The Red-Legged Purseweb Spider is an intriguing arachnid that often goes unnoticed in nature due to its secretive lifestyle. These spiders are part of the Purseweb Spider family, known for constructing tubelike webs, usually 6-10 inches long, positioned vertically against the base of a tree. The web may appear like a small branch leaning against the tree trunk, making it easy to overlook.
As the spider hides within its tube, it patiently awaits its prey. Missouri Department of Conservation states that observing these spiders in the wild is a rare sight. Despite being elusive, there’s plenty to learn about the Red-Legged Purseweb Spider’s unique behavior, habitat, and physical characteristics.
Red Legged Purseweb Spider Overview
Species and Classification
The Red Legged Purseweb Spider, scientifically known as Sphodros rufipes, is a member of the mygalomorph spider family, Atypidae. These spiders fall under the order Araneae, and are part of the suborder Mygalomorphae, sharing relations with the tarantulas. They belong to the genus Sphodros.
Red Legged Purseweb Spiders are characterized by their dark, shiny bodies and bright red legs. As mygalomorph spiders, they have their fangs facing towards the ground. The size of these spiders varies, but they are generally medium-sized. A brief comparison of their features:
|Attribute||Red Legged Purseweb Spider|
|Body Color||Dark, Shiny|
|Leg Color||Bright Red|
|Fang Orientation||Downward (mygalomorph)|
Key characteristics of the Red Legged Purseweb Spider:
- Distinct red legs
- Dark, shiny body
- Medium size
- Downward-oriented fangs
These spiders primarily build tube-like webs, which they use to catch their prey. They are often found in wooded areas or near the base of trees. The Red Legged Purseweb Spider is an interesting creature with unique physical attributes and behaviors, making them a fascinating subject of study for both amateur and professional entomologists.
Distribution and Habitat
Red-legged purseweb spiders can be found in various regions of North America, including the United States and Canada. They inhabit states such as Missouri, Massachusetts, Kansas, Indiana, New Jersey, and southern states like Tennessee and Louisiana. Some specific locations include Tuckernuck Island and even as far north as Minnesota.
These spiders thrive in temperate forests, where they can build their characteristic tube-like webs. A typical habitat may feature:
- Trees with sturdy bases for web construction
- Abundant prey availability
- Dense vegetation for camouflage
In comparison to other spiders, red-legged purseweb spiders have a smaller geographical range and specific habitat preference. Here is a comparison table of purseweb spiders and similar species:
|Species||Geographical Range||Preferred Habitat|
|Red-legged purseweb spider||US and Canada||Temperate forests|
|Common Kentucky purseweb spider||US Midwest||Forests, grasslands|
|Jumping spider||US and Canada||Various, including gardens and around homes|
In summary, red-legged purseweb spiders are found in selected areas of North America, with a preference for temperate forests. Their unique tube-like webs and hunting strategies are well-suited to these environments.
Anatomy and Physiology
Fangs and Venom
- Red Legged Purseweb Spiders have large, powerful fangs that can deliver a venomous bite.
- Their venom is mainly used to subdue and digest prey.
- The spiders’ chelicerae are oversized and highly noticeable.
- They use chelicerae to hold, crush, and puncture prey, effectively immobilizing them.
Comparison between Red Legged Purseweb Spider and other spiders:
|Feature||Red Legged Purseweb Spider||Other Spiders|
|Legs||Red or orange legs||Various colors and patterns|
|Chelicerae||Large and prominent||Size varies; some may be less noticeable|
|Venom||Potent for prey; usually not harmful to humans||Varies; some can be harmful to humans|
- Pedipalps are the front pair of appendages resembling small legs.
- They are used for sensing the environment, manipulating food, and mating.
In summary, the Red Legged Purseweb Spider has several unique anatomical features, such as red or orange legs, prominent chelicerae, and venomous fangs. These characteristics help them capture and consume prey efficiently.
Diet and Prey
The Red Legged Purseweb Spider uses a unique method for catching its prey. They create a tubelike web vertically against the base of a tree. The spider hides within this tube, waiting for unsuspecting victims to pass by.
When an insect or arthropod comes into contact with the web, the spider quickly seizes it through the silk, pulling it inside the tube to consume. Their webs are typically 6-10 inches long.
Red Legged Purseweb Spiders generally prey on a variety of insects and arthropods. Some examples of their diet include:
- Crayfish (occasionally)
- Small insects (flies, beetles, and ants)
- Other arthropods (such as spiders)
|Insect||Ease of Capture||Frequency in Diet|
|Other Spiders||Moderate||Less Frequent|
Despite their small size, Red Legged Purseweb Spiders can catch various prey by taking advantage of their unique web structure and ambush tactics. Their diet consists primarily of insects found near trees and in woodland habitats.
Reproduction and Mating Behavior
In the Red Legged Purseweb Spider, the male spider approaches the female’s purseweb to initiate mating. The male then taps on the web to signal his presence and receive permission to enter.
Inside the purseweb, copulation occurs, ensuring eggs are fertilized.
- Female spiders lay their eggs within the protective purseweb.
- The number of eggs can vary depending on the individual.
- After the eggs hatch, spiderlings emerge.
Spiderlings of the Red Legged Purseweb Spider have a few key characteristics:
- They reside in the purseweb with their mother for a short period.
