Where Do Fishing Spiders Live? Exploring Their Natural Habitats

Fishing spiders are fascinating creatures that can often be found near bodies of water. They belong to the genus Dolomedes, and their name comes from their unique ability to catch small fish and aquatic insects from the water as they walk on the surface. In order to understand where these spiders live, it’s essential to know about their habitat preferences and behavior.

Primarily, fishing spiders reside near ponds, swamps, or slow-moving streams. They’re typically seen in areas with abundant vegetation and water, where they can blend in with their surroundings to ambush their prey. The positioning of their habitat also allows them to escape predators, making it an ideal place for them to thrive.

Where Fishing Spiders Live

Fishing spiders are fascinating creatures with a unique habitat. They can be found in various parts of North America, including Canada, Florida, and Texas. Their preferred habitat is near water, as their name suggests.

You can often spot these spiders near wetlands, where they seek shelter in stones and loose bark. This provides them with excellent camouflage and access to their prey. Fishing spiders are known to catch small fish, aquatic insects, and tadpoles 1.

In your area, you may find fishing spiders living near:

  • Lakes
  • Ponds
  • Streams
  • Marshes

Having aquatic homes also gives them the advantage of hunting on both land and water. It’s not uncommon to see fishing spiders running across the water’s surface, thanks to their ability to trap air bubbles on their legs 2.

It’s fascinating how well-adapted these spiders are to life near water, but it’s important to remember that they can still be found elsewhere. While wetlands may provide the ideal hunting grounds for fishing spiders, they’re also capable of living in other locations when needed.

Overview of Fishing Spiders

Fishing spiders, in the genus Dolomedes, are an interesting group of spiders within the Pisauridae family. These spiders are similar to wolf spiders in terms of their size and coloration. Their legs, however, are usually longer than those of wolf spiders. What sets them apart from other spiders is their unique hunting behavior, which includes walking on water and capturing prey such as small fish and aquatic insects.

Fishing spiders have a widespread distribution and can be found in various regions, including Florida and Texas. They are known by several other names, such as dock spiders, wharf spiders, raft spiders, and nursery web spiders. While the spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) and the dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) are among the most common species, other species like D. scriptus can also be encountered.

Some key characteristics to help identify fishing spiders include:

  • Brownish-gray or brown markings on their bodies.
  • Alternating bands of brown or black on their legs, which are longer compared to other spider species.
  • Foremost legs have unique hair structures and claws adapted for walking on water.

These arachnids are hydrophobic, which enables them to walk on water without sinking, taking advantage of their remarkable vision and hunting behavior. They can be found near water sources such as lakes, streams, and ponds or in other habitats like stones and loose bark.

When it comes to reproduction, female fishing spiders protect their egg sacs until the spiderlings are ready to venture out on their own. Although these spiders may seem intimidating due to their size and appearance, they are generally shy and not aggressive towards humans.

In summary, fishing spiders are fascinating arachnids with unique hunting abilities and notable features that set them apart from other spider species. Their distribution, behavior, and characteristics make them an intriguing subject for those interested in learning more about the diverse world of spiders.

Behaviour and Adaptations

Fishing spiders, belonging to the Pisauridae family, are known for their unique adaptations that allow them to thrive near water. These spiders can be found in wetlands and areas with aquatic habitats.

Their hunting behavior involves catching prey both on land and in water. They can capture small fish, tadpoles, and aquatic insects with agility, thanks to their hydrophobic legs that utilize surface tension. You might even spot them running across water in pursuit of a meal.

Fishing spiders don’t rely on a web to catch prey; instead, they have incredible vision and use vibrations to locate downed insects. They can sense the slightest disturbance on the water’s surface, making them efficient predators. Some common prey includes crickets and dragonflies.

In terms of defense, they can unleash a potent bite. Their venom incapacitates insects and small vertebrates, while their strong chelicerae ensure a secure grip. However, despite their potency, their bites are rarely harmful to humans. Fishing spiders are also fierce defenders of their egg sacs, protecting them from predators like wasps.

Now, let’s compare Fishing Spiders with Wolf Spiders:

Attribute Fishing Spiders Wolf Spiders
Habitat Aquatic areas, wetlands Terrestrial environments
Hunting method Vision, vibrations Good vision, crawling
Prey Aquatic insects, tadpoles, small fish Insects, small invertebrates
Web usage No web No web
Reproduction Protect egg sacs Carry young on their backs

Fishing spiders’ adaptations related to living near water set them apart from other spider species, such as the wolf spider. From their waterproof legs to their keen sense of hunting on water’s surface, these arachnids truly embody remarkable adaptations to survive and thrive in their environment.

Diet

Fishing spiders, specifically Dolomedes tenebrosus, have a diverse diet primarily consisting of aquatic insects and small fish. They are known for being skilled predators, capable of capturing and consuming a variety of prey.

As a fishing spider, you will find them hunting for food near the water’s edge, and their diet includes:

  • Insects: Fishing spiders prey on insects like water striders, crickets, and dragonflies.
  • Small fish: Although they primarily focus on insects, these spiders also catch small fish when they have the opportunity.
  • Frogs: Occasionally, you might observe a fishing spider feasting on a frog.

These spiders are not without their enemies, though. Birds and snakes are known to prey on fishing spiders.

Here’s a comparison table highlighting some features of the fishing spider diet:

Prey Frequency Hunting Strategy
Aquatic Insects Most Common Ambushing near the water’s edge
Small Fish Less Common Ambushing in shallow water
Frogs Occasional Stealth by hiding and waiting

With their wide-ranging diet, fishing spiders are adept predators in their environment. Remember, these fascinating creatures are a crucial part of the ecosystem and should be appreciated for their role in controlling insect populations near bodies of water.

Reproduction and Lifecycle

Fishing spiders, such as the Spotted Fishing Spider and D. tenebrosus, have a unique reproduction process. Let’s delve into key aspects of their lifecycle.

During mating season, the female spider creates an egg sac that contains her fertilized eggs. This is an essential part of the reproduction process. The egg sac provides protection, keeping the eggs secure from predators and environmental conditions.

As a parent, you’d appreciate how the mother Fishing Spider takes care of her offspring. She holds onto the egg sac until the spiderlings are ready to hatch. Once they’re prepared, she finds an ideal location to establish a nursery web. The web acts as a safe space for the newborns, ensuring they have a comfortable start in life.

Nursery webs serve multiple purposes:

  • Protection from predators
  • Shelter from harsh weather
  • A place for the spiderlings to molt and grow

These spiderlings soon embark on their journey, leaving the safety of the nursery web. As they mature, they’ll continue the cycle of reproduction in their natural habitats, such as the areas surrounding ponds or in wooded environments.

In summary, Fishing Spider reproduction involves creating egg sacs, protecting the eggs, and establishing nursery webs. This efficient process ensures the survival and growth of the next generation of these fascinating spiders.

Physical Characteristics

Fishing spiders, belonging to the Pisauridae family, display a variety of unique physical characteristics. Some common features include:

  • Size: They are generally large, with some species having a similar size to wolf spiders.
  • Color: Their color ranges from brownish gray to black, often with brown markings.
  • Abdomen: Their abdomen is usually elongated and may have distinctive patterns.

These spiders also exhibit some differences in terms of their legs. The femora and tibia are generally quite robust, and they are equipped with sharp claws

Species Diversity and Distribution

Fishing spiders belong to the genus Dolomedes and are known for their aquatic abilities. They are often found near water and

Footnotes

  1. https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/habitat/waspiders.aspx

  2. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/aquatic-spiders

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 – Possibly Fishing Spider from Costa Rica

 

Subject: Big-ass spider
Location: Manzanillo, Costa Rica
April 21, 2016 1:46 am
So I was fortunate enough to have a visit from this gal (I’m assuming) on my mosquito net over my bed. No mosquitos getting to me tonight!!
Was taken back by the sheer size…. but how impressive!! This is in Manzanillo, Costa Rica.
BTW….. not that I’m taking chances, what kind of spider is she and is she seriously poisonous? Thanks!!!
Signature: Arachnid lover

Possibly Fishing Spider
Possibly Fishing Spider

Dear Arachnid Lover,
We often try to guess an identity prior to viewing the images, and we were certain you were inquiring about a Huntsman Spider, but the front two pairs of legs on your spider are two short for a Huntsman.  We believe your spider may be a Nursery Web Spider in the family Pisauridae, and it reminds us of a North American Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  Fishing Spiders are quite large, but perfectly harmless.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  We have not had much luck finding Costa Rican examples online.  The young lady in the image looks quite enthralled with the spider.

