Essential Facts About Six-Spotted Fishing Spiders: What You Need to Know

The six-spotted fishing spider is a fascinating creature that you might want to learn more about. As its name suggests, this spider has six distinct spots on its abdomen and is known for its incredible fishing abilities. Found in various habitats near water, this spider is an incredible hunter that can easily catch its prey, thanks to its unique adaptations.

One of the most interesting features of the six-spotted fishing spider is its ability to walk on water. This talent allows the spider to efficiently hunt aquatic insects, small fish, and even tadpoles. In this article, you will uncover the secrets behind the six-spotted fishing spider’s water-walking capabilities and explore its other remarkable characteristics.

As you delve deeper into the world of the six-spotted fishing spider, you will discover how it has evolved to become an exceptional hunter. From its excellent vision to its ability to swiftly subdue its prey, this spider is truly a marvel of nature. So, get ready to learn all there is to know about the amazing six-spotted fishing spider!

What is Dolomedes?

Dolomedes, commonly known as fishing spiders, are a genus of spiders that belong to the Pisauridae family. These fascinating creatures are known for their unique ability to catch small fish and aquatic insects while walking on the surface of water. In this section, we’ll explore some essential aspects of this intriguing genus of spiders.

Fishing spiders have certain characteristics that set them apart from other species. Their size, shape, and coloration resemble larger wolf spiders, making them easily recognizable. Some of the most common species within the Dolomedes genus are:

These spiders have impressive adaptations that enable them to thrive in and around water. For instance:

  • They can walk on water thanks to their hydrophobic hairy legs
  • They can dive underwater and breathe using a thin layer of trapped air

Now, let’s take a closer look at the six-spotted fishing spider, Dolomedes triton. This particular species is named after its six dark spots hidden on the underside of its abdomen. Unlike its relatives, the six-spotted fishing spider is more specialized in preying on tiny minnows and tadpoles. This specialization makes it a true fisherman among other spiders within the genus Dolomedes.

In conclusion, the Dolomedes genus encompasses a group of spiders commonly known as fishing spiders, which are well-adapted to life near and in water. The six-spotted fishing spider, Dolomedes triton, is a shining example of the unique hunting abilities and adaptability of these aquatic arachnids.

Physical Description

Spider Size

The six-spotted fishing spider is a medium to large-sized spider with a body length ranging from 0.4-0.9 inches (10-23mm) for females and 0.35-0.47 inches (9-12mm) for males. They have long legs that can span up to 3 inches (7.6 cm), making them appear larger.

Color and Markings

Their coloration varies from shades of tan to dark brown, helping them blend into their environment. The spider’s markings include a distinctive dark spot on the top of their abdomen, along with striped legs and other unique markings. Here are the key features in bullet points:

  • Tan to dark brown color
  • Dark spot on the top of the abdomen
  • Striped legs
  • Other distinctive markings

Distinctive Features

Apart from their size and markings, six-spotted fishing spiders have other notable features. They have eight eyes positioned in two rows, which give them excellent vision to locate prey. Another aspect that sets them apart is their ability to walk on water and even dive underwater to hunt for prey. This makes them efficient predators in aquatic environments.

To summarize, here are the key distinctive features of the six-spotted fishing spider:

  • Eight eyes positioned in two rows
  • Ability to walk on water and dive underwater

Now that you’re aware of the physical description of the six-spotted fishing spider, you can better appreciate their unique appearance and fascinating adaptations.

Distribution and Habitat

Location

The Six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) can be found across North America, ranging from Canada to the United States, including states like Georgia (GA), Florida (FL), and Arizona (AZ). This spider is widely distributed across the continent, making it a common sight in various wetland habitats.

Habitat Type

Six-spotted fishing spiders prefer wetland habitats like swamps, marshes, and ponds. They are often found near the water’s edge, where they can easily access their prey. In these watery habitats, you’ll notice them using their ability to walk on water surfaces and dive beneath the water to catch aquatic prey. Examples of wetland habitats where you might find the Six-spotted fishing spider include:

  • Shallow ponds
  • Swamps and marshes
  • Small streams

So, if you happen to be near a wetland habitat in the United States or Canada, be on the lookout for these fascinating spiders, as they make their home in various watery environments across the continent.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Hunting Tactics

The six-spotted fishing spider is known for its unique hunting techniques. Instead of spinning webs to catch prey, these spiders use their specialized legs to walk on water. They detect vibrations on the water surface, which helps them locate and target their prey, such as aquatic insects and water striders. Their legs’ hairs trap air, helping them maintain surface tension. This allows them to ambush their prey both on the water surface and underwater.

Another notable characteristic of the six-spotted fishing spider is their ability to capture small fish, birds, and other larger prey. They achieve this by expertly ambushing their targets and overpowering them using their strong venomous bite.

