Nursery Web Spider Bite: Is it Poisonous? All You Need to Know

The nursery web spider is a fascinating creature often found in gardens and wooded areas. These spiders are known for their unique parental care behaviors, such as constructing intricate nursery webs for their offspring. But what about their bites? Is it something you need to be worried about?

While there are certain spider species, like the brown recluse, that have venomous bites capable of causing painful symptoms and even tissue necrosis, the nursery web spider bite doesn’t fall into this category. These spiders are not considered dangerous to humans, and their bites rarely cause any significant harm.

Although a bite from a nursery web spider might cause some localized redness, itching, or pain, these symptoms are typically mild and resolve on their own without any need for medical attention. So, although nursery web spiders may look intimidating, there is no need to fear them when it comes to potentially poisonous bites.

Nursery Web Spider Overview

Species and Distribution

The Nursery Web Spider belongs to the family Pisauridae and is mainly found in North America. In the United States, they inhabit states like Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. A well-known species within this family is Pisaurina Mira.

Physical Characteristics

Color and Size

Nursery web spiders exhibit a range of colors, often blending in with their surroundings. They tend to have a brown or grayish appearance, with some species displaying lengthwise striping on their slender bodies. The size of these spiders varies, but they generally have long legs that help them maneuver through various habitats.

Abdomen and Eyes

The abdomen of nursery web spiders is typically elongated and oval-shaped. Their eyes are arranged in two rows, with the front four eyes being larger than the others.

Habitats

Nursery web spiders can be found in various habitats such as:

  • Gardens
  • Plants
  • Woodlands
  • Grasslands

Here’s a comparison table showcasing the main features of nursery web spiders:

Feature Nursery Web Spider
Color Brown, grayish, with lengthwise striping
Size Long legs, slender body
Abdomen Elongated, oval-shaped
Eyes Two rows, front four eyes larger
Distribution North America, Southern United States
Habitats Gardens, plants, woodlands, grasslands

Nursery web spider characteristics include:

  • Ability to blend in with surroundings
  • Excellent mobility due to their long legs
  • Predatory habits, targeting insects like flies and mosquitoes as prey

However, there are some potential cons when it comes to dealing with nursery web spiders:

  • They might cause distress for people with arachnophobia
  • Their presence in gardens can be unnerving for some individuals

Remember, it’s important to understand and respect these creatures, as they play a crucial role in maintaining the balance in ecosystems.

Bite and Venom

Bite Effects on Humans

Nursery web spiders are generally harmless to humans. Their bite can cause mild pain and swelling, but serious complications are rare. Examples of symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Pain around the bite area

Treatment

If bitten by a nursery web spider, follow these steps:

  1. Wash the area with soap and water to clean the wound
  2. Apply ice pack or wet compress to reduce swelling
  3. Take over-the-counter pain medicine, if needed, for pain relief
  4. Consider using antihistamines for severe swelling or if allergic reactions occur (source)

Precautions

To avoid bites from nursery web spiders, take the following precautions:

  • Wear gloves when working in gardens or handling firewood
  • Be cautious in areas with tall grass or shrubs
  • Shake out shoes and clothes before putting them on
  • Keep living spaces clean to discourage spider population growth
Feature Nursery Web Spider Bite Venomous Spider Bite
Pain Mild to moderate Severe
Swelling Generally localized Can spread from bite site
Allergic Reactions Possible, but rare More common
Treatment Self-care, OTC medications Professional medical care often required

Nursery web spider bites are much less severe than bites from venomous spiders. As long as proper care is taken, most people will recover quickly with minimal discomfort. However, if symptoms worsen or don’t improve after a few days, consult a healthcare professional.

Behavior and Habitat

Hunting and Prey

Nursery web spiders are skilled hunters primarily feeding on various insects. They have unique hunting behaviors which include:

  • Ambushing prey by waiting outside their web
  • Chasing and jumping to catch their target

These spiders typically prefer habitats with abundant vegetation like grasslands, gardens, and areas near water. They can be found in many regions across the globe.

Reproduction and Mating

Mating rituals for nursery web spiders are quite interesting, involving a couple of essential steps:

  • Male spiders offer a wrapped prey item to the female
  • Females evaluate and accept the gift before mating

This approach is an example of nuptial gift-giving, often seen among arthropods.

Below is a comparison table highlighting some differences between nursery web spiders and their relatives, the fishing spiders:

Nursery Web Spiders Fishing Spiders
Prefer grasslands and gardens Often found near water sources
Build “nursery webs” for their eggs Do not build nursery webs
Offer nuptial gifts during mating Do not offer nuptial gifts

Nursery web spiders provide various benefits, such as controlling insect populations, but can also cause concern for pet owners since they can bite if threatened. Thankfully, their bites are typically not venomous. Overall, these spiders are fascinating creatures with complex behaviors and diverse habitats.