Possibly Fishing Spider
Possibly Fishing Spider

Thank-you very much for the information.  It too, reminds me of the spiders that come up from under the dock in the summertime!   The critters down here are a bug lovers paradise!

Some people call Fishing Spiders, by the name Dock Spider.

Letter 2 – Fishing Spider from Costa Rica

 

Subject: fishing spider
Location: costa rica
March 27, 2013 12:30 am
I found on your amazing website it’s Dolomedes.
Do you have a latin name for it?
fred
Signature: fred from belgium

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Hi Fred,
This does appear to be one of the Nursery Web Spiders, but we cannot say for certain if it is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  We are postdating this submission to post live to our site in the coming week as we will be away from the office a few days for the holidays.

Hi Daniel!
I hope you had a good holiday… a time ago…
Do you remember my question about a (probably) fishing spider?
I’ll put is again on the website, ok?
thanks a lot
bye
fred

Hi Fred,
We did have a nice holiday and we were never able to determine a more accurate identification for your spider.  It does remind us more of
Trechalea gertschi than the Dolomedes species we are used to posting.  We will contact Mandy Howe to see if she can provide an identificaton.

Letter 3 – Fishing Spider from Idaho

 

Subject: what kinda spider is this
Location: Boise Idaho
November 1, 2012 12:00 am
Found this spider in Western Idaho in October. It’s body is about .75”n inches and the legs bring to about 3.5”. can you identify what type of spider this could be. Thanks so much.
Signature: Sherin

Fishing Spider

Hi Sherin,
This looks like a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, but the only species BugGuide lists in Idaho is Dolomedes triton, the Six Spotted Fishing Spider, and your individual is not that species.  So while we are confident with the genus, we cannot provide a species identification.  This might be a significant sighting.

Thanks for getting back with me so quickly. This was spotted at our sisters house who just moved from Spokane Washington. So is it a spider that could have come with them in their stuff? Thanks again for your help.
-Sherin

There are many more eastern species.  We still think this is a significant sighting and we doubt it is from Spokane.

Letter 4 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

Spider in Ohio
Well we have been finding spiders in the house lately and came here to find out what they are. Turns out they are wolf spiders…. Oh joy … NOT lol I must say I am NOT a fan of spiders. More the fact I am scared to death of them. Even coming to this site was very hard to do. lol But seeing I am here I wanted to asked you about one we saw in Meigs County in Ohio. At the end of a parking lot of a motel we stayed at there is a swampy area with cat tails and the sort. I saw some bird flying around a big puddle in the parking lot. When I went to see what they were looking at, I saw a spider. It was completly underwater and moving to the edge quickly. Size wise I guess I would say with legs included around 2 inches or so. I am sending a picture of it which shows the marking pretty good …Well as good as I could get with not wanting to get to close. Yes ME taking a picture of a spider. Guess it impressed me. lol

This is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton. These amazing spiders are associated with wetlands, and they are capable of spending periods of time underwater, either to escape predators, like birds, or to catch prey, including small fish.

Letter 5 – Whitish Dolomedes

 

Need Identification Help on Spider
Dear Bugman,
I was wondering if you could help me identify this particular spider. I live in Northeast Texas, about 10 feet off of a river. I at first thought it was some sort of wolf spider but its coloring was not the brown I am used to seeing. The silver color really jumped out and caught my attention, especially against the brown background. I can’t imagine this sneaking up on anything! J Also, does his stance (4 front legs together and forward) imply anything or is he just resting? Thanks for your time and help.
Gina
P.S. The board he is hanging out on is a 2×4 underneath my porch.

Hi Gina,
You have a fishing spider from the genus Dolomedes. These large spiders are usually found near water and are capable of catching small fish. I’m guessing your species is Dolomedes albineus, commonly called the Whitish Dolomedes. “This is a large species,” according to Comstock, “closely allied to D. tenebrosus. The female is easily recognized by a yellowish longitudinal band edged with black on the ventral (ed. note: your view is dorsal) aspect of the abdomen. … This is a Southern species. Hentz states that it does not dwell habitually in caves and cellars, but is usually found on the trunks of trees, yet in dark, shady places.” The stance appears to be a resting position.

Letter 6 – Northern Dolomedes

 

Huge Spider??
I live in Calvert County, Maryland and I found this HUGE spider hanging on the brick of my front porch. There is no web around and it looks like he live in a space behind the brick. Can you tell me what this might be??
Thanks,
Freaked out
Autumn

Don’t be freaked out Autumn,
Your Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes scriptus, is probably more afraid than you are. These are beautiful spiders which do not build a web, preferring to stalk prey. The female cares for her young in a very maternal manner. These spiders are also commonly called Fishing Spiders and Nursery Web Spiders since the only time they make a web is to care for their young. They are capable of catching small fish and are often found near water.

Letter 7 – Northern Dolomedes

 

Would love to know what spider this is and if it should be relocated?
Thank you,
Jennifer Stevens

Hi Jennifer,
We are craving more information, like exact size and location. Our guess is that you have photographed a beautiful Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes scriptus, or possibly the Dark Dolomedes, Dolomedes tenebrosus, in late afternoon sunlight. These spiders are related to Wolf Spiders and are sometimes called Diving Spiders. They are quite large. This is one of the larger species and is common in the North. Please do not kill your beautiful spider, and rather relocate it.

Good Morning Daniel,
I live in Soutern New Jersey and please do not worry I would only relocate her were she dangerous. Seeing as how she has been totally non-aggressive to me while taking her photos I am happy to let her raise her babies in my yard. I will be wearing shoes in the yard from now on LOL She is about 3 inches in diameter She was back on the dryer spout last night if she is there again tonight I will try to get afew more shots of her. I was also told my another bug guy that he thought it was a “fishing spider” thanx,
jennifer

Hi again Jennifer,
I’m so happy to hear you will be cohabitating. Dolomedes are also called fishing spiders or diving spiders. The large ones can dive below the surface of a pond and capture a small fish. They are very maternal, with the mother spider caring for her spiderlings, allowing them to crawl on her back for several days after emerging from the eggsac she also carries.

Letter 8 – Dolomedes triton

 

I think I’ve identified it on my own!
Thanks for your help!
x Danielle

Hi Danielle,
We are wondering what you think you have here. This is definitely a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. The silvery white line around the cephalothorax is a good indication this is Dolomedes triton, but the spots on the abdomen seem to be missing. That is still our best guess at a species identification as it doesn’t resemble any other Dolomedes.

Letter 9 – Fishing Spider with NEW LEGS!!!!!

 

Can you identify this for me…?
I’m curious about this spider. Is it a fishing spider. It was on the side of the dock early in the a.m. at Little Lake St. Joseph in Muskoka Ontario. Interesting site! Have it bookmarked now
Thanks
Theresa Durning

Hi Theresa,
Your spider is indeed a Fishing Spider, one of the Dolomedes species. It does illustrate an interesting aspect of spider physiology since it has regrown two legs. According to Comstock: “The Reproduction of Lost Organs.– The reproducing of legs that have been lost by immature spiders is frequently observed. If a leg be lost by a young spider the wound soon heals, and at the succeeding mount the bud of a new leg appears. This bud increases in size at each succeeding moult; and in time, if the process begins early enough in the life of the spider, a functional leg is obtained.” In your image, the two middle legs on the left (the spider’s right) have regenerated. Your photograph is a very interesting addition to our site.