- As they grow, spiderlings leave the web to establish their own territory.
- They independently build their webs and begin their hunting routine.
The Red Legged Purseweb Spider’s reproduction and mating behavior showcases the unique survival strategies and adaptations in the spider world.
Life Cycle and Lifespan
Stages of Development
- Egg stage: The Red Legged Purseweb Spider begins its life as an egg, which is protected inside a silken case.
- Spiderlings: After around 24 to 36 days, spiderlings emerge from the egg cases and start their lives as small versions of the adult spiders.
- Juvenile stage: During this stage, spiders undergo several molts, gradually growing in size and developing their adult characteristics.
- Adult stage: Reaching adulthood, Red Legged Purseweb Spiders are fully developed, able to mate and reproduce.
- The average lifespan of Red Legged Purseweb Spiders varies, but adult females typically live longer than males.
For example, adult females have been known to live for a couple of years, while males generally have a shorter lifespan, often only reaching a few months in most cases.
Conservation Status and Human Interactions
Threats and Conservation Efforts
The Red Legged Purseweb Spider is considered a species of conservation concern due to habitat loss. Threats include:
- Urban development
- Pesticide usage
Conservation efforts are in place:
- Habitat protection
- Public awareness initiatives
- Inclusion in iNaturalist for tracking and monitoring
Interaction with Humans
These spiders are rarely encountered due to their secretive nature, hiding in their tubelike webs. Human interactions are minimal:
- Generally not dangerous to humans
- May react defensively if threatened
Comparison of Threats and Conservation Efforts:
|Urban development||Public awareness initiatives|
|Pesticide usage||Inclusion in iNaturalist for tracking|
- Spiders are important for ecosystems
- Support conservation efforts
- Report sightings in iNaturalist if spotted
Notable Relatives and Comparison
Atypus bicolor is a species of purseweb spider that creates tubular webs on tree bases. Some of its features are:
- Medium size with dark coloration
- Oversized chelicerae (jaws)
Compared to the red-legged purseweb spider, Atypus bicolor is less vibrant in color and prefers milder environments.
Red Widow Spider
The red widow spider (Latrodectus bishopi) is not a purseweb spider, but it shares the mygalomorph characteristic with purseweb spiders. They have:
- Reddish-orange cephalothorax
- Dark abdomen with red markings
Red widow spiders differ from purseweb spiders in that they build irregular cobwebs, while purseweb spiders create tubular webs.
Purseweb spiders (family Atypidae) build distinctive tubular webs against tree trunks. Their characteristics include:
- Medium size
- Strong, sprawling legs
- Long, vertical tubular webs
In comparison to other mygalomorphs, purseweb spiders have unique web-building techniques, focusing on tube-like structures instead of more common funnel or trapdoor web designs.
The Red Legged Purseweb Spider has a distinct color pattern. Its body is mostly black and glossy, and its legs are a vibrant orange color. This unique coloration makes the spider easily recognizable.
Size and Proportions
- Body length: Medium-sized spiders
- Chelicerae: Oversized compared to other spiders
These spiders are medium-sized, with oversized chelicerae (jaws). Their appearance may resemble wolf spiders, but with a few differences.
|Feature||Red Legged Purseweb Spider||Wolf Spider|
|Body size||Medium-sized||Medium to large|
|Chelicerae (jaws)||Oversized||Standard size|
|Color||Black and glossy, with orange legs||Hairy and brown|
|Habitat preference||Near stones, vertical surfaces||Ground-dwelling|
In summary, the Red Legged Purseweb Spider is a medium-sized spider with a black, glossy body, striking orange legs, and oversized chelicerae. It can be easily distinguished from other spiders, like the wolf spider, due to its unique coloration and proportions.
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 – Red Legged Ham Beetles infest Dog Food!!!
Subject: Blue Bug
Location: Not sure
January 30, 2014 1:13 am
We import a dry dog food from Midwest US and with the last few containers we had a blue bug in the container. The container is transported via the Panama Canal from Pennsylvania – we wonder if it could have some from there.
I am sorry but my photos are not that good.. but here we go..
Image 1: dead, but you can see the legs
Image 2: dead, but you can get an idea of the size
Image 3: there are about 5-6 live ones in the bag with the dog food
Your help will be much appreciated
Signature: Not sure
Thank you for submitting your identification request.
Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!
How will I know if you don’t have time to reply?
Thank you for your patience. It appears you have an infestation of Red Legged Ham Beetles, Necrobius rufipes. Even though the photo is blurry, the red legs are very obvious in your second image. According to Forensics Topics, a high profile occupation thanks to all the crime scene investigation shows on television: “This beetle is small in size with a bluish/green metallic body. Notice the red leggs-hence [sic] the name. This beetle shows up during dryer stages of decomposition.” We suspect that there are also larvae in the dog food. According to BugGuide: “found on dried fish, skins and bones of dead animals, and other carrion; also found on museum specimens” and “Eggs are laid on the food material; larvae pass through three or four instars; the last instar spins a cocoon in which pupation occurs; life-cycle takes 6 weeks or longer depending on food type and physical conditions. Under optimum conditions, the rate of population increase is about 25 times per month. The adults fly actively and can thus easily disperse to new sources of food.”