Life Cycle and Spiderlings

Egg Sacs and Care

Nursery web spiders, part of the Pisauridae family, go through a unique life cycle starting with their eggs. Female spiders create silk-covered egg sacs that house and protect their offspring. An interesting aspect of nursery web spider’s care is the attention that females give to their eggs sacs1:

  • They carry the sac in their fangs until it’s time for the eggs to hatch
  • They create a silken nursery web for the emerging spiderlings
  • Females guard the nursery web until the spiderlings disperse

For example, the vinegar spider, a member of the Pisauridae family, exhibits similar maternal care to ensure the safety of its young.

Young Spiders and Development

Once the spiderlings emerge from the egg sac, they go through a process called molting2:

  • Spiderlings shed their old exoskeleton to grow larger
  • They molt multiple times before reaching adulthood
  • Some spiders can have up to 10 molts in their life cycle

Nursery web spiderlings are not aggressive and tend to focus on growing and developing during their early stages. As they mature, the young spiders gain unique characteristics that differentiate them from other species.

Features Nursery Web Spider Orb Weaver Spider
Size at adulthood Medium to large Large
Web pattern Nursery web Orb-shaped
Level of care for offspring High Low or none

Nursery web spiderlings have distinct features that allow them to adapt and thrive in their environments, ultimately growing into successful adult spiders.

Dealing with Nursery Web Spiders

Nursery web spiders (family Pisauridae) are known for their long legs and grey coloring. Although their bites can be painful, they are generally not considered poisonous. This section will cover natural remedies and management as well as preventing infestations of these arthropods.

Natural Remedies and Management

Nursery web spiders can help control other pests such as flies and other arthropods. However, if their persistence in your home becomes a problem, consider the following:

  • Encourage natural predators such as birds and lizards around your home by providing nesting and sheltering sites.
  • Remove their preferred habitats like scrub, brambles, and stinging nettles from your garden.
  • Some essential oils, like peppermint and eucalyptus, can act as a natural deterrent when applied to potential entry points.

Preventing Infestations

Maintaining a clean and clutter-free environment can help prevent infestation. Here are some measures you can take:

  • Seal gaps and cracks around your home where spiders might enter.
  • Avoid leaving food out, as it can attract flies and other insects which, in turn, attract spiders.
  • Regularly clean and vacuum your home to prevent the buildup of webs and egg sacs.

Understanding the habits of nursery web spiders and implementing proper preventive measures can significantly reduce your encounters with these arachnids. Keep in mind that they primarily reside outside, especially near plants or water bodies where they can climb and find their prey, such as tadpoles. So, managing the outdoor environment is key to reducing their presence and potential infestations.

Footnotes

  1. https://uwm.edu/field-station/nursery-web-spider/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4614586/

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

Spider in the Poconos
Hi,
We found this spider on our deck in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania and it appeared quite different than the typical brown spiders we see. Can you help us identify it?
Thanks,
Brian

Hi Brian,
This is a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira. Sometimes the Dolomedes Fishing Spiders are commonly called Nursery Web Spiders as well, and both genuses belong to the Family Pisauridae. These spiders do not build webs to capture prey. Instead they are hunting spiders. After the eggs are layed, the female carries the egg-sac with her and eventually builds a nursery web which she guards.

Letter 2 – Nursery Web Spider

High Resolution Nursery Web spider picture
I was moving some trim into the garage of my house that’s under construction, and my buddy noticed what I presume to be a nursery web spider, about 2-3″ long. He/she posed for me long enough to take a nice close-up before scurrying on its merry way, so I thought I would share.
Kent Nelson
Fox Lake, IL

hi Kent,
Thanks for sending us your great photo of a female Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira.

Letter 3 – Nursery Web Spider

Spider O Door
My daughter found this long-legged fellow on the bottom corner of our garage door. Can you tell me the name of this spider please? This specimen is about 3 inches from tip of front legs to the tip of the rear legs.
Jeff Leckemby
Hampton , VA

hi Jeff,
This is a Nursery Web Spider in the genus Pisaurina. Research on BugGuide leads us to believe it is Pisaurina dubia. Interestingly, in the past several days we received another request for the identification of this spider, but we are so busy we put the email on the back burner. Sadly, we believe it has fallen behind the stove and we never had a chance to respond to the querant. Our workload and the vast numbers of identification requests we receive prevent us from answering but a fraction and posting even fewer. Thanks for your wonderful contribution.

Letter 4 – Nursery Web Spider

help please
I live in new hampshire and my dog was very curious when this creature ventured along a railroad tie wall. it was very large and would have filled my hand had i been brave enough to handle it. the colors were just as it appears in these pics. thanks. I also have a home in SC and have very small scorpians on the outside deck and once or twice in the house. do we or my dogs carry these in or are they good wall climbers to get inside? any help greatly appreciated.
kelly p

Hi Kelly,
What a gorgeous specimen of a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira. This is a female and she is full of eggs. When she lays her egg sac, she will carry it around in her chelicirae and eventually spin a nursery web and guard the eggs. These hunting spiders do not build webs to trap prey, just to serve as a nursery for the spiderlings.