Letter 10 – Fishing Spider or Common Water Spider from Australia

 

Fishing Spider
Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 8:56 PM
Hi Guys,
Got this lovely lady in my garden today. She is Dolomedes instabilis, in the Pisauridae family of fishing spiders, although many in the family never go near water but build nests amongst green leaves, as this one is doing on a chili plant. Have a merry Xmas and a Happy New Year all.
aussietrev
Queensland, Australia

Common Water Spider from Australia
Common Water Spider from Australia

Hi Trevor,
This is very exciting.  We were not aware that Dolemedes Fishing Spiders were found in Australia.  We are linking to the Brisbane Insect Web Site and another page on the same site that calls the species the Common Water Spider.

Letter 11 – Fishing Spider

 

Is this a fishing spider?
Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 7:24 PM
We had a pond in our front yard and have swamp land surrounding us. But this guy lives on and under our deck. About 1 foot from our back door. He can see me coming and ducks under the deck planks when i get to close. I’d estimate him to be 3 or 4 inches from toe to toe. He is very scary! At first a wolf spider was all that came to mind.
Sam
Central New Jersey

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Hi Sam,
This is a magnificent specimen of the Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes tenebrosus, one of the Fishing Spiders. They are generally found near water and the species is capable of submerging itself both to escape predators and to capture prey which may include small fish.

Letter 12 – Fishing Spider with egg sac

 

Giant spider the size of my hand
July 29, 2009
Hi WTB- My family was heading out to our above ground pool to swim on a VERY hot afternoon- approx 95 degrees F. When my husband noticed a GIANT spider sitting on top of the railing with an egg sack. I think its facinating the kids think its gross 🙂 She wasn’t hurting anything- so I got out my camera got some good pix; and then gently moved her to our wood pile with a stick which she gladly grabbed onto without fighting…. maybe you can tell us what she is.
Sincerely, Amanda and the Weikel family
Collegeville, Pennsylvania

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Amanda and Weikel Family,
This Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus, is perfectly harmless, though we expect she would try to defend her egg sac if you threatened.  Fishing Spiders are generally found near water and they are capable of diving beneath the surface to escape predators or to hunt prey.  They can catch small fish underwater.  Fishing Spiders carry their egg sacs around in their chelicerae or jaws, as opposed to Wolf Spider that drag the egg sac behind them on a silk thread.  We hope your children learn your tolerance of the lower beasts.

Letter 13 – Fishing Spider with Spiderlings

 

Spider, nursery web, egg sack
September 7, 2009
I photographed this spider near a creek in Maple Grove, MN – at the Maple Grove Arboretum.
Michelle Whitney
Maple Grove MN

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Michelle,
Your spider is a Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus.  Her eggs have hatched and it appears that some of the spiderlings may have already molted.

Letter 14 – Possibly Six Spotted Fishing Spider in Costa Rica

 

graceful brown tropical spider
March 28, 2010
This spider was basking on a leaf in the Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica last summer. It was a little larger than a quarter, including its legs, and didn’t even flinch when I got up-close and personal with my camera. Do you know what kind of spider it is?
Thanks!
Jenny
costa Rica, Pacific Coast

Six Spotted Fishing Spider, we believe

Hi Jenny,
This sure looks to us like a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton.  As we write this, we are not certain if the species ranges to Costa Rica.  We are linking to an image on BugGuide that looks very close.  The Six Spotted Fishing Spider is rarely found far from water, and it is one of the most aquatic members of the genus.  Was there a body of water near where the photo was taken?

Thanks for the quick response!  There was a body of water very nearby.  I found
the spider on a path about 100 yards or so from the Pacific Ocean, and there
are several springs nearby as well.

Calm ponds are the preferred habitat.

Letter 15 – Fishing Spider: Molting or Mating???

 

Fishing Spider – Dolomedes scriptus?
May 25, 2010
Searched tons of images and dolomedes scriptus is the closest I can find. It appears the 2 spiders mated and the female consumed the male. The 2 of them were hanging from the flagstone at the edge of our pond. I also have a short 10 second video I shot of them.
R. Kitchen
Angus, Ontario

Molting Fishing Spider

Dear R. Kitchen,
Wow, these photos are awesome.  We believe you have correctly identified these Fishing Spiders as Dolomedes scriptus based on images and information on BugGuide.  At first we ran with your mating and cannibalism scenario, but upon closer inspection, we believe you have documented the aftermath of a Fishing Spider molting.  Spiders do not mate like insects do.  Rather, a male spider transfers his spermatazoa to the female with his pedipalps.  We would really love to get feedback from an arachnologist regarding your documentation.  We have yet to post any videos to our website, and if you would like to submit your video, we will discuss the matter with our webmaster as to how best to showcase it on our site.  Thank you again for submitting these phenomenal images.

Molting Fishing Spider

Thanks to everyone who corrected our error.  In our haste to post this letter and photos, we incorrectly indicated that the male transfers his spermatozoa with chelicera rather than his pedipalps.  We have made the correction.

Very cool!  Yes, a molting Dolomedes species….By the way, males transfer sperm with their “pedipalps,” not their jaws!
Eric

Thanks Daniel for the quick response. It makes a lot more sense and explains why what looked like the other spiders head was on it’s back. The husk was just skin when I inspected it. I also lifted a rock and found a smaller, older husk.
Wish I had more water striders in my pond for it to feed on (ther’s only one). It’s sitting there just waiting for something to pass by.
How should I get the video in and would you have a preferred format?
I’m also taking some more shots of it if you’re interested.
Thanks,
Richard

Hi Richard,
Our website traffic has suddenly spiked, and there are many unanswered letters in our mailbox right now.  If the photos you take are awesome, try sending them, and hopefully we will be able to post them.

Fishing Spider

Attached are 2 additional images showing the spider head on.

Fishing Spider

Letter 16 – Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

 

Nursery Web Spider? With egg case
Location: Central Illinois
June 20, 2011 9:21 pm
This beautiful spider was found on the bottom on a mower that was sitting in a grass area next to a forest. We think it’s some kind of nursery web spider but would like a positive ID. Thanks in advance for your help.
We love your web site!
Signature: Spider Fan

Fishing Spider

Dear Spider Fan,
You are correct that this is a Nursery Web Spider in the family Pisauridae, and we can guarantee, at least based upon the currently accepted taxonomy, that this is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  Furthermore, we believe it is most likely Dolomedes tenebrosus, based on images and information posted on BugGuide.  To try to further clarify things, all members in the family Pisauridae are called Nursery Web Spiders because of the maternal care given to the eggs and spiderlings.  After carrying around her egg sac for some time, the female will find an appropriate location and there she will construct the nursery web and she will continue to guard her eggs and hatchlings.  Members of the genus Dolomedes are called Fishing Spiders because many are found in close proximity to water and some are even capable of diving beneath the surface of the water and capturing aquatic prey.  They can also run across the surface of the water.

Letter 17 – Fishing Spiders and Brown Recluses, Part 2

 

Dark Fishing Spiders- Very helpful in the house
Location:  Wildwood, Missouri
Jun 16, 2011,  11:26 PM
I found a couple photos of the mother spider I kept as a pet and her babies. The mother spider was a joy to have around, I first found her in my grandmother’s basement.  She was one of the best spiders I’ve had as a pet, and I’ve had several wolf spiders and a tarantula. Studying her behavior was a joy, and I kept a journal of her behavior. It was interesting to see how much she liked to eat recluses! She’d pick them over crickets when both were in her box. Since releasing a few of her babies outside the house (Most were released at parks with ponds and lakes), there haven’t been any infestation problems!
Use whichever photos you like on your website. Or none if you don’t like them, I don’t mind either way.
All are named by species and dated by when the photo was taken.
The photos are as follows:
My first sighting of a fishing spider, 1 year before the mother spider.