Reproductive Behavior

Reproduction is an important aspect of the six-spotted fishing spider’s behavior. The female spider is known to carry the egg sac with her, using her silk to attach it to her spinnerets. This ensures the safety of the eggs and allows her to continue hunting while protecting her unborn offspring.

In comparison to their close relative, the dark fishing spider, six-spotted fishing spiders also showcase unique reproductive behavior. Both species are referred to as “dock spiders” and can be found near aquatic environments. However, six-spotted fishing spiders display more active hunting tactics and distinctive mating rituals, making them easily identifiable by their behavioral traits.

To wrap up, the six-spotted fishing spider’s behavior and lifestyle revolve around their incredible hunting tactics and reproductive strategies. These spiders are skillful predators and devoted caretakers, making them fascinating subjects for further exploration and study.

Diet and Prey

Typical Diet

The diet of the six-spotted fishing spider mainly consists of aquatic insects and occasionally small fish. As their name suggests, they live near water and are skilled at capturing prey both in and out of water. Their diet may include:

  • Water striders
  • Tadpoles
  • Small frogs
  • Terrestrial insects

Unique Hunting Traits

Fishing spiders have several unique traits that help them in prey detection and hunting:

  1. Walking on Water: Fishing spiders can walk on the surface of the water to hunt neuston organisms, like water striders, by detecting vibrations they cause.
  2. Catching Fish: Although not their primary food source, these spiders have been known to catch small fish by diving into the water and injecting venom into their prey.
  3. Extra Support: Fishing spiders use their front legs to detect any movement of their prey on the water’s surface or to hold onto underwater prey as they pull them to the surface to consume.

To sum it up, six-spotted fishing spiders are fascinating predators that play an important role in controlling insect populations near their aquatic habitats. Their unique hunting techniques make them efficient and versatile hunters, ready to capture a variety of prey both in and out of water.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Mating Process

The mating process in six spotted fishing spiders is fascinating. These spiders display sexual dimorphism, with females usually larger than males. As a male approaches a potential mate, he signals his interest by tapping his leg on her web. If the female is receptive, they’ll proceed with mating. Be cautious though, males often risk being eaten by the females after mating!

Life Cycle

The life cycle of the six spotted fishing spider begins with the female creating an egg sac. She uses her silk to weave a protective structure around her eggs. Some quick facts about their life cycle include:

  • Females produce multiple egg sacs during their lifespan
  • Each egg sac contains about 100 to 1,000 eggs

Once the eggs are laid, the female spider creates a nursery web to secure the egg sacs. She remains nearby, protecting her offspring until the spiderlings hatch. As the spiderlings grow, they shed their exoskeleton and become adult spiders. The life expectancy of these spiders is typically about one year, with males having a shorter lifespan due to the higher risk during mating.

To recap, here are some key characteristics of the six spotted fishing spider’s reproduction and lifespan:

  • Mating process involves tapping and potential male sacrifice
  • Females create silk egg sacs to protect their eggs
  • Nursery webs serve as a safe haven for spiderlings
  • Lifespan is around one year

Now that you’ve learned about the reproduction and lifespan of the six spotted fishing spider, also known as the dock spider, you can better appreciate their unique role in our ecosystem.

Defensive Mechanisms

Venom

The six-spotted fishing spider is capable of injecting venom into its prey through its bite. Although their venom is effective in subduing their prey, such as insects and small fish, their bite is not generally harmful to humans. The venom is mild and usually causes pain or swelling, comparable to a bee sting.

Here’s a comparison between a bee sting and a six-spotted fishing spider bite:

Aspect Bee Sting Six-Spotted Fishing Spider Bite
Pain Yes Yes
Swelling Yes Yes
Dangerous Only if allergic Rarely
Treatment Cold compress, pain relievers Cold compress, pain relievers

Survival Tactics

When it comes to surviving in the wild, the six-spotted fishing spider has several strategies:

  • Camouflage: These spiders blend in seamlessly with their aquatic habitat, making them nearly invisible to both predators and prey.
  • Water walking: They can move across the water’s surface with ease, thanks to their water-repellent legs, allowing them to hunt and escape threats.
  • Diving: If threatened, the spider can dive underwater and create a small air bubble using its body hairs, allowing it to breathe for a short period.

In summary, the six-spotted fishing spider’s venomous bite allows it to effectively capture prey, while its camouflage and ability to traverse water help ensure its survival in the wild. Rest assured, if you were to encounter one, their bite is unlikely to be dangerous to you.

Interesting Facts

The six-spotted fishing spider is a fascinating creature with some intriguing features. One of the most remarkable aspects is its ability to walk on water surface. This skill allows them to catch small fish and aquatic insects for food. Not only do they hunt on water, but they can also dive beneath the surface in pursuit of prey.

These spiders have a unique method of capturing prey. They sense vibrations in the water, which helps them locate and identify potential targets. Then, they use their long legs to propel towards their quarry, seizing it with their powerful fangs.

In addition to their hunting skills, six-spotted fishing spiders have a striking appearance. They usually have a brownish-gray body, with contrasting white and black markings on their legs. The six spots for which they’re named are found on the sides of their abdomen.

When it comes to mating, the female spider is significantly larger than the male. The size difference can lead to cannibalism, with the female occasionally eating the male after mating. However, this isn’t always the case; sometimes, males can escape unharmed.

Here are some key features of the six-spotted fishing spider:

  • Ability to walk on and dive under water
  • Sensitive to vibrations for hunting
  • Distinctive markings and coloration
  • Significant size difference between males and females

So, if you ever come across a six-spotted fishing spider near a body of water, take a moment to appreciate its unique traits and impressive hunting abilities.

Spider Identification and Classification

How to Identify

The six-spotted fishing spider, scientifically known as Dolomedes scriptus, is a remarkable species that is often found near water bodies. These spiders can be identified by their distinct features such as:

  • Six white spots on their abdomen
  • A body size of around 0.5 – 1 inch
  • Long, thin legs with dark bands
  • A coloration of brown, grey, or greenish-brown

By observing these characteristics, you can easily identify the six-spotted fishing spider. It is also helpful to look at pictures of these spiders to familiarize yourself with their appearance.

Scientific Classification

In order for you to understand the six-spotted fishing spider’s place in the animal kingdom, it’s essential to explore its scientific classification. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
  • Phylum: Arthropoda (Arthropods)
  • Class: Arachnida (Arachnids)
  • Order: Araneae (Spiders)
  • Family: Pisauridae (Fishing spiders)
  • Genus: Dolomedes (Fishing spiders)
  • Species: D. scriptus (Six-spotted fishing spider)

Fishing spiders, including the six-spotted species, belong to the Dolomedes genus, which encompasses several related species that live in similar habitats near water sources. By observing their identifying features and understanding their scientific classification, you can appreciate the fascinating world of the six-spotted fishing spider.

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 – White Banded Fishing Spider from Florida

 

What kind of spider is this???
Dear Bugman,
We found this spider on our back porch resting next to a mud dobber’s nest. We tried to identify her from pictures on your site & we think it is a fishing spider but couldn’t find one with the same white markings. Could you please identify her for us? We live in Central Florida in a very rural area. We went to check on her the next day but she was gone. Thank you.
Suzi Haws
Sanford, FL

Hi Suzi,
We agree this is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider, but it is unlike any we have seen. The resolution on your image is quite poor, but the coloration is still very distinctive. We will check with Eric Eaton to see if he recognizes this stunning specimen. Here is Eric’s response: “Daniel: I applaud you for reognizing the genus. Good work! I don’t know for certain, but suspect this is Dolomedes albineus, maybe D. scriptus. The submitter might want to try Bugguide’s “ID Request” section as well, as we have several spider experts, at least one in Florida. Eric” If you submit to BugGuide, please let us know what the final determination is on this specimen.

Letter 2 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

Fishing Spider
Hey Bugman. I wanted to send you this pic I snapped of a fishing spider I pulled off of my lake. She’s a beauty! My mom was freaking out….I’m not sure of the exact species, but I believe it’s a Dolomedes vittatus.
Ricky in Bowling Green, Mo

Hi Ricky,
We are inclined to think your spider is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton. She is a gorgeous spider and one of the most aquatic of the Fishing Spiders.

Letter 3 – Squashed Fishing Spider

 

Wondering
I found your website after finding and killing this wonder in my yard. The body is almost an inch long and the legs are just over an inch long. His smaller top part of his body reminds me of a crab as you can see it’s a little flatter. I’m in North west Georgia and found him on the side of my house. I found no web near him. I was petrified at first then after finding your site I feel bad that it might be perfectly harmless. Please let me know in case I come across more then I can be more informed.
Big doesn’t necessarily mean bad.
Thanks,
Annette Fox

Hi Annette,
Yes, big does not mean bad. You have squashed what appears to be a Whitish Dolomedes, Doloemedes albinus, or possibly a color variation on one of the other Dolomedes. These are sometimes called Fishing Spiders or Nursery Web Spiders. They will not harm you. They do not build webs to capture prey, just to lay eggs.