Thank you so much Daniel. Much appreciated.
Letter 2 – Red Legged Centipede from South Africa
Subject: What Centipede is this?
Geographic location of the bug: Pretoria, South Africa
Time: 01:11 AM EDT
PLease can you identify what type of Centipede this is? My puppy is finding them irresistible to catch and kill unfortunately.
How you want your letter signed: Red legged Centipede
Letter 3 – Endangered Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Subject: Red legged purse web spider
Location: North east TN
June 17, 2016 4:03 pm
I am 49 years old and this is the first time I’ve seen one of these spiders. It was walking at a very fast pace down the sidewalk, like it owned it, in the small town of Robbins, TN. I’ve lived around this area all my life, so why is this my first encounter with this species?
Signature: T. Smith
Dear T. Smith,
According to information we have read, the Red Legged Purseweb Spider is considered rare and endangered, which could explain the infrequency with which they are seen. Sightings of males tend to be most common in June when they are out searching for a mate, hence his “very fast pace.”
Letter 4 – Woodlouse Hunter, not Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Subject: Large spider in shower- recluse?
Location: Boulder, Colorado
October 8, 2012 10:29 am
I found this spider this morning hiding behind my shampoo bottle in my shower. The spider was somewhat large- about an inch to an inch and a half if I had to estimate. It seemed to have very large mandibles. When it walked its legs surprised me by extending out exceptionally long in a radial way around its body. (In the picture the legs seem to be closer to the body making it look narrower). It also seemed to have the shiny texture of an earwig rather than a furry texture. I was told by a coworker it could be a brown recluse and am somewhat worried. Do you know what this spider is and if it is poisonous to me or my pets? The spider has since vanished I think into my shower curtain. Thank you!
Signature: Concerned spider coinhabitant
Dear Concerned spider coinhabitant,
We really wish your photo had more detail. The appearance and physical description your provided indicate to us that this really appears to be an endangered Red Legged Purseweb Spider, however, we are not aware of them being previously reported in Colorado. BugGuide has sightings as far west as Texas. We are going to seek more opinions on this matter. It is most definitely NOT a Brown Recluse.
Eric Eaton provides correction
How I *wish* it was a purseweb! This is “just” a Woodlouse Hunter, Dysdera crocata.
Letter 5 – Purseweb Spider sited in Tennessee
My 7 year old son, and my wife found a great specimen of a Red-legged Purse Spider in our neighborhood here in Mt Juliet, TN. It is a text-book example. I noted on your site that this spider has been found in only 4 locations in Tennesee. I am wondering if Mt Juliet or the Nashville vicinity is one of those areas. Here is the photo of the little critter. He was found next to a scrub at my neighbors front door. I had my 7 year old son put him back and took opportunity to explain about extinction and endangerment….a nice life lesson !! I’ll bug off for now. Hope the photo is helpful.
Bruce, Nathan, and Kathi McLaughlin
Mt Juliet, TN
Your photo is just beautiful. We have been getting many letters regarding this species lately which we originally identified under the scientific name Sphodros rufipes. We have found information in old texts under the scientific name Atypus bicolor. It might be rare and endangered or it might not, depending upon the source. At any rate, it is an awesome spider and your photo is great as well. We have actually devoted an entire page to the Red Legged Purseweb Spider thanks to your letter and image. We have read that June is the month when males leave their webs and search for a June bride.
Letter 6 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Is this a Red Legged Purse Spider (sphodros rufipes)?
My daughter found this spider in an old cemetary that we visit at Memorial Day time. My daughter was sure she had found some rare spider, and I guess maybe she did. We live in Southwestern Kansas, and I don’t think they are very common here After convincing her that she did not need to keep the spider for a pet, she released it. Before releasing it, she took a picture of it, but it was a little too far away, and the crop turned out a little fuzzy. But looking at other pictures in this category, I believe it is a red legged purse spider. What do you think? . Thank you,
Your identification of a Red Legged Purseweb Spider is correct.
(06/02/2008) red legged purseweb spider
Thank you for providing such an excellent identification site for insects and spiders! While putting more native plants into our yard in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, my daughter found this magnificent spider with violet-black body and bright red legs. Everyone in the family came to see it. Even as an astute field biologist myself, I had never seen a spider like this. After some internet searching, I found the ID on your site. You mentioned it as an “endangered” species. Is that a federal listing or state listing? Do you know it’s listing in Missouri? We live in the river hills of the Mississippi river in what once was historically Beech-Tupelo mesophytic forest. We still have a few beech trees and tulip poplar is still common. Is there only one species of this kind (Atypus bicolor) or does the common name refer to several different species? Would you say that the one we have in Southeast Missouri is the endangered species? Any idea about its habitat preferences? I’d like to be able to find it again and take some photographs and video. Thanks again
Your letter arrived the same day as a letter with a photo from Krista in Kansas, so we are posting them together. The endangered species status is something we researched back in 2003 when we received the first image of a Red Legged Purseweb Spider submitted to our site. Since then we have received many more. Wikipedia indicates it is a southern species that has been found as far north as Indiana and Missouri, so you are probably among the northernmost sightings, though since Wikipedia cites What’s That Bug? as a source, we may have perpetuated a myth. Wikipedia also indicates it is endangered throughout most of its range due to Fire Ants. Perhaps the spiders are migrating north to escape the warmth loving Fire Ants. The Purseweb Spiders of Kentucky website indicates: “The Red-Legged Purseweb Spider ( Sphodros rufipes , which may occur in Kentucky) has historically appeared on U.S. endangered species lists, but some scientists believe that it may not be a rare spider.” The bottom line is that virtually everything on the planet is endangered right now, but some more than others. We would hazard to guess that the Red Legged Purseweb Spider is more endangered than many.