Female Fishing Spider, April 16, 2010

2 months prior to finding her in the basement- suspect its her. Quarter next to her as size reference.
Mother and Babies, day after the babies emerged from egg sac.
Recluse sighting on the ceiling.
The recluse that gave me a bit of a scare when it came up through the toilet. I actually saw it come up!
Cassie

Fishing Spiderlings, August 3, 2010

Hi Cassie,
We are positively thrilled that you took the time to locate these images.  We are posting half of them with your letter and we are replacing the image of the Fishing Spider on your original posting with another of the images.  You never provided us with a location.  Can you at least provide the state where you took the photos?

 

 

Brown Recluse in the toilet

 

Location is Wildwood, Missouri, just a couple miles from Rockwood Reservation. That was actually one of the places I released some of the babies. I still see some of those that I put in the yard- they love the ground level birdbath on hot days. Being near the reservation means I get to see all sorts of interesting creatures. I’ve raised a wheel bug from the day it hatched, countless wolf spider and mantises, and several other fascinating creepy crawlies. I love monitoring their behaviors, and finding out their favorite foods and environments. I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing bugs, and when I don’t recognize one I’ll set up a habitat for it, identify it, and study it a couple days. My family used to make bets with each other on if I’d be an entomologist, herpetologist, or artist. If I get any more good snapshots of the local bugs, I’ll be sure to send them!

 

Letter 18 – Unknown Spider from Angola

 

BIG spider in Angola
Location: Kikuxi, Luanda, Angola
December 22, 2011 12:38 am
We found this huge spider in our courtyard in Angola, and we just photographed it and left it alone. Later, I wondered whether it was poisonous. I put a match stick in the picture to help with size.
Signature: Dawn in Angola

Unknown Spider from Angola

Dear Dawn,
Almost all spiders have venom, but very few have venom that is toxic enough to be a threat to humans.  We do not recognize your spider, but we are posting your letter and photo in the hope that we might someday identify this interesting looking creature.  Perhaps our readership might be able to provide an identification as well.

Karl provides an identification:  December 29, 2011
Hi Daniel and Dawn:
It looks like a Nursery Web Spider (Pisauridae), perhaps in the genus Euprosthenops. By all accounts they are harmless to humans. Regards. Karl

Letter 19 – Mating Fishing Spiders from Canada

 

Mating fishing spiders!
Location: Northwestern Ontario, Canada
March 15, 2012 9:14 am
Hello! I’m pretty certain these are fishing spiders. I took these pictures on my dock at camp a couple of summers ago. I got to watch the entire process from beginning to end. Really fascinating! Just thought you lovely folks might appreciate these! 🙂
Signature: Valerie

Mating Fishing Spiders

Valerie,
WOW, these are the most sensual and gorgeous photos of mating Spiders we have ever seen.  We may have, somewhere buried in our Bug Love archives,  several mating insect photos that rival them.  This must have been amazing to watch.  Please, Please, Please Valerie, tell us “What was it like?”.

Nursery Web Spiders Mating


Can we just say WOW again?  There are so many legs and appendages including pedipalps in these photos it is difficult to determine exactly what is going on.  We don’t know if there are many photos in the world of mating Fishing Spiders in the genus
Dolomedes in the world, but these have to be among the best.  Should we ever make a Bug Love calendar, at least one or two of them have to be included.
Daniel
P.S. We just received, to a letter we posted inquiring if a child starting an insect collection might be considered Unnecessary Carnage, a comment extolling the virtues of documenting insects not by a collection but by digital photos.  This is a perfect example of how mounted or preserved specimens are paled by a comparison to action photos.

Procreating Dolomedes Dock Spiders

 

Letter 20 – Fishing Spider released in Maryland

 

Colossal creepy crawly
Location: Northern Central Maryland
April 16, 2012 11:04 pm
Yikes! Found this guy in our basement as I was coming down to put some tools away. I can’t say that I blame him, it was up to about 90 degrees outside and humid, where this basement stays nice and cool. Spider was caught and released (down the street… by the lady’s request) in Maryland. The striped legs make me think that it’s a wolf spider, btu the rest of the markings don’t particularly line up.
It was actually remarkably large compared to the quarter in this picture, but at least you can see the markings a little more nicely. Thanks in advance!
Signature: -DG

Fishing Spider

Dear DG,
Because you took the time to relocate this beautiful Fishing Spider, we are tagging your post with the Bug Humanitarian Award.  Fishing Spider or Dock Spiders are generally found near water.  They are capable of diving beneath the surface to escape predators and they are even known to prey upon small fish and other aquatic creatures.  Fishing Spiders in the genus
Dolomedes are classified as Nursery Web Spiders because they don’t built webs to snare prey, but rather to provide a habitat for their offspring.

Letter 21 – Possibly Fish Catching Spider from Ecuador

 

Subject: Spider
Location: Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Ecuador
November 5, 2012 5:53 pm
I would see this spider in almost the same location every day in the Amazon basin in Ecuador, and I never saw a web. I am very curious as to what species of spider this is, and if you could help me out I would greatly appreciate it!
Signature: Sam

Possibly Fish Catching Spider

Hi Sam,
Our first inclination was to speculate on the possibility that this is some species of Huntsman Spider or Giant Crab Spider in the family Sparassidae since they are often large and do not build webs, but as we began to try to find a matching image on the internet, we stumbled upon this spider identified as a Fish Catching Spider on Ed Germaine’s Photography website.  Clicking on the thumbnail reveals this marvelous photo which looks very similar to your photo.  We then speculated that perhaps the spider in your photo is related to the Fishing Spiders and Nursery Web Spiders in the family Pisauridae.  They also do not build webs to snare prey.  We wish you had a photo that showed the eye structure more clearly.  We are going to post your photo and we hope that some expert can confirm either of the two possibilities we have come up with or provide a correction.  Even better, perhaps someone can narrow the identification to the genus or species instead of just two possible families.

Possibly Fish Catching Spider

Eric Eaton Responds
Daniel:
I do not have an opinion.  There are entire families of spiders found in South America that do not occur here in the United States, so extrapolating is rather dangerous.  Very nice specimen, a male, and not something I recognize as dangerously venomous.
Eric

Letter 22 – Fishing Spider, we believe

 

Subject: Huntsman Spider in West Virginia?
Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
December 25, 2012 10:51 am
Hello! I came home one evening to find this beauty on my front door! I live in Harpers Ferry, WV, and have never encountered one like this. He/she was black, about an inch long in the body (about three to four inches overall), black and shiny. It was aggressive, rearing up at me when I shined a flashlight on it. This photo was taken the first week of December when we had an unseasonable warm spell. Your help with identification would be greatly appreciated!!
Signature: L. in West Virginia

Possibly Fishing Spider

Dear L.,
We do not know of any black Huntsman Spiders found in North America.  Given the size you describe, our best guess is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, but alas, there is not enough detail in your photo to be certain.  When we lightened the image, we could make out striping in the legs which is consistent with the Fishing Spider identification.  Female Fishing Spiders defend their eggs, and the behavior you describe would also support the possibility that this is a female Fishing Spider defending her eggs.  Fishing Spiders, though large and frightening, are perfectly harmless.

Thank you so much! I wondered if this might be a fishing spider as I
live right between the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers…I just never
seen one so far from the actual water and never one this dark in its
coloring! I am glad to know I can let visitors to the area know,
should they see one of these guys wandering around, that they are
perfectly harmless and should be allowed to go about their business.
Score one for the big little creatures of the world!