Letter 5 – Nursery Web Spider

Nursery Web Spiders
Love the site, though I would send these along. I’ve seen the Nursery Web Spiders on the site and they always mention protecting the eggs, but I saw no pictures of this. Here are ones I found in my yard in Leominster, MA.
Enjoy.
Todd Hamilton

Hi Todd,
Thanks for sending your great photos of Pisaurina mira, a Nursery Web Spider.

Letter 6 – Nursery Web Spider

could not find this spider on google
Strange. I searched for a while and I’m not able to find this spider on google. It is brown and it has darker brown stripe across it’s back. I found it in my house and it did not have a web around it. Please let me know what it is. I don’t have a fobia, I just like to know who I’m sleeping with 🙂 Thanks for your time. I have more images of this spider but this one was the best.
PS Great web site. Thank you for maintaining it.

This is a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira. They only build webs to care for young, otherwise they hunt. They are harmless.

Letter 7 – Nursery Web Spider

whats that bug
hiya – was walking in the woods of new Hampshire mainly looking for mushrooms and found this interesting spider – unsure of what it was I took a pic and then surfed the web to find a solution. can you help??? many thanks
tim

Hi Tim,
This is one of the Nursery Web Spiders. The species is Pisaurina mira.

Letter 8 – Nursery Web Spider

Subject: Possible Nursery Web Spider
Location: Detroit Michigan area
May 28, 2017 7:34 am
Dear Bugman,
My dad found this spider at his work, and asked me to help him identify it. So here I am. It was found in an industrial building in Southeastern, Michigan. Some have suggested it is a ‘Nursery Web’ Spider, but we haven’t been able to convince ourselves given the resources/pictures we could find. Thanks so much for all you do!
Signature: Kristin K

Nursery Web Spider

Dear Kristin,
We are in 100% agreement with you that this is a Nursery Web Spider,
Pisaurina miraBugGuide is an excellent source for additional images to verify our identification.

Letter 9 – Nursery Web Spider

Subject: Wolf spider?
Location: Vermont
May 27, 2017 7:46 pm
We see spiders here all the time in the woods of Northern New England. I am guessing this is a wolf spider that looks like it was successful in getting supper. He was on our screen door outside. Curious if I am correct and thought it would make a cool picture. He is not camera shy or timid.
Signature: Jim

Nursery Web Spider

Dear Jim,
This is the second image of a Nursery Web Spider,
Pisaurina mira, we are posting today.  Nursery Web Spiders do not build a web to snare prey.  They hunt without webs.  The female constructs a web to act as a nursery for her spiderlings once she locates an appropriate location to house the egg case she carries with her.

Letter 10 – Nursery Web Spider

Subject:  Magnificent Spider
Geographic location of the bug:  Peterborough, New Hampshire
Date: 11/16/2017
Time: 08:54 PM EDT
This guy jumped off of a book shelf at me today while I was dusting.  It is easily the size of a silver dollar.  Safely released back into the wild. Can you identify it please?
How you want your letter signed:  Zelda

Nursery Web Spider

Dear Zelda,
Your magnificent spider is a Nursery Web Spider,
Pisaurina mira.  We are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award, though we suspect your home was cozier than the outdoors at this time of year.  We are not certain if Nursery Web Spiders overwinter, but we suspect they do.  Animal Diversity Web has a nice page on this species where it states:  “Mating occurs in mid-June to mid-July. When a female is ready to lay her eggs, she uses her cheliceres and maxillipeds (grasping mouthparts) to transfer eggs into a cocoon under her abdomen. She carries this sac underneath her body with her fangs (cheliceres) until hatching time approaches. The female then builds another cocoon where she feels it will be safe for the spiderlings. She lashes surrounding leaves together forming a kind of ‘nursery web’ for which the species is named. The female stays there, watching over her brood of pulli (first stage larvae), until they have completed their first larval molt.”

Letter 11 – Nursery Web Spider

Subject:  Orange spider?
Geographic location of the bug:  Orleans MA
Date: 10/23/2021
Time: 01:41 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman :  We found this on the door of a storage unit in our yard.I’ve looked through lots of images online and can’t seem to identify it.
How you want your letter signed:  The Scott’s

Nursery Web Spider

Dear The Scott’s,
Usually when we get identification requests for orange spiders at this time of year, they are Pumpkin Spiders, a species of Orbweaver, but your spider is a Nursery Web Spider,
Pisaurina mira.  Here is an image from BugGuide.  Nursery Web Spiders build webs to act as a nursery for their young, but unlike many spiders that also use a web to trap prey, the Nursery Web Spiders are hunting spiders that capture prey without a web.  The orange color of your individual is somewhat unusual, and it is possible this is a related species in the same genus.

Thanks for checking this out for us. It’s always good to learn about new things. We also found a “mutinus elegans” or stinkhorn mushroom. It must be the week for orange things!
The Scotts

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  • 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.

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    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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