Letter 7 – Black Purseweb Spider
Subject: Massachusetts Trapdoor Spider?
Location: South Central Massachusetts
July 10, 2016 11:00 am
I would be most appreciative if you could identify the spider I found last week walking on my garage floor. I have never seen this particular spider before. Could it be a northeast trapdoor spider? I let him go without harm, I love spiders.
Signature: Thank you!
Though this might be a Trapdoor Spider in the genus Ummidia, based on images posted to BugGuide, the genus seems to be primarily a southern genus with sightings as far north as Maryland on BugGuide. We believe a much closer match is a Purseweb Spider in the family Atypidae, like this individual posted to BugGuide. The Black Purseweb Spider, Sphodros niger, pictured on BugGuide looks like a perfect match to us and you are well within the documented range of the species according to BugGuide. The spinnerets, the silk producing organs at the tip of the abdomen, are quite distinctive, as are the impressive chelicerae. You may enjoy the information provided in the Angelfire pdf.
Letter 8 – Red Legged Shield Bug from England
Subject: What is this?
Location: North East England
August 22, 2012 10:24 am
Hi there bugman
When getting my washing in from the line I noticed this beetle on it when I got in the house but can’t seem to identify it. Can you please let me know what it is.
Signature: Julie Lee
Hi Julie Lee,
It was not until we went through the BugGuide images three times in vain that we realized you submitted a Stink Bug photo from England and not North America. We then quickly identified this Red Legged Shield Bug on British Bugs where it is described as: “A large brown shieldbug which has orange legs and slightly hooked projections at the front of the pronotum. The pale spot at the tip of the scutellum varies from orange to cream.” British Bugs also states that the Red Legged Shield Bug, Pentotoma rufipes, is: “Widespread and common across Britain in wooded areas, orchards and gardens. “
Letter 9 – Atlantic Purseweb Spider
Subject: Red legged purse web?
Location: Clarksville VA
June 14, 2015 7:22 pm
Is this a red legged purse web? Am from FL and have never seen one. (Saw last week) bLike a spider on steroids! He (she?) was crossing the street at a state park in clarksville, VA, so fast that i couldn’t get a clear video! Hubby moved it out of the road on a leaf and it stood still long enough for me to get this shot. Only the bottoms of the legs are red. And wouldja lookit those fangs!!!
The Red Legged Purseweb Spider, Sphodros rufipes, has bold red legs and a black body. Your Atlantic Purseweb Spider, Sphodros atlanticus, which we identified on BugGuide, is a relative in the same genus.
Letter 10 – Black Purseweb Spider: Male searching for a Mate
Subject: Black Purse Web Spider (Sphodros niger ?)
Location: Cherokee CO, NC
May 25, 2014 7:02 am
I suppose that it’s the breeding season for these little spiders.; I managed to find a few scurrying through the woods about the same time last year, but didn’t have a camera on hand to photograph them. Speaking of photos, I’m afraid that my camera was inadequate. The spider was constantly on the move. About every 15 seconds it would pause for a brief moment before continuing on; my camera’s autofocus wasn’t fast enough, and the pictures were taken only milliseconds after the spider began moving again.
Signature: Jacob H.
Please do not make any excuses for your images, which we think are wonderful. Though we have images on our site of the Red Legged Purseweb Spider, your images are the first we have received from the related Black Purseweb Spider. This individual is a male, and you have most likely documented his search for a mate. Purseweb Spiders are fascinating creatures, and more images of the Black Purseweb Spider can be found on BugGuide.
Letter 11 – Endangered Species: Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Red legged Purse Web spider in Weston Bend State Park, Weston, Missouri
I photographed what I now believe to be, from your website, a red legged Purse Web Spider in Weston Bend State Park in Weston, Missouri. This is approximately 30 Miles North West of Kansas City. All of the notes seemed to show this being sited mainly on the east coast and in the south. I thought I’d submit the photo and the siteing for whatever it
may be worth.
We checked the email several times while on holiday, and were ecstatic to get your image of a male Red Legged Purseweb Spider, supposedly an endangered species. Before we could even unpack after returning, we needed to post your wonderful siting. Thanks for the contribution.
Letter 12 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider: Information Came Too Late!!
red legged purseweb
Great site!!! Thanks for helping me to identify this scary looking spider. Since your ’03 description says this spider is very rare, I figured I’d let you know that they seem to like my yard… We live in Atlanta, GA – in Buckhead to be precise, very close to high rise buildings in an old residential neighborhood. I saw one of these spiders last year, but my baby-sitter squashed it beyond recognition, so I couldn’t really tell what it was. I saw another 2 days ago crawling VERY fast near my trash bins. And, today, one was right up next to the house, crawling right towards me and the girls. Sorry, I squished it. But, with the killed picture and memory, it was definitely the ‘red legged purseweb’. I’ll keep an eye out for the webs. Is it still endangered?? I’ll try not to stomp so quickly in the future.