Letter 23 – Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

 

Subject: Fisher spider??
Location: New jersey
August 18, 2014 11:54 pm
I found this spider in my fireplace about 3 inches from my face while fixing the fireplace in August, northern New Jersey. I released it shortly after this photo session.
Signature: Tom

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Tom,
You have correctly identified a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, but we are uncertain of the species, though if you are located far from water, this is most likely
Dolomedes tenebrosus.  This is a female and she is carrying an egg sac.  Female Fishing Spiders carry an egg sac around until they find a suitable location to spin a nursery web in which to deposit the egg sac.  The female continues to guard the egg sac in the nursery web until she dies or until the egg sac hatches and the spiderlings disperse.  Because of your kindness to this expectant mother Fishing Spider, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Letter 24 – Fishing Spider from New Jersey

 

Subject: My Company’s New Pet
Location: New Jersey
May 24, 2016 7:23 am
Hi Mr. Bugman!
So, We happened upon this little guy/girl at our office in New Jersey, just sitting there on the floor. I was able to be right next to it without it scurrying about, even let me catch it in a cup to let it out outside. Any ideas what it is? It was fairly big compared to most spiders I’m used to seeing around the house or office. I didn’t think to take a picture of it next to anything to compare its size at the time but I know with its legs it was just small enough to fit inside the cup I used. (Picture of cup attached too lol)
Signature: Stef

Male Fishing Spider
Male Fishing Spider

Dear Stef,
Based on the size of his pedipalps, we believe this Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes is a male, and that he is most likely a Northern Fishing SpiderDolomedes tenebrosus, a species generally found near water.  According to BugGuide:  “A study by Schwartz, Wagner & Hebets, August 2013, has found that during mating the male of this species dies.”

Oh wow that was fast! Thank you so much! I thought that’s what it might have been, googling around on the web, but most of the pictures I found showed the spider to be much bigger than the one we had (like the size of my palm or bigger) this guy was much smaller in that regards. Which I suppose the fact that he’s a male would explain that lol
Either way, thanks for clarifying! Now I can ease my coworker’s fears that this spider is not going to put him in the hospital haha
Stef

Letter 25 – Fishing Spider: Female or Male???

 

Subject:  D. tenebrosus, male or female?
Geographic location of the bug:  Ohio
Date: 06/13/2018
Time: 10:00 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello Bug Folks!
I’ve got some wonderful photos of a Dolomedes tenebrosus (Fishing Spider) we caught last night in our Ohio basement. My housemate deals in exotics and this little friend was feasting on escaped crickets, good spider!
It’s actually bigger than some of his tarantulas. Housemate decided to keep it, at least for now.
I thought of you guys immediately, knew you’d want to see the photos (Sharpie marker for scale). I don’t know how dimorphic they are but can you tell if it’s a male or a female? I don’t want to keep calling our guest “it” and “spider,” I feel anybody living with us should have a name. The spider doesn’t care, but I do.
Thanks!
KLeigh

Fishing Spider

Dear KLeigh,
Please use our standard submission form for future submissions.  Our gut instinct is that this is a female Fishing Spider.  Many Spiders can be sexed because males have much more pronounced pedipalps that are used for mating and females are usually larger.  We will attempt to do some further research on telling male and female Fishing Spiders from one another.  Perhaps you will enjoy these images of mating Fishing Spiders from our archives.

Letter 26 – Probably Fishing Spider from Africa

 

Subject:  Spider ID
Geographic location of the bug:  Llubovane Dam, Eswatini, Southern Africa
Date: 02/25/2020
Time: 12:03 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Good day,
Please can you ID these two spiders. The large one is beautiful. They were on a dead tree stump in the dam. The large one was walking down the stump under the water and coming back up, perhaps looking for food?
How you want your letter signed:  Jacqui

Fishing Spider we believe

Dear Jacqui,
The behavior you witnessed, “large one was walking down the stump under the water and coming back up, perhaps looking for food?”, and the markings on the carapace are both consistent with Fishing Spiders from the genus
Dolomedes found in North America, as evidenced by this BugGuide image.  While we have not had any luck locating any similar looking South African members of the genus, according to Wikipedia:  “The second largest number of species occur in tropical Africa.”  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to identify your gorgeous spider to the species level.  We do not know the identity of the smaller Spider in your image.  According to Science Direct:  “Sierwald (1988) examined predatory behavior of the African pisaurid Nilus curtus O.P.-Cambridge (=Thalassius spinosissimus [Karsch]). Its hunting posture is like that of Dolomedes, anchored by one or more hindlegs to an emergent object with its remaining legs spread on surface of water. When disturbed, the spider pulls itself below the surface of the water by crawling down an emergent object. They can remain submerged for up to 35 min. Prey swimming under water (insects, tadpoles) are grabbed by the front legs pushing down through the surface film. Prey trapped by surface tension were jumped on if close enough, or rowed to if further away.”  Members from the genus Nilus pictured on iNaturalist do resemble your individual.

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 – Possibly Fishing Spider from Costa Rica

 

Subject: Big-ass spider
Location: Manzanillo, Costa Rica
April 21, 2016 1:46 am
So I was fortunate enough to have a visit from this gal (I’m assuming) on my mosquito net over my bed. No mosquitos getting to me tonight!!
Was taken back by the sheer size…. but how impressive!! This is in Manzanillo, Costa Rica.
BTW….. not that I’m taking chances, what kind of spider is she and is she seriously poisonous? Thanks!!!
Signature: Arachnid lover

Possibly Fishing Spider
Possibly Fishing Spider

Dear Arachnid Lover,
We often try to guess an identity prior to viewing the images, and we were certain you were inquiring about a Huntsman Spider, but the front two pairs of legs on your spider are two short for a Huntsman.  We believe your spider may be a Nursery Web Spider in the family Pisauridae, and it reminds us of a North American Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  Fishing Spiders are quite large, but perfectly harmless.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  We have not had much luck finding Costa Rican examples online.  The young lady in the image looks quite enthralled with the spider.

Possibly Fishing Spider
Possibly Fishing Spider

Thank-you very much for the information.  It too, reminds me of the spiders that come up from under the dock in the summertime!   The critters down here are a bug lovers paradise!

Some people call Fishing Spiders, by the name Dock Spider.

Letter 2 – Fishing Spider from Costa Rica

 

Subject: fishing spider
Location: costa rica
March 27, 2013 12:30 am
I found on your amazing website it’s Dolomedes.
Do you have a latin name for it?
fred
Signature: fred from belgium

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Hi Fred,
This does appear to be one of the Nursery Web Spiders, but we cannot say for certain if it is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  We are postdating this submission to post live to our site in the coming week as we will be away from the office a few days for the holidays.

Hi Daniel!
I hope you had a good holiday… a time ago…
Do you remember my question about a (probably) fishing spider?
I’ll put is again on the website, ok?
thanks a lot
bye
fred

Hi Fred,
We did have a nice holiday and we were never able to determine a more accurate identification for your spider.  It does remind us more of
Trechalea gertschi than the Dolomedes species we are used to posting.  We will contact Mandy Howe to see if she can provide an identificaton.

Letter 3 – Fishing Spider from Idaho

 

Subject: what kinda spider is this
Location: Boise Idaho
November 1, 2012 12:00 am
Found this spider in Western Idaho in October. It’s body is about .75”n inches and the legs bring to about 3.5”. can you identify what type of spider this could be. Thanks so much.
Signature: Sherin

Fishing Spider

Hi Sherin,
This looks like a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, but the only species BugGuide lists in Idaho is Dolomedes triton, the Six Spotted Fishing Spider, and your individual is not that species.  So while we are confident with the genus, we cannot provide a species identification.  This might be a significant sighting.

Thanks for getting back with me so quickly. This was spotted at our sisters house who just moved from Spokane Washington. So is it a spider that could have come with them in their stuff? Thanks again for your help.
-Sherin

There are many more eastern species.  We still think this is a significant sighting and we doubt it is from Spokane.

