

Dear Brooks,
This is a female Nursery Web Spider,
Pisaurina miraNursery Web Spiders exhibit a strong maternal behavior, carrying the egg sac and eventually spinning a nursery web and guarding the spiderlings once they hatch.

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.

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