We have gotten numerous letters in the past week with Red Legged Purseweb Spider sitings. Guess they are making a comeback.
Letter 13 – Possibly Red Legged Purse Web Spiderlings
Unidentified spiderlings at Clark Creek, Mississippi
A couple of years ago I visited the Clark Creek Natural Area in southwestern Mississippi. I took this picture of some spiderlings ballooning from a twig. I wonder if you can tell the species name or narrow it down to a few possible species? My initial guess is Atypus bicolor (Sphodros rufipes)? but I am not familiar with US spiders. Thank you in advance.
Sincerely J. Lissner
Honestly, we can’t be certain, but we love the possibility that these are Red Legged Purse Web Spiderlings, and that is good enough for us. They resemble that endangered species.
Letter 14 – Purseweb Siting in Georgia
My son has today brought in what we believe to be a purse web spider. It is exactly like the one photographed on your site, sent in by “Bruce”. After further research on the internet however, we failed to find any mention of or find any photographs of purse webs with red legs. This one we have has very distinctive red legs and black body. My 11 yr old son who reads nature books constantly, suggests that this may be a female and that it is the males who have the black legs. Could this be true? Other sites state that it is not threatened or on any conservation list. Is this accurate? Also, we read that it is most commonly found in England which is ironic as I am from England & we are in fact visiting next week and so will be carefully looking for more of these little spiders whilst there! Maybe we unwittingly brought one back with us last year! What would you advise us to do with it? Of course if it is not endangered then we will release it, but if there is anything we can do or anyone we should contact here if it is in the spider’s interest, then we will be glad to help. A few years ago, I found a northern brown recluse & after contacting a university in California, mailed it to a researcher. It thankfully arrived alive and well! He was researching how far south the northern recluse was progressing & confirmed that our identification was correct. We will await with anticipation any further information you are able to give us about this spider and in the meantime my son is keeping it safe and well fed! Regards,
Newnan, Georgia, USA
We are getting numerous reports of sitings recently. Our Comstock book identifies this spider as Atypus bicolor and writes: “The male is a very striking spider with black carapace, abdomen and palpi, and the legs carmine-red.” He also says the females average an inch or more in length and are colored dark brown with a black margin on the cephalothorax. There are Atypus species in Europe. Gertsch writes extensively on Atypus bicolor: “This species occurs from Maryland south into western Florida, and westward into Mississippi. They live for the most part in mesophytic woods. … The tube of Atypus takes form in a characteristic manner. the female spins a small, horizontal funnel or cell on the surface of the soil, and from this base works both upward to lay out the aerial tube, and downward into the soil. The funnel is pierced above, and a two inch section of vertical tube is set up against a tree. This design is accomplished by laying down many single lines and spinning the whole together into a strong fabric. The spider then begins excavating and spinning the subterranean part of her habitation. she molds the soil into small pellets, which she disposes of through the opening at the top of the aerial web. The covering of debris over the surface of the tube comes, surprisingly, form within the burrow — instead of being laid on from the outside: the sand and small particles are pressed outward through the web until the whole surface is evenly covered. After the first section of aerial tube is completed, another length is spun and coated with sand. Thus by sections the web moves up the side of the tree, until it attains the full length for the species. Like an iceberg, the finished tube penetrates the ground much farther than the length of its visible, aerial portion. It is heavily lined with silk, which becomes stronger day by day as the spinnerets constantly lay down their dense bands. … The Purse-Web Spider remains just inside the subterranean portion of her nest while waiting for prey, but at the slightest notice of a passing insect she moves into the aerial web. Her course is charted by the movement of the tube, and when the insect crawls over the surface, she rushes to the proper point and strikes her long fangs through the web, around or into the body of her prey. Holding it until completely subdued, she at the same time cuts the tube and pulls it inside. A slight rent is left in the silk, which will later be sewed together, and in due time covered over with sand so evenly that no sign of the break is evident. A tidy housekeeper, Atypus when through feeding brings the shrunken remnant of her prey to the opening at the top of her web ande casts it out. In the same way, she voids her milky white, liquid fecal material through the opening — with such force that it is shot several inches away. In June the males become adult and leave their webs to wander in dearch of a mate. Until the time they become fully adult they live in nests that are to all appearances identical with those of the females, and occasionally in season they can still be found in the tubes. … Females of all the American species are predominantly brown in color, shining, and only very sparsely set with covering hairs. The robust body is provided with quite short legs and long chelicerae, and runs about half an inch in length — although bicolor, the largest known species is often an inch in length. The males are similar to the females in most respects, but have longer legs. … Atypus bicolor has carmine legs, which, contrasting with its deep-black carapace and abdomen, make it the most striking of all our species.”
Letter 15 – Rare Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Subject: Red Legged Purse Web spider (male)
Location: Eno River State Park, NC
June 18, 2014 8:13 am
I was hiking with my son at the Eno River State Park in North Carolina. We discovered this spider crawling on the ground. It actually paused for the photo. It was bigger than a quarter.
I think I identified it as a male red legged purse web spider. It has rather large fangs.
Does it bite? Will it’s fangs pierce human skin?
I understand that they make silk funnels on a tree or rock face and then hide behind the silk wall waiting for prey. As the prey enters the funnel, the spider lunges and bites through the silk wall.
It’s quite a cool spider.
Signature: James Chamberlain
Thanks so much for sending in your image of a male Red Legged Purseweb Spider, Sphodros rufipes. The information you have is consistent with what we have read. We have not read anything regarding the bite of a Red Legged Purseweb Spider, however, the fangs do look formidable and we are guessing they might be able to bite a human, though in general, Spiders in the Infraorder Mygalomorphae, which include Tarantulas and Trapdoor Spiders, are not aggressive toward humans.
Letter 16 – Rare Sighting: Male Red Legged Purseweb Spider
What’s this bug, please?
Location: Central Virginia
September 18, 2011 4:22 pm
Looked and could not find this one id’d anywhere. Any idea what it might be?
Your photo has really brightened our day. This is a male Red Legged Purseweb Spider, Sphodros rufipes, and only the males have the signature red legs. Females rarely leave their pursewebs, and the males wander about in search of a mate. When we first ran a post on this species in 2003, we reported that they were considered rare and possibly endangered. Most of our reports come in June, so this September sighting is unusual. Purseweb Spiders are primitive spiders related to Tarantulas and Trapdoor Spiders, and they are not considered to be dangerous to humans.
Letter 17 – Red Legged Ham Beetle
Hi Bugman –
Here are four pictures I took under my microscope. This beetle was found in a dermestid beetle culture by a taxidermist friend who does skull cleaning like myself. At first I thought it was a small carrion beetle Leptodiridae but it doesn’t have the small 8th antenna segment, Distinguishing features seem to be the clubbed antenna, protruding abdominal segments, hairy surface, metallic green (blusish) with reddish legs, tarsal code is 3-3-3 I think. Can you help with this. It’s quite beautiful. The beetle pictures I sent – the specimen was 5.5 mm long. Thanks.
Science Teacher; Clinton Tennessee
Hi Dr, Whitey,
We are very happy to get your photo of a Red Legged Ham Beetle, Necrobius rufipes. Here is a quote from the BugPeople Site: “This beetle was more important before refrigeration, when dried or smoked meats were more common. Larvae bore into meats, particularly the fat parts, do most of the damage; the adults are surface feeders. The redlegged ham beetle has also been recorded attacking cheese, bones, hides, drying carrion, copra, salt fish, herring, dried egg yolks, dried figs, “guano”, bone meal, palm-nut kernels, and Egyptian mummies. Substances infested but not fed upon have been silk, baled cotton, and woolen goods. “
Letter 18 – Red Legged Purse Web Spider caught in a jar!!!
Subject: RedLegged Purse web spider
Website: Whats’ that bug
June 12, 2013 8:11 pm
This evening I captured a red legged web purse spider , he is now in a jar
We wish you would photograph your Red Legged Purse Web Spider and send us a photo. Then we wish you would release him where you found him so he can procreate. Encounters with Red Legged Purseweb Spiders have been known to give folks nightmares.
Letter 19 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider: Drowned in Swimming Pool
red legged purse spider in Texas
My daughter pulled this spider out of our pool last summer. We had never seen anything like it before. I was leaning to relating it to tarantulas and my other daughter was leaning toward trapdoor types. It has taken us months to identify it. Sadly it did not live. Our question if you have time to respond is… Are they still on the endangered species list? We live in The Woodlands Texas just north of Houston. The area is very wooded and much has remained natural.
To the best of our knowledge, the Red Legged Purseweb Spider, Sphodros rufipes, is still considered endangered. At any rate, despite its fierce appearance, it is harmless and should not be killed. This is truly a gorgeous and unforgettable species. Thanks so much for sending us your photo of the unfortunate drowning tragedy. Male Mygalomorphs, including Tarantulas, Trapdoor Spiders and Purseweb Spiders, often drown in swimming pools. The males are mobile and wander in search of mates, resulting in their demise when they encounter swimming pools.
Letter 20 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
red legged purse web spider
I had never seen a spider like this before. While I was taking pictures of it a toad came by and gobbled it up. After looking on your web site, I identified it as a red legged purse web spider. I feel bad that it may be endangered and I let the toad eat it.
We first want you to know that through the years, you have been one of our most consistant contributors. Even though we cannot post every image you send to us, nor sometimes even answer personally, you continue to send letters our way. This gorgeous Red Legged Purseweb Spider might be our favorite of all the photographs you have sent to us. Please do not apologize for your toad. That is nature, and far better than the unnecessary carnage photos we have received.
Letter 21 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
my red legged purse web
I found this guy in my driveway the other day and was absolutely blown away by it. I understand these things are most common in my state ( AL ). Here’s a picture I took of him. then set him free. Regards,
Thank you so much for sending us your photo of a Red Legged Purseweb Spider. Males, like the one depicted in your photo. wander in search of a mate so this must be mating season in Alabama.
Letter 22 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Red legged purseweb spider
Just wanted to let you know my family and I found one in Delmar, Wicomico County, MD. 06/07/07.
Scott M. Hamilton
Thanks so much for the information. Even though the image is blurry, the distinctive Red Legged Purseweb Spider is easily recognizeable.