Letter 4 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

Dear Bugman,
I attached a picture of a spider I found while cleaning a pond in my backyard in southwest Louisiana. I thought it was one of the most beautiful spiders I’d ever seen- kind of a mossy green with blue spots on its abdomen. I did some research and I’m pretty sure it’s a diving spider because I watched it go under a couple of times. At one point I think it even attacked a fish. Do you know the specific name for it and any more info?
Thanks,
Fran

Hi Fran,
We are very excited by your letter and photo since the Six Spotted Fishing Spider is a new species for our site. Dolomedes triton is a beautiful spider and not easily confused with any other. It is greenish brown with silvery white lengthwise stripes along each side of the body. Abdomen has two rows of six white spots. It is found in slow moving streams and ponds. They eat small insects, tadpoles and fish. They are often found on water vegetation. According to Comstock: “This beautiful species is common in marshy places. It lives on plants over water, and dives freely when frightened, hiding under floating leaves. It is widely distributed, found in the east from New England to Texas, and is also known from across the northern part of the country in some of our western states and in Canada.”

Letter 5 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

images for your site
Greetings from North East Texas,
As an amateur photographer, I have become quite interested in capturing images of little things in nature. I started with wildflowers and gravitated to insects, and such. Your site has been tremendously helpful in identifing what I have captured. Here, I can almost always find out what I have found, lol. Although no one has yet identified the “MYSTERY SPIDER” which I sent to you this past summer, I am not at all discouraged nor put off. It is after all a very unusual spider and I am aware of the huge workload the site requires. It is my hope, that by submitting these attached images, I will be able to add to your archives so others may find out what they found. Please forgive any lack of identification or misinformation my titles may include and feel free to use the images as you wish. If there is anyway I can be of assistance, please also feel free to ask. BTW – all these images were taken this year in the Northeast corner of Texas with a Nikon 7900 coolpix digital camera and usually from a working distance of a few
inches.
Lee R.

Hi Lee,
It will be impossible to post all of the images you sent in this email. Formatting 15 images and posting them to the appropriate pages will take all day, sadly, a luxury we do not have. We have selected your awesome photo of the Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton, to post with your letter. If time allows, we may post others.

Letter 6 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

Fishing spider
July 15, 2009
Hi,
Just wanted to share this picture of a fishing spider… he was in our neglected pool. I love how his legs dent the water!
Emmy
Tampa, Florida

Six Spotted Fishing Spider
Six Spotted Fishing Spider

Hi Emmy,
Of all the species of Fishing Spider, the Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton, is probably the one most associated with water and fishing.
Your photo is truly wonderful and a study in symmetry.

Update  from Eric Eaton
Daniel:
I agree that image of the fishing spider is just gorgeous!  Deserves to hang in a gallery.
Eric

Letter 7 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

beautiful spider
Location: NE Oklahoma
October 9, 2011 9:30 am
Hello, I live in North Eastern Oklahoma and was getting ready to winterize my pond. I began pulling excess surface water plants out and found this spider. We would love to know what kind he was. The blue on his abdomen was sky blue.The Pennywort leaf he was on is approximately 2 inches across.
Signature: Thanks so much!! Love your site.

Six Spotted Fishing Spider

Thanks for the compliment.  Your lovely spider is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton, a species rarely found far from ponds or slow moving bodies of water.  This is one of the most aquatic of the Fishing Spiders.  They are capable of walking across the water and even diving beneath the surface to escape predators and to capture prey.  The Six Spotted Fishing Spider is known to catch small fish or tadpoles for food. 

Letter 8 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

Subject: Six Spotted Fishing Spider
Location: Mims, FL
March 1, 2013 5:51 pm
After a night of hunting alligators in Florida my husband found this spider while cleaning out the boat. He was so enamoured of it’s beauty he took this picture, he said it looked like velvet. We don’t have spiders like this (that I know of) in Montana. 🙂 We were watching a show on Africa last night and they showed a Fishing Spider – I immediately recognized it.
Signature: Kirsten Brown

Six Spotted Fishing Spider
Six Spotted Fishing Spider

Dear Kirsten,
This is truly a gorgeous Six Spotted Fishing Spider.  We might even include it in a “10 Most Beautiful Spiders Photos” Tag on our site.
  This is truly a gorgeous photo of this species, but we have another image of this species, Dolomedes triton, where it is walking on the water and making dimples.

Letter 9 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider walks on Water!!!

 

Subject: what is this?
Location: leighton, al 35646
September 10, 2014 3:13 pm
Can u identify this bug?
Signature: bug man

Six Spotted Fishing Spider
Six Spotted Fishing Spider

Dear bug man,
Your image is gorgeous.  This is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider,
Dolomedes triton.  Though the entire genus is commonly referred to as Fishing Spiders, the Six Spotted Fishing Spider is one of the species most closely associated with water.  As you image documents, the spiders are able to disperse their weight across all eight legs and then walk on water.  Fishing Spiders can also dive beneath the surface of the water to hide from predators and they occasionally catch small fish, tadpoles and other aquatic creatures.

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.

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  • 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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