Letter 4 – Six Spotted Fishing Spider

 

Spider in Ohio
Well we have been finding spiders in the house lately and came here to find out what they are. Turns out they are wolf spiders…. Oh joy … NOT lol I must say I am NOT a fan of spiders. More the fact I am scared to death of them. Even coming to this site was very hard to do. lol But seeing I am here I wanted to asked you about one we saw in Meigs County in Ohio. At the end of a parking lot of a motel we stayed at there is a swampy area with cat tails and the sort. I saw some bird flying around a big puddle in the parking lot. When I went to see what they were looking at, I saw a spider. It was completly underwater and moving to the edge quickly. Size wise I guess I would say with legs included around 2 inches or so. I am sending a picture of it which shows the marking pretty good …Well as good as I could get with not wanting to get to close. Yes ME taking a picture of a spider. Guess it impressed me. lol

This is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton. These amazing spiders are associated with wetlands, and they are capable of spending periods of time underwater, either to escape predators, like birds, or to catch prey, including small fish.

Letter 5 – Whitish Dolomedes

 

Need Identification Help on Spider
Dear Bugman,
I was wondering if you could help me identify this particular spider. I live in Northeast Texas, about 10 feet off of a river. I at first thought it was some sort of wolf spider but its coloring was not the brown I am used to seeing. The silver color really jumped out and caught my attention, especially against the brown background. I can’t imagine this sneaking up on anything! J Also, does his stance (4 front legs together and forward) imply anything or is he just resting? Thanks for your time and help.
Gina
P.S. The board he is hanging out on is a 2×4 underneath my porch.

Hi Gina,
You have a fishing spider from the genus Dolomedes. These large spiders are usually found near water and are capable of catching small fish. I’m guessing your species is Dolomedes albineus, commonly called the Whitish Dolomedes. “This is a large species,” according to Comstock, “closely allied to D. tenebrosus. The female is easily recognized by a yellowish longitudinal band edged with black on the ventral (ed. note: your view is dorsal) aspect of the abdomen. … This is a Southern species. Hentz states that it does not dwell habitually in caves and cellars, but is usually found on the trunks of trees, yet in dark, shady places.” The stance appears to be a resting position.

Letter 6 – Northern Dolomedes

 

Huge Spider??
I live in Calvert County, Maryland and I found this HUGE spider hanging on the brick of my front porch. There is no web around and it looks like he live in a space behind the brick. Can you tell me what this might be??
Thanks,
Freaked out
Autumn

Don’t be freaked out Autumn,
Your Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes scriptus, is probably more afraid than you are. These are beautiful spiders which do not build a web, preferring to stalk prey. The female cares for her young in a very maternal manner. These spiders are also commonly called Fishing Spiders and Nursery Web Spiders since the only time they make a web is to care for their young. They are capable of catching small fish and are often found near water.

Letter 7 – Northern Dolomedes

 

Would love to know what spider this is and if it should be relocated?
Thank you,
Jennifer Stevens

Hi Jennifer,
We are craving more information, like exact size and location. Our guess is that you have photographed a beautiful Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes scriptus, or possibly the Dark Dolomedes, Dolomedes tenebrosus, in late afternoon sunlight. These spiders are related to Wolf Spiders and are sometimes called Diving Spiders. They are quite large. This is one of the larger species and is common in the North. Please do not kill your beautiful spider, and rather relocate it.

Good Morning Daniel,
I live in Soutern New Jersey and please do not worry I would only relocate her were she dangerous. Seeing as how she has been totally non-aggressive to me while taking her photos I am happy to let her raise her babies in my yard. I will be wearing shoes in the yard from now on LOL She is about 3 inches in diameter She was back on the dryer spout last night if she is there again tonight I will try to get afew more shots of her. I was also told my another bug guy that he thought it was a “fishing spider” thanx,
jennifer

Hi again Jennifer,
I’m so happy to hear you will be cohabitating. Dolomedes are also called fishing spiders or diving spiders. The large ones can dive below the surface of a pond and capture a small fish. They are very maternal, with the mother spider caring for her spiderlings, allowing them to crawl on her back for several days after emerging from the eggsac she also carries.

Letter 8 – Dolomedes triton

 

I think I’ve identified it on my own!
Thanks for your help!
x Danielle

Hi Danielle,
We are wondering what you think you have here. This is definitely a Dolomedes Fishing Spider. The silvery white line around the cephalothorax is a good indication this is Dolomedes triton, but the spots on the abdomen seem to be missing. That is still our best guess at a species identification as it doesn’t resemble any other Dolomedes.

Letter 9 – Fishing Spider with NEW LEGS!!!!!

 

Can you identify this for me…?
I’m curious about this spider. Is it a fishing spider. It was on the side of the dock early in the a.m. at Little Lake St. Joseph in Muskoka Ontario. Interesting site! Have it bookmarked now
Thanks
Theresa Durning

Hi Theresa,
Your spider is indeed a Fishing Spider, one of the Dolomedes species. It does illustrate an interesting aspect of spider physiology since it has regrown two legs. According to Comstock: “The Reproduction of Lost Organs.– The reproducing of legs that have been lost by immature spiders is frequently observed. If a leg be lost by a young spider the wound soon heals, and at the succeeding mount the bud of a new leg appears. This bud increases in size at each succeeding moult; and in time, if the process begins early enough in the life of the spider, a functional leg is obtained.” In your image, the two middle legs on the left (the spider’s right) have regenerated. Your photograph is a very interesting addition to our site.

Letter 10 – Fishing Spider or Common Water Spider from Australia

 

Fishing Spider
Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 8:56 PM
Hi Guys,
Got this lovely lady in my garden today. She is Dolomedes instabilis, in the Pisauridae family of fishing spiders, although many in the family never go near water but build nests amongst green leaves, as this one is doing on a chili plant. Have a merry Xmas and a Happy New Year all.
aussietrev
Queensland, Australia

Common Water Spider from Australia
Common Water Spider from Australia

Hi Trevor,
This is very exciting.  We were not aware that Dolemedes Fishing Spiders were found in Australia.  We are linking to the Brisbane Insect Web Site and another page on the same site that calls the species the Common Water Spider.

Letter 11 – Fishing Spider

 

Is this a fishing spider?
Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 7:24 PM
We had a pond in our front yard and have swamp land surrounding us. But this guy lives on and under our deck. About 1 foot from our back door. He can see me coming and ducks under the deck planks when i get to close. I’d estimate him to be 3 or 4 inches from toe to toe. He is very scary! At first a wolf spider was all that came to mind.
Sam
Central New Jersey

Fishing Spider
Fishing Spider

Hi Sam,
This is a magnificent specimen of the Northern Dolomedes, Dolomedes tenebrosus, one of the Fishing Spiders. They are generally found near water and the species is capable of submerging itself both to escape predators and to capture prey which may include small fish.

Letter 12 – Fishing Spider with egg sac

 

Giant spider the size of my hand
July 29, 2009
Hi WTB- My family was heading out to our above ground pool to swim on a VERY hot afternoon- approx 95 degrees F. When my husband noticed a GIANT spider sitting on top of the railing with an egg sack. I think its facinating the kids think its gross 🙂 She wasn’t hurting anything- so I got out my camera got some good pix; and then gently moved her to our wood pile with a stick which she gladly grabbed onto without fighting…. maybe you can tell us what she is.
Sincerely, Amanda and the Weikel family
Collegeville, Pennsylvania

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Amanda and Weikel Family,
This Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus, is perfectly harmless, though we expect she would try to defend her egg sac if you threatened.  Fishing Spiders are generally found near water and they are capable of diving beneath the surface to escape predators or to hunt prey.  They can catch small fish underwater.  Fishing Spiders carry their egg sacs around in their chelicerae or jaws, as opposed to Wolf Spider that drag the egg sac behind them on a silk thread.  We hope your children learn your tolerance of the lower beasts.

Letter 13 – Fishing Spider with Spiderlings

 

Spider, nursery web, egg sack
September 7, 2009
I photographed this spider near a creek in Maple Grove, MN – at the Maple Grove Arboretum.
Michelle Whitney
Maple Grove MN

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Michelle,
Your spider is a Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus.  Her eggs have hatched and it appears that some of the spiderlings may have already molted.

Letter 14 – Possibly Six Spotted Fishing Spider in Costa Rica

 

graceful brown tropical spider
March 28, 2010
This spider was basking on a leaf in the Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica last summer. It was a little larger than a quarter, including its legs, and didn’t even flinch when I got up-close and personal with my camera. Do you know what kind of spider it is?
Thanks!
Jenny
costa Rica, Pacific Coast

Six Spotted Fishing Spider, we believe

Hi Jenny,
This sure looks to us like a Six Spotted Fishing Spider, Dolomedes triton.  As we write this, we are not certain if the species ranges to Costa Rica.  We are linking to an image on BugGuide that looks very close.  The Six Spotted Fishing Spider is rarely found far from water, and it is one of the most aquatic members of the genus.  Was there a body of water near where the photo was taken?

Thanks for the quick response!  There was a body of water very nearby.  I found
the spider on a path about 100 yards or so from the Pacific Ocean, and there
are several springs nearby as well.

Calm ponds are the preferred habitat.

Letter 15 – Fishing Spider: Molting or Mating???

 

Fishing Spider – Dolomedes scriptus?
May 25, 2010
Searched tons of images and dolomedes scriptus is the closest I can find. It appears the 2 spiders mated and the female consumed the male. The 2 of them were hanging from the flagstone at the edge of our pond. I also have a short 10 second video I shot of them.
R. Kitchen
Angus, Ontario

Molting Fishing Spider

Dear R. Kitchen,
Wow, these photos are awesome.  We believe you have correctly identified these Fishing Spiders as Dolomedes scriptus based on images and information on BugGuide.  At first we ran with your mating and cannibalism scenario, but upon closer inspection, we believe you have documented the aftermath of a Fishing Spider molting.  Spiders do not mate like insects do.  Rather, a male spider transfers his spermatazoa to the female with his pedipalps.  We would really love to get feedback from an arachnologist regarding your documentation.  We have yet to post any videos to our website, and if you would like to submit your video, we will discuss the matter with our webmaster as to how best to showcase it on our site.  Thank you again for submitting these phenomenal images.

Molting Fishing Spider

Thanks to everyone who corrected our error.  In our haste to post this letter and photos, we incorrectly indicated that the male transfers his spermatozoa with chelicera rather than his pedipalps.  We have made the correction.

Very cool!  Yes, a molting Dolomedes species….By the way, males transfer sperm with their “pedipalps,” not their jaws!
Eric

Thanks Daniel for the quick response. It makes a lot more sense and explains why what looked like the other spiders head was on it’s back. The husk was just skin when I inspected it. I also lifted a rock and found a smaller, older husk.
Wish I had more water striders in my pond for it to feed on (ther’s only one). It’s sitting there just waiting for something to pass by.
How should I get the video in and would you have a preferred format?
I’m also taking some more shots of it if you’re interested.
Thanks,
Richard

Hi Richard,
Our website traffic has suddenly spiked, and there are many unanswered letters in our mailbox right now.  If the photos you take are awesome, try sending them, and hopefully we will be able to post them.

Fishing Spider

Attached are 2 additional images showing the spider head on.

Fishing Spider

Letter 16 – Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

 

Nursery Web Spider? With egg case
Location: Central Illinois
June 20, 2011 9:21 pm
This beautiful spider was found on the bottom on a mower that was sitting in a grass area next to a forest. We think it’s some kind of nursery web spider but would like a positive ID. Thanks in advance for your help.
We love your web site!
Signature: Spider Fan

Fishing Spider

Dear Spider Fan,
You are correct that this is a Nursery Web Spider in the family Pisauridae, and we can guarantee, at least based upon the currently accepted taxonomy, that this is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes.  Furthermore, we believe it is most likely Dolomedes tenebrosus, based on images and information posted on BugGuide.  To try to further clarify things, all members in the family Pisauridae are called Nursery Web Spiders because of the maternal care given to the eggs and spiderlings.  After carrying around her egg sac for some time, the female will find an appropriate location and there she will construct the nursery web and she will continue to guard her eggs and hatchlings.  Members of the genus Dolomedes are called Fishing Spiders because many are found in close proximity to water and some are even capable of diving beneath the surface of the water and capturing aquatic prey.  They can also run across the surface of the water.

Letter 17 – Fishing Spiders and Brown Recluses, Part 2

 

Dark Fishing Spiders- Very helpful in the house
Location:  Wildwood, Missouri
Jun 16, 2011,  11:26 PM
I found a couple photos of the mother spider I kept as a pet and her babies. The mother spider was a joy to have around, I first found her in my grandmother’s basement.  She was one of the best spiders I’ve had as a pet, and I’ve had several wolf spiders and a tarantula. Studying her behavior was a joy, and I kept a journal of her behavior. It was interesting to see how much she liked to eat recluses! She’d pick them over crickets when both were in her box. Since releasing a few of her babies outside the house (Most were released at parks with ponds and lakes), there haven’t been any infestation problems!
Use whichever photos you like on your website. Or none if you don’t like them, I don’t mind either way.
All are named by species and dated by when the photo was taken.
The photos are as follows:
My first sighting of a fishing spider, 1 year before the mother spider.

Female Fishing Spider, April 16, 2010

2 months prior to finding her in the basement- suspect its her. Quarter next to her as size reference.
Mother and Babies, day after the babies emerged from egg sac.
Recluse sighting on the ceiling.
The recluse that gave me a bit of a scare when it came up through the toilet. I actually saw it come up!
Cassie

Fishing Spiderlings, August 3, 2010

Hi Cassie,
We are positively thrilled that you took the time to locate these images.  We are posting half of them with your letter and we are replacing the image of the Fishing Spider on your original posting with another of the images.  You never provided us with a location.  Can you at least provide the state where you took the photos?

 

 

Brown Recluse in the toilet

 

Location is Wildwood, Missouri, just a couple miles from Rockwood Reservation. That was actually one of the places I released some of the babies. I still see some of those that I put in the yard- they love the ground level birdbath on hot days. Being near the reservation means I get to see all sorts of interesting creatures. I’ve raised a wheel bug from the day it hatched, countless wolf spider and mantises, and several other fascinating creepy crawlies. I love monitoring their behaviors, and finding out their favorite foods and environments. I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing bugs, and when I don’t recognize one I’ll set up a habitat for it, identify it, and study it a couple days. My family used to make bets with each other on if I’d be an entomologist, herpetologist, or artist. If I get any more good snapshots of the local bugs, I’ll be sure to send them!

 

Letter 18 – Unknown Spider from Angola

 

BIG spider in Angola
Location: Kikuxi, Luanda, Angola
December 22, 2011 12:38 am
We found this huge spider in our courtyard in Angola, and we just photographed it and left it alone. Later, I wondered whether it was poisonous. I put a match stick in the picture to help with size.
Signature: Dawn in Angola

Unknown Spider from Angola

Dear Dawn,
Almost all spiders have venom, but very few have venom that is toxic enough to be a threat to humans.  We do not recognize your spider, but we are posting your letter and photo in the hope that we might someday identify this interesting looking creature.  Perhaps our readership might be able to provide an identification as well.

Karl provides an identification:  December 29, 2011
Hi Daniel and Dawn:
It looks like a Nursery Web Spider (Pisauridae), perhaps in the genus Euprosthenops. By all accounts they are harmless to humans. Regards. Karl

Letter 19 – Mating Fishing Spiders from Canada

 

Mating fishing spiders!
Location: Northwestern Ontario, Canada
March 15, 2012 9:14 am
Hello! I’m pretty certain these are fishing spiders. I took these pictures on my dock at camp a couple of summers ago. I got to watch the entire process from beginning to end. Really fascinating! Just thought you lovely folks might appreciate these! 🙂
Signature: Valerie

Mating Fishing Spiders

Valerie,
WOW, these are the most sensual and gorgeous photos of mating Spiders we have ever seen.  We may have, somewhere buried in our Bug Love archives,  several mating insect photos that rival them.  This must have been amazing to watch.  Please, Please, Please Valerie, tell us “What was it like?”.

Nursery Web Spiders Mating


Can we just say WOW again?  There are so many legs and appendages including pedipalps in these photos it is difficult to determine exactly what is going on.  We don’t know if there are many photos in the world of mating Fishing Spiders in the genus
Dolomedes in the world, but these have to be among the best.  Should we ever make a Bug Love calendar, at least one or two of them have to be included.
Daniel
P.S. We just received, to a letter we posted inquiring if a child starting an insect collection might be considered Unnecessary Carnage, a comment extolling the virtues of documenting insects not by a collection but by digital photos.  This is a perfect example of how mounted or preserved specimens are paled by a comparison to action photos.

Procreating Dolomedes Dock Spiders

 

Letter 20 – Fishing Spider released in Maryland

 

Colossal creepy crawly
Location: Northern Central Maryland
April 16, 2012 11:04 pm
Yikes! Found this guy in our basement as I was coming down to put some tools away. I can’t say that I blame him, it was up to about 90 degrees outside and humid, where this basement stays nice and cool. Spider was caught and released (down the street… by the lady’s request) in Maryland. The striped legs make me think that it’s a wolf spider, btu the rest of the markings don’t particularly line up.
It was actually remarkably large compared to the quarter in this picture, but at least you can see the markings a little more nicely. Thanks in advance!
Signature: -DG

Fishing Spider

Dear DG,
Because you took the time to relocate this beautiful Fishing Spider, we are tagging your post with the Bug Humanitarian Award.  Fishing Spider or Dock Spiders are generally found near water.  They are capable of diving beneath the surface to escape predators and they are even known to prey upon small fish and other aquatic creatures.  Fishing Spiders in the genus
Dolomedes are classified as Nursery Web Spiders because they don’t built webs to snare prey, but rather to provide a habitat for their offspring.

Letter 21 – Possibly Fish Catching Spider from Ecuador

 

Subject: Spider
Location: Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Ecuador
November 5, 2012 5:53 pm
I would see this spider in almost the same location every day in the Amazon basin in Ecuador, and I never saw a web. I am very curious as to what species of spider this is, and if you could help me out I would greatly appreciate it!
Signature: Sam

Possibly Fish Catching Spider

Hi Sam,
Our first inclination was to speculate on the possibility that this is some species of Huntsman Spider or Giant Crab Spider in the family Sparassidae since they are often large and do not build webs, but as we began to try to find a matching image on the internet, we stumbled upon this spider identified as a Fish Catching Spider on Ed Germaine’s Photography website.  Clicking on the thumbnail reveals this marvelous photo which looks very similar to your photo.  We then speculated that perhaps the spider in your photo is related to the Fishing Spiders and Nursery Web Spiders in the family Pisauridae.  They also do not build webs to snare prey.  We wish you had a photo that showed the eye structure more clearly.  We are going to post your photo and we hope that some expert can confirm either of the two possibilities we have come up with or provide a correction.  Even better, perhaps someone can narrow the identification to the genus or species instead of just two possible families.

Possibly Fish Catching Spider

Eric Eaton Responds
Daniel:
I do not have an opinion.  There are entire families of spiders found in South America that do not occur here in the United States, so extrapolating is rather dangerous.  Very nice specimen, a male, and not something I recognize as dangerously venomous.
Eric

Letter 22 – Fishing Spider, we believe

 

Subject: Huntsman Spider in West Virginia?
Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
December 25, 2012 10:51 am
Hello! I came home one evening to find this beauty on my front door! I live in Harpers Ferry, WV, and have never encountered one like this. He/she was black, about an inch long in the body (about three to four inches overall), black and shiny. It was aggressive, rearing up at me when I shined a flashlight on it. This photo was taken the first week of December when we had an unseasonable warm spell. Your help with identification would be greatly appreciated!!
Signature: L. in West Virginia

Possibly Fishing Spider

Dear L.,
We do not know of any black Huntsman Spiders found in North America.  Given the size you describe, our best guess is a Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes, but alas, there is not enough detail in your photo to be certain.  When we lightened the image, we could make out striping in the legs which is consistent with the Fishing Spider identification.  Female Fishing Spiders defend their eggs, and the behavior you describe would also support the possibility that this is a female Fishing Spider defending her eggs.  Fishing Spiders, though large and frightening, are perfectly harmless.

Thank you so much! I wondered if this might be a fishing spider as I
live right between the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers…I just never
seen one so far from the actual water and never one this dark in its
coloring! I am glad to know I can let visitors to the area know,
should they see one of these guys wandering around, that they are
perfectly harmless and should be allowed to go about their business.
Score one for the big little creatures of the world!

Letter 23 – Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

 

Subject: Fisher spider??
Location: New jersey
August 18, 2014 11:54 pm
I found this spider in my fireplace about 3 inches from my face while fixing the fireplace in August, northern New Jersey. I released it shortly after this photo session.
Signature: Tom

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Tom,
You have correctly identified a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, but we are uncertain of the species, though if you are located far from water, this is most likely
Dolomedes tenebrosus.  This is a female and she is carrying an egg sac.  Female Fishing Spiders carry an egg sac around until they find a suitable location to spin a nursery web in which to deposit the egg sac.  The female continues to guard the egg sac in the nursery web until she dies or until the egg sac hatches and the spiderlings disperse.  Because of your kindness to this expectant mother Fishing Spider, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

Fishing Spider with Egg Sac
Fishing Spider with Egg Sac

Letter 24 – Fishing Spider from New Jersey

 

Subject: My Company’s New Pet
Location: New Jersey
May 24, 2016 7:23 am
Hi Mr. Bugman!
So, We happened upon this little guy/girl at our office in New Jersey, just sitting there on the floor. I was able to be right next to it without it scurrying about, even let me catch it in a cup to let it out outside. Any ideas what it is? It was fairly big compared to most spiders I’m used to seeing around the house or office. I didn’t think to take a picture of it next to anything to compare its size at the time but I know with its legs it was just small enough to fit inside the cup I used. (Picture of cup attached too lol)
Signature: Stef

Male Fishing Spider
Male Fishing Spider

Dear Stef,
Based on the size of his pedipalps, we believe this Fishing Spider in the genus
Dolomedes is a male, and that he is most likely a Northern Fishing SpiderDolomedes tenebrosus, a species generally found near water.  According to BugGuide:  “A study by Schwartz, Wagner & Hebets, August 2013, has found that during mating the male of this species dies.”

Oh wow that was fast! Thank you so much! I thought that’s what it might have been, googling around on the web, but most of the pictures I found showed the spider to be much bigger than the one we had (like the size of my palm or bigger) this guy was much smaller in that regards. Which I suppose the fact that he’s a male would explain that lol
Either way, thanks for clarifying! Now I can ease my coworker’s fears that this spider is not going to put him in the hospital haha
Stef

Letter 25 – Fishing Spider: Female or Male???

 

Subject:  D. tenebrosus, male or female?
Geographic location of the bug:  Ohio
Date: 06/13/2018
Time: 10:00 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello Bug Folks!
I’ve got some wonderful photos of a Dolomedes tenebrosus (Fishing Spider) we caught last night in our Ohio basement. My housemate deals in exotics and this little friend was feasting on escaped crickets, good spider!
It’s actually bigger than some of his tarantulas. Housemate decided to keep it, at least for now.
I thought of you guys immediately, knew you’d want to see the photos (Sharpie marker for scale). I don’t know how dimorphic they are but can you tell if it’s a male or a female? I don’t want to keep calling our guest “it” and “spider,” I feel anybody living with us should have a name. The spider doesn’t care, but I do.
Thanks!
KLeigh

Fishing Spider

Dear KLeigh,
Please use our standard submission form for future submissions.  Our gut instinct is that this is a female Fishing Spider.  Many Spiders can be sexed because males have much more pronounced pedipalps that are used for mating and females are usually larger.  We will attempt to do some further research on telling male and female Fishing Spiders from one another.  Perhaps you will enjoy these images of mating Fishing Spiders from our archives.

Letter 26 – