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,

Hi Krista,
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
Steven Juhlin

Hi Scott,
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.

6 thoughts on “Red Legged Purseweb Spider”

  1. Coincidentally, saw one today in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I had never seen one like it before. Came here looking to identify.

  2. I found one today in Independence MO. I too have not seen this type of spider before nor my neighbor. Kinda scary looking. Are they poisonous?


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