Fishing spiders are fascinating creatures that thrive near water. These spiders, belonging to the genus Dolomedes, are known for their unique ability to catch small fish and aquatic insects from the water as they walk on the surface. You may find these intriguing arachnids in a variety of environments, such as wooded areas near lakes, rivers, or ponds.
As you explore the world of fishing spiders, you’ll come across different types and species. One example is the Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus), which is often found in heavily-wooded areas. Not only are these spiders known for their impressive size, many of them also exhibit interesting adaptations to life on and around water, including some that can even run across the water’s surface.
In this article, we’ll introduce various types of fishing spiders, discuss their unique characteristics, and examine the adaptations that enable them to survive and thrive in aquatic environments. As you read on, you’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for these remarkable arachnids.
Overview of Fishing Spiders
Fishing spiders belong to the family Pisauridae and the genus Dolomedes. These arachnids are quite fascinating due to their unique hunting techniques and adaptations. Here, you’ll learn about some of their key features and characteristics.
Fishing spiders are typically found in or near aquatic environments. They have adapted to catch small fish, aquatic insects, and tadpoles by walking on water surfaces. Some species in this group, like Dolomedes aquaticus, showcase this ability remarkably well. They are generally dark-colored, with variations of brown and gray being the most common.
There are several species of fishing spiders, each with their own unique traits. For instance, Dolomedes tenebrosus may be more frequently found further away from water sources. Despite their different habitats, all fishing spiders share similar physical features such as long legs and robust bodies.
Some interesting aspects of fishing spiders include:
- Large size, comparable to wolf spiders
- Alternating dark and light bands on their legs
- Ability to walk on water surfaces
Now that you have a general understanding of fishing spiders, you might be wondering how they compare to other spiders. Let’s briefly discuss their differences with wolf spiders, another large and common type of spider.
|Ambushing on water surfaces
|Active hunting on land
|Aquatic or near water
|On top of the carapace
As seen in the table above, fishing spiders and wolf spiders have different hunting methods and habitats. Their eye arrangements also differ, with fishing spiders’ eyes being on top of the carapace, while wolf spiders have a more circular arrangement.
With this overview, you now have a better understanding of fishing spiders and their unique characteristics, setting them apart from other types of spiders within the arachnid world.
Physical Characteristics of Fishing Spiders
Comparison of Male and Female Fishing Spiders
Fishing spiders are known for their large size, making them quite noticeable. While males and females are similar in appearance, there are differences between them, especially in terms of size and leg length.
- Females are generally larger, with some species reaching lengths up to 4 inches.
- Males tend to have longer legs in proportion to their body.
These spiders exhibit various colorations and patterns, often featuring shades of brown or black. A well-known example is the spotted fishing spider, with distinctive markings on its body.
In terms of their eyes, fishing spiders have eight of them, with the front four arranged in a unique pattern. This is a notable feature that distinguishes them from wolf spiders.
Here’s a comparison table to help you better understand the differences between male and female fishing spiders:
|Male Fishing Spiders
|Female Fishing Spiders
|Longer in proportion
|Shorter in proportion
(*) Chelicerae are the spider’s mouthparts, which they use to hold onto and inject venom into their prey.
Other notable species include the striped fishing spider, which sports alternating brown and black bands on its legs. This appearance allows them to blend seamlessly with their surroundings near water.
In summary, fishing spiders have unique physical characteristics that set them apart. By understanding the differences between males and females, as well as the various color patterns and eye arrangements, you will be better equipped to identify these fascinating creatures in the wild.
Predatory Behavior of Fishing Spiders
Fishing spiders are fascinating creatures known for their unique hunting techniques. They are similar to wolf spiders in size and appearance, but have longer legs and often live near water (source). Their predatory behavior mainly involves catching small aquatic insects, fish, and tadpoles.
As a fishing spider, you might be surprised to learn that you can actually walk on water. Thanks to specialized hairs on your legs, you can distribute your weight evenly across the water’s surface. This allows you to move effortlessly in search of prey.
Detecting prey is a breeze for you, as you can sense vibrations on the water’s surface. When you feel slight water movements, you quickly determine the location and size of potential prey items. Once you’ve identified your target, you swiftly attack and inject your venom to immobilize it.
While you have powerful venom, you’re not considered dangerous to humans. Your venom is potent enough to incapacitate small aquatic creatures, yet generally harmless to people. Always remember to be cautious and respectful when interacting with these amazing arachnids.
Some key features of your predatory behavior as a fishing spider include:
- Walking on water to catch prey
- Sensing vibrations to detect aquatic creatures
- Injecting venom to immobilize prey
- Predominantly targeting aquatic insects, fish, and tadpoles
In your adventures as a fishing spider, remember to appreciate your unique abilities and the vital role you play in controlling the population of aquatic insects and other small creatures in your ecosystem. Enjoy your remarkable predatory behavior, always striving to become an even more skilled hunter.
Fishing Spider Habitats
Fishing spiders have a fascinating range of habitats. You can find them in various locations across the globe, including regions in North America, Canada, Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, and even places like New Zealand. Their distribution covers a diverse array of environments, making them quite a versatile species.
These spiders can be seen near trees, within woodland areas, or wetlands. In fact, trees serve as an essential part of their habitat, as they often reside in tree cavities. Additionally, fishing spiders can also adapt to human-made structures and other woodlands, showcasing their adaptability and resilience.
There are some locations where they are more commonly found, such as Florida and Texas, due to their affinity for moist, marshy environments. Let us briefly discuss a few key features of fishing spider habitats:
- Found in North America, Canada, Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, and New Zealand
- Often reside in trees or tree cavities
- Common in woodland areas and wetlands
- Can adapt to human-made structures
In summary, fishing spiders are a fascinating species with a wide distribution across various continents. Their habitats are diverse, ranging from trees and woodland areas to wetlands and human-made structures. This adaptability makes fishing spiders an interesting creature to observe and study.
Specific Types of Fishing Spiders
You might be curious about the various types of fishing spiders out there. Let’s dive into some specific types and their unique characteristics.
Dark Fishing Spider and Wolf Spiders: Both the dark fishing spider and wolf spiders are similar in size, shape, and coloration. While wolf spiders are mostly land dwellers, fishing spiders have a preference for aquatic environments. They are known for their ability to catch small fish and aquatic insects.
Nursery Web Spiders and Dock Spiders: Nursery web spiders (Pisauridae family) share some similarities with dock spiders (Dolomedes genus). Both species prefer to live near water and display similar hunting behaviors. Some key differences are:
- Nursery web spiders – known for carrying their egg sacs with their legs
- Dock spiders – recognized for their longer legs and alternating brown/black bands on their legs
Jumping Spiders and Common House Spiders: These spiders show noticeable differences in their hunting techniques and appearances. Jumping spiders are known for their excellent vision and agile nature, while common house spiders use their webs to catch prey.
Black Widow and Brown Recluse Spiders: Both black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders are venomous species. Black widows are recognizable by their black color and red hourglass marking on their abdomen, whereas brown recluse spiders have a violin-shaped mark on their cephalothorax. Be cautious around these spiders as their bites can be dangerous.
In conclusion, here’s a summary of some key distinctive features among the various types of spiders mentioned:
|Dark Fishing Spider
|Similar to wolf spiders; prefer aquatic environments
|Similar to dark fishing spiders; larger, hairy body
|Nursery Web Spider
|Carries egg sac with legs, often in bushes or vegetation near water
|Long legs and alternating brown/black bands on legs
|Small size, excellent vision and agility
|Common House Spider
|Webs to capture prey and typically live indoors
|Black Widow Spider
|Black color with a red hourglass marking on abdomen
|Brown Recluse Spider
|Violin-shaped mark on cephalothorax
Interaction with Humans
Fishing spiders, such as the Dolomedes tenebrosus, are generally not dangerous to humans. While they can bite when threatened, their bites are typically less painful than a bee or wasp sting. However, you should still exercise caution when handling them or if you encounter them near water.
The following points briefly cover the interaction of fishing spiders with humans:
- Fishing spiders are not aggressive toward humans
- They may bite if provoked, but it is rare
- Their bites are usually less painful than bee or wasp stings
If you happen to come across a fishing spider, it is best to admire them from a safe distance. This allows you to observe their fascinating behaviors, such as their ability to walk on water and catch small fish and aquatic insects. However, you should avoid direct contact with these spiders to prevent any potential bites.
Overall, it’s important not to exaggerate the danger fishing spiders pose to humans. As long as you respect their space and avoid provoking them, you can safely observe these fascinating creatures.
Reproduction and Life Cycle of Fishing Spiders
Fishing spiders, such as those in the genus Dolomedes, have interesting reproductive behaviors and life cycles. Let’s explore these aspects in more detail.
When it is time for reproduction, a female fishing spider creates an egg sac to protect her offspring. She carefully seals her eggs inside a silk pouch. During this time, she carries the egg sac with her, attached to her spinnerets.
Eventually, the spiderlings hatch from the egg sac. Once they are ready to leave the protection of the sac, they continue to stay close to their mother. They do this by creating a nursery web. The nursery web acts as a safe haven for the spiderlings and their mother.
Some key points about fishing spider reproduction and life cycles:
- Females create egg sacs to protect their offspring.
- Spiderlings hatch from the egg sac and stay close to their mother.
- Nursery webs act as safe havens for the spiderlings and their mother.
That’s a brief overview of the reproduction and life cycle of fishing spiders. Understanding these fascinating creatures can enhance your appreciation for the diverse world of spiders. Enjoy observing these remarkable arachnids in their natural habitats!
Identifying Fishing Spiders
Fishing spiders belong to the genus Dolomedes and are known for their unique adaptations that allow them to hunt near water. To identify these spiders, you can look for distinctive features and specialized hairs that enable them to move on water.
Firstly, fishing spiders are usually large and somewhat similar to wolf spiders in size, shape, and coloration. They are predominantly brown and hairy, giving them a striking appearance. Some examples of fishing spider species include Dolomedes tenebrosus and Dolomedes triton, which are found in wooded areas and around aquatic habitats respectively.
These spiders have adapted to living near water, and their specialized hairs allow them to walk on the water surface. They can even run across the water, catching prey like aquatic insects and tadpoles. Here are some distinguishing features of fishing spiders:
- Large size
- Brown, hairy appearance
- Eight eyes arranged in distinctive patterns
- Specialized hairs on legs for walking on water
Now that you know the main features of fishing spiders, you can use them as a guide to distinguish them from other spider types. For example, when comparing fishing spiders to wolf spiders, pay special attention to the eye arrangement. Fishing spiders have their front four eyes arranged with the outer pairs further apart, whereas wolf spiders have their eyes in three rows.
To sum up, to identify a fishing spider, observe its size, color, eye arrangement, and its ability to move on water surfaces. By being familiar with these adaptations and key characteristics, you can efficiently distinguish fishing spiders from other spider species.
Conservation and Impact on Ecosystem
Fishing spiders are fascinating invertebrates that inhabit aquatic environments. They play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. Here’s how:
They help control insect populations. As predators, fishing spiders feed on insects, maintaining a healthy balance within the ecosystem. This reduces the need for chemical pest control, contributing to a more sustainable environment.
Fishing spiders are also an important food source for other animals. Birds, fish, and amphibians all rely on spiders as a part of their diet. By sustaining these predators, fishing spiders contribute to the stability of ecosystems.
However, climate change poses a significant threat to these creatures and their habitats. The impacts on ecosystems include the spread of invasive species, which can adversely affect native spiders.
You can contribute to the conservation of fishing spiders and their ecosystems by:
- Supporting organizations that focus on preserving aquatic environments
- Educating others about the importance of these spiders in maintaining ecosystem balance
- Reducing personal carbon footprint to help mitigate climate change and its effects on aquatic habitats
Remember, maintaining a healthy ecosystem is crucial for the survival of all living organisms, including fishing spiders. Let’s play our part in their conservation and ensure a better environment for future generations.
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 – Fishing Spider
Subject: fishing spider?
Location: Catoctin Mountains, Maryland
May 28, 2012 8:49 pm
I know you’ve had a lot of these lately, but mine was too pretty not to share. I thought she was a wolf spider at first, especially because we have creeks around but the house (she was hanging out over our sliding door) doesn’t have water particularly close to it. I caught her in a glass so my 17-year-old brother could text a picture to his arachnophobic girlfriend… what a romantic… then took a few pictures myself.
This really is a lovely Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. The striping and coloration on the legs is especially nice.
Letter 2 – Fishing Spider: Dolomedes scriptus (but in California???)
this guy has been hanging around the rim of my pool for a few days now, and I didn’t want to squish it out of ignorance. but i can’t figure out what it is. can you help? I live in Bakersfield, CA.
This is a Fishing Spider, and it sure appears to be Dolomedes scriptus. BugGuide has no reports of this species west of the Mississippi River, and its appearance in California has us puzzled though its interest in your pool is understandable once you know a bit about this fascinating genus of harmless, though large spiders.
Letter 3 – Fishing Spider
We live in rural Nova Scotia, near the middle of the Annapolis Valley. We are used to seeing spiders but this one seemed out of place. Any ideas? The picture was taken earlier this week.
The startlingly large spiders in the genus Dolomedes are commonly called Fishing Spiders or Nursery Web Spiders. The former name comes from the fact that they can dive below the water and capture small fish. The latter name comes from the maternal habits of the mother who is one of the most protective of all species of spiders.
Letter 4 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider
Took a photo of this lovely spider last summer but it got lost in the reams of electronic image files until recently. Can you confirm that this is a wolf spider? Neighbor swears it is.
Your neighbor is wrong. This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. They are large spiders capable of diving beneath the surface of the water where they can catch small fish. They are almost always found close to water and various species range from Canada to the Southern states.
Letter 5 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider
Hello, Mr. Bugman!
I have checked your site (a great place!) but I haven’t seen anything about the image I sent. (I probably missed it. I can feel myself getting embarrassed already!) Anyway, I will rely on your patience and understanding and ask again, what kind of spider is this? (I’m getting a lot of questions–still!–about this photo! It’s my background on my computer.)
Ed. Note Originally Sent: (10/25/2005) another spider
Thank you for your very interesting site. I find it very easy to use and I enjoyed reading about the spiders that were identified. I, too, found a spider that came in with the wood for the stove in the cottage. After much squealing, I persuaded the spider to get into a glass and placed it outside. I’ve attached a photo of the spider outside. The cottage is about half a mile from Georgian Bay, in Ontario, Canada. I’m sure it’s just an ordinary spider, but it caused a lot of excitement when I showed the photo at the office. I heard theories from wolf to wood to dock spider. Could you tell me what it is? (I think I may have just emailed you — in error — without the image. My apologies! The image, I promise, is now attached.)
Please forgive us. Your original letter probably got lost in transition. Our old webhost was not dependable, and often we lost service at the end of the month. This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. Dock Spider is probably a local name.
Letter 6 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider
Hi! I think your website is fantastic and I wanted to positively identify this spider. I found it on our house (spanning a good 4 inches) in western NC and thought it might be a fishing spider. What do you think?
You are correct. This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider, probably Dolomedes scriptus. Eric Eaton just corrected us: ” The fishing spider posted most recently is not D. scriptus, but Dolomedes tenebrosus in all likelihood. D. tenebrosus is usually found away from water, not so most of the others in the genus.”
Letter 7 – Dolomedes Fishing Spider
Cool website….and here’s one for you.
Hi there bugman,
We went camping this weekend and found this lovely specimen in Emilie’s tent. (She was not too happy about it.) From your site, the closest shot I can find is the Dolomedes Fishing Spider. Could that be it? What do you think? It wasn’t super fast and had red striping on the legs…..well, you can see for yourselves. Thanks for any info you might have. We were at a campground in the woods near a lake in S. Missouri.
You are correct. This is a Dolomedes Fishing Spider.
Letter 8 – Fishing Spider and Brood XIX comment
Howling at the Moon?
Location: Mount Zion, Illinois
June 24, 2011 9:17 pm
My husband found this spider in the basement, and after he’d finished yelling (screaming), he was kind enough to let me take a few pictures. I’ve been through bugguide.net and your website and my field guides, so here’s my question: Is it a wolf spider (genus Pardosa)? Is it a fishing spider (genus Dolomedes)? If it’s a wolf spider, it’s the largest I’ve ever seen…definitely large enough to howl at the moon with the real wolves. 😉
She was released outside in the woods.
PS – In response to your editor’s note about Brood XIX on the cicada page, they were quite prevalent here. The sound outside was deafening. When they first started emerging, I walked by a small bush that had at least 30 molting within a square foot. Their emergence and subsequent disappearance was quick but amazing!
Signature: Michelle B
This sure looks like a Fishing Spider, probably Dolomedes tenebrosus, to us. We are happy you came to your husband’s rescue and that you relocated this harmless, but frightening looking predator. Thanks so much for your comment on Brood XIX.
Letter 9 – Fishing Spider
Subject: Bugman, first time questioner
May 26, 2012 5:00 pm
To the bug expert, my friend took a pic of this spider sitting next to her on some rocks. It took her a while to notice that it was quietly sitting next to her. Was she in serious danger???
Yes actually. Near a lake she tells me.
Letter 10 – Fishing Spider
Subject: Large Huntsman Spider in Michigan?
Location: Southwest Michigan
May 26, 2012 9:10 pm
Could you please identify this large spider that is working the night shift outside our house in Southwest Michigan? It is May and 70-80degrees during the day. The second picture measures the lines on the concrete at 4 inches apart. I have never seen anything this size in 50 years here. Thank you.
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. Despite the large size, they are harmless. Fishing Spiders are well represented on our website.
Letter 11 – Fishing Spider
Subject: Wolf or Fishing Spider
Location: north of Pittsburgh, PA
May 28, 2012 6:52 am
Dear Bugman. This beauty showed up on my parents’ porch in Western PA, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. No water sources nearby, but it’s much larger (and seemed a slightly different shape) than the wolf spiders I’me familiar with in this area. Possibly a fishing spider out looking for prey, since it’s been so dry around here lately? Regardless, after it sat for it’s portrait, we just let it sit there, despite my mom’s dismay.
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. Though they prefer to live near water, it isn’t always the case.
Letter 12 – Fishing Spider
Subject: Fishing Spider, but which one?
Location: Slade, KY; Red River Gorge
August 20, 2012 9:29 am
I can not pin down exactly what this guy (or girl?) is. Pretty sure it is a fishing spider, though it was at about 1200 above sea level with no water anywhere near by. It was unintentionally fending off intruders from an outhouse. She was the biggest spider I have seen yet with a body of almost an inch and a half in length.
We believe this is Dolomedes tenebrosus. Compare this image on BugGuide.
Letter 13 – Fishing Spider
Subject: Big Spider in Maryland
Location: Gaithersburg, MD
March 25, 2013 6:15 pm
I didn’t see this one, but my wife found it on our back porch earlier today. It’s March here, and we’d just had an unseasonable snowfall. This guy was hiding under one of the cushions on the lawn furniture. He was about 3 to 4 inches across, and alive but not moving all too fast in the cold weather.
This magnificent creature is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. Despite the large size, Fishing Spiders are harmless.
Thank you for such a quick response! I’ll let my kids know (4 year old twin boys) — they were more than a little freaked out when they saw it.
Letter 14 – Fishing Spider
Subject: 3” Spider found in VT!
Location: Vermont, USA
May 29, 2013 2:21 am
Hi there! Although I am deathly afraid of spiders, I make a habit of identifying the ones that I find to better know my enemy. lol But this one that my friend found has eluded me. She says its 3” in size! That’s gotta be the biggest spider I’ve heard of anyone finding around here. She lives in a very country part of the state, lots of woods and mountains surround where she is (but I live further north in a more populated area). We would love to know what kind of spider this is. Her because she has dogs and would like to know if its poisonous, and me as I mentioned to better know my enemy species. 🙂
This is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes. They are large and impressive spiders that are often found near water. The more you read about them, the less you will fear them and we hope you will eventually learn to appreciate them. Female Fishing Spiders have strong maternal instincts and they guard their eggs and young. Though they might bite, they are not aggressive and they are not considered dangerous to either humans or pets. Since we will be away from the office in early June, we are postdating this submission to go live at that time.
Letter 15 – Fishing Spider
Subject: Six Spotted Fishing Spider?
Location: West Milford, NJ
July 2, 2013 4:11 pm
I moved to NJ from WI about 3 years ago. I chose a house in Northern NJ, close to work but still in the woods. I’ve seen large insects & arachnids in WI. I used to play with Walking Sticks the size of a pencil when I was a kid.
Always amazed by Wolf Spiders. Recently learned their ability to overwinter. Even more astounding.
Then I started finding extremely large spiders around my house.
Especially near the creek by my house. With heavy rains as of late, I managed to find a corpse along the bank today. I’ve caught these before, but let them all go after a day or two of studying them. I’m almost positive this is a female Six Spotted Fishing spider. I watched one catch minnows one night, hanging off a rock in the current. Using its ”toes” it would lure the fish in. When the fish took a sample from its leg, it attacked, only losing one hook, to have a sushi meal.
I wanted to share this corpse, because of sheer size. I can’t get, or don’t want to, get close enough for pictures. These things are fast. And seem to have the intelligence & ability to jump from point to point. (Short distance, small gaps)
But at this size, a short distance can be 4+ inches!!
I’ve never seen spiders this large in an area with 4 months of winter. I’ve seen them on the side of the house, and some were larger than this….
Signature: Jordan S. Phillips
Based on this photo from BugGuide, we are more inclined to identify this as Dolomedes vittatus, not the Six Spotted Fishing Spider. Thanks so much for providing our readers with your amazing observations on the fishing habits of a Fishing Spider.
Letter 16 – Fishing Spider
Subject: Wolf Spider???
Location: Snow Hill, MD 21863
September 22, 2013 2:05 pm
Hi! I believe this is a wolf spider of some kind. I live on the Eastern Shore of MD, near Ocean City. He was absolutely GORGEOUS and I’ve never seen one like him around here! He was huge!!!! About the size of my palm (including his legs). He was very skittish, so I tried not to disturb him when I took the picture. I would love to know for sure if it is a wolf spider. I’m pretty sure that’s the largest kind we have here. I just wish he’d have let me get a better picture.
Signature: Crissi 🙂
This magnificent spider is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes.
Letter 17 – Bug of the Month April 2017: Six Spotted Fishing Spider
Subject: Fishing spider?
Location: Southeast texas
April 1, 2017 8:01 am
I have a backyard pool that we don’t clean or put chemicals in during the winter, so by the time spring comes the pool is full of life. After a storm came a trash bag flew into the pool and when I pulled it out it had this guy on it. From his (or her?) distinctive spots I assume it’s a 6 spotted fishing spider, but I’m not sure. The spider would have had its legs hanging a few mm off of a quarter if he had been standing on one. Around the edge of the pool I have been finding dried out dead spiders stuck on the side with a little bit of webbing. Could those be what this guy leaves behind? How big can these spiders get? Thanks!
We agree that this is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton, a species that is generally found near a body of water, and it sounds like your dormant swimming pool has been a perfect environment for her. Since it sounds like you are getting ready to clean the pool, we hope you are able to relocate this beauty so that she can live out her life and produce progeny. The “dried out dead spiders” you describe might have been prey, or they might have been cast off exoskeletons left behind when this individual molted. Since it is the first of the month, we will be selecting your submission as the Bug of the Month for April 2017.