Letter 23 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
I was looking on line and saw the bicolor purseweb spider. I photographed one of these on my balcony in the Nashville, TN area last year and attached is the photograph. I was surprised that it was extremely aggressive and rared up and struck out when I tried to move it off the balcony because my inquisitive dog was on his way outside at the time. Less than a week later, another was spotted less than a mile from my home in the parking lot at work. Attached is the photo. Enjoy!
Evan L. Underwood
Thank you for sending us your photo of a Red Legged Purseweb Spider. We are in awe of this species. You must have encountered them during mating season when the males wander in search of the females.
Letter 24 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
red-legged purse web spider in Ind.
I don’t have a question but just wanted to comment that we just found a red-legged purse web spider in Mitchell Ind. I had never seen one before either and was facinated with it. I wonder if it is still on the endangered list. I probably took 20 photos but none nearly as nice as that person from Alabama that you have posted. That’s all, Thanks for your great web site! It’s such a great thing!.
Reed City, MI
Photographic beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We think your photo is lovely, and even though blurry, clearly identifies this distinctive spider. To the best of our knowledge, it is still considered endangered, though there might be local areas with healthy populations.
Letter 25 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Subject: ★Sphodros rufipes ★
Location: Manorville NY
July 4, 2013 3:19 pm
Hey… I live on Long Island NY.. And spotted this guy on my property… I never saw one before so I took a picture and left it alone… I looked it up and it seems to be an interesting spider so I’m just sharing… I think its a pretty good picture…
Signature: Annette Ray
Thank you so much for sending us your photo of a Red Legged Purseweb Spider, Sphodros rufipes. Ever since we first learned about the Red Legged Purseweb Spider in 2003 and we discovered them to be an endangered species, we have been a champion for their preservation.
Letter 26 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
!Subject: Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Location: Great Falls Park, Virginia
June 19, 2016 11:50 AM
Thank you for the ID! I just photographed a Red Legged Purseweb Spider today at Great Falls Park, Virginia – since it’s endangered and rare, I thought you would like to know of the sighting. Not a great photo, as it was moving fairly fast from the path to the greater safety of the grass.
We are not certain what flaws you observe in your awesome image of an endangered Red Legged Purseweb Spider, but it is the best image we have received of the species since the first submission we received 13 years ago and featured in a posting entitled Help! I’m Having Nightmares!
Letter 27 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Subject: Red legged purse web spider
Location: Washington, MO
June 23, 2016 12:10 pm
Found this beauty in a trash can a woodland critter had knocked over. He is in Washington, MO.
Signature: Bob the Farrier
Hi Bob the Farrier,
It always cheers us so to post new images of Red Legged Purseweb Spiders.
Letter 28 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Subject: Rare spider?
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
July 1, 2017 4:09 pm
Found this on my doorstep in Atanta, Georgia at night in the summer. (I moved it to a safer place where it was less likely to be noticed by a neighbor and killed).
We have not done any recent research on the Red Legged Purseweb Spider, but last we were aware, the species was considered endangered. Your individual looks emaciated, and he might have benefited from a meal like a nice fat cricket. We found this information on Animal Diversity Web: “Red-legged purseweb spiders, although scarcely found in nature, are not listed on any conservation lists. (Reichling, et al., 2011).” According to University of Kentucky Entomology: “The Red-Legged Purseweb Spider (Sphodros rufipes, which may occur in Kentucky) has historically appeared on U.S. endangered species lists, but some scientists believe that it may not be a rare spider. ” Because of your kind actions, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
Letter 29 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Subject: Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Geographic location of the bug: humble texas
Time: 12:35 AM
Your letter to the bugman: sir, I was going through my pic’s and vid’s and I found some more pictures and vid of the red legged purse spider I also found in humble Texas a few years ago like the red velvet And I released it on its way as to cause it no harm only to look at it and was amazed at the size of it and the what looked like massive fangs. i hope you can enjoy these items.
How you want your letter signed: Mr David Mullins
Dear Mr David Mullins,
Thanks so much for sending your beautiful images of an endangered male Red Legged Purseweb Spider.
Letter 30 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider
Subject: Sphodros rufipes?
Geographic location of the bug: Huntingtown, Maryland
Time: 01:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Have I correctly identified this guy and his he poisonous to humans and dogs?
How you want your letter signed: Lori S
This is indeed a beautiful, male Red Legged Purseweb Spider. This species poses no significant threat to humans or animals. According to Animal Diversity Web: “These spiders are rarely encountered by humans and are not pests. While venomous, they only serve as a threat to those who are highly sensitive to insect bites.”
Thank you. I understand that it’s rare to see one….supposedly. Either way, I thought it was a beautiful sight. Thank you for getting back to me.
Letter 31 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider: Captured and Released
Red Legged Purseweb spider
I found this handsome guy running across my driveway near a flower bed, and near where we keep our trash cans. I kept him in the little jar for about 45 minutes until I found your picture of a dead one. I set him free near a young red maple in our front yard. After I read all that you wrote, I am hoping he makes it across our yard to a native rock retaining way that would be paradise for him. (About 35′ from where I turned him loose. He never showed that he felt threatened, but I wasn’t sure if he was poisonous due to his large fangs, and that usually beautiful creatures that are brightly colored are most often poisonous. I have attached several pictures of him. While in the jar he looked as if he was running, and his little pointy things and the tip of his abdomen were wriggling up and down. I am not sure what that was all about. He was very frisky when I let him go. Also, I have attached a picture of a large spider my excited sons called a "camouflage" spider. He has an unusual squared off and pointy abdomen. After I let him run off, I saw a younger version of him, hanging out by one of our patio tables. I would appreciate any info you could give me about him.
Thank you for your site. I have three young sons that are very excited about God’s Creatures, so I will be referencing your site fairly often.
Evie P. (Franklin, TN)
After the last image of a Red Legged Purseweb Spider that ended in Unnecessary Carnage, we are happy to see you have a sensitive enough world view to question before reacting. While you may desire the lovely male Red Legged Purseweb Spider to take up residence on your wall, chances are good he was wandering in search of a mate and that he will probably continue to do so until he finds her or is killed, either by a predator, some chance accident like being run over (luckily he escaped that bigwheel in your driveway), or deliberately by a human. Nice rock!!! Your other photo is too blurry for identification.
Letter 32 – Red Legged Purseweb Spider in Rhode Island
purseweb spider found july 2008 on Block Island RI
i found this spider on BI while walking my dog about 1 full inch long thought i would pass on the info
Thanks for the info as well as the high resolution image with plenty of surrounding habitat, which we cropped to a tight shot. We enjoy getting reports about this endangered, spectacular spider.
Letter 33 – Help! I’m having Nightmares!
Saw this bug crawling around on the front of our house and front stoop. It has 8 red legs and looks like it has three segments. Is this a spider? I’d hate to find this crawling around on my bed one night. Should we be concerned about this bug? We live on the east coast.
It’s a spider. I’m not sure exactly what, but it is impressive. I will
continue to try to identify it. How large was it? Where on the east coast?
We live in Calvert County, Maryland. The spider was about 3/4″ long. Let me
know what you find out. This is a scary looking spider for sure!
I have been obsessed with your spider.After hours online, I found it. It is one of three spiders on the endangered species list in Maryland, and is also endangered in most of its range. It seems to be most common in Alabama, though fire ants and armadillos have harmed its numbers there as well. I hope your red legged purseweb spider is still among the living. Here is some additional information I copied from a site. Thank you for your awesome photo. Sphodros rufipes Found in Alabama The First Recorded Distribution of the Purseweb Spider, Sphodros rufipes (Family Atypidae), from Alabama. Rose M. Parrino, W. Mike Howell,Ph.D., and Ronald L. Jenkins,Ph.D., Department of Biology, Samford University, Birmingham, AL 35229 The spider family Atypidae represents an ancient branch of the infraorder Mygalomorphae. These large, primitive spiders have been recorded for most of the southeastern United States, but no records have been documented for the State of Alabama. It is the purpose of this report to officially record the purseweb spider, Sphodros rufipes Latreille from Alabama. These spiders are referred to as “purseweb spiders” because of the tough, tubular web which they construct in the ground at the base of a tree and extend aerially up the side of the tree attaching it to the tree’s bark. The web is further camouflaged by the addition of lichens, algae, dead leaf bits, dirt and other debris to its surface. When an insect disturbs the web’s surface, the purseweb spider reacts by biting its prey through the tube, cutting a slit, repairing the slit, and awaiting another meal. According to Gertsch and Platnick (1980, Amer. Mus. Novitates No. 2704: 1-39, figs. 1-60), S. rufipes previously has been found at four sites in Tennessee, two in North Carolina, one in Georgia, six in northern Florida, two in Mississippi, four in Louisiana, and one in Texas. A population of Sphodros rufipes was discovered at the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, Jefferson County, AL, (T 17S, R 2W, sec 13) on 16 Oct. 1997. The aerial portion of the web was approximately 140 mm above the ground and a uniform 20 mm in its width. Only 10-12 mm of the top portion of the tube was attached to tree, and this portion of the tube was white and not camouflaged. When the underground portion of the web, which extended to approximately 160 mm, was excavated and the tubular web was removed, it was found to contain a large female spider, 25 mm in total body length. The web also contained approximately 228 spiderlings, each about 2.5 mm in total body length. All spiderlings, except for 10 specimens, were returned to the site. The 10 spiderlings and the adult female were preserved for scientific documentation and deposited in the American Museum of Natural History. The adult specimen was examined by Dr. Norman Platnick, who verified it as S. rufipes.
Letter 34 – Unnecessary Carnage: Red Legged Purseweb Spider mashed by zealously protective mom
red legged purseweb spider?
I found this spider on the deck of my pool. After doing some searching on the internet I found the red legged purseweb spider and I think this could be on fof them. Sorry I did kill we have small children around and I didnt know what it was or if was even poisonous. But we found it in French Lick Indiana.
Sadly, your identification of the Red Legged Purseweb Spider is correct. This species has met with more than its deserved share of Unnecessary Carnage. While we understand the protective mothering instinct in such matters, if every mother on the planet tried to dispatch everything she thought might compromise the safety of her children, there wouldn’t be much left eventually. Tolerance and understanding can prevent so much bloodshed. We hope you continue to educate yourself and your children to the diversity of life around you. Have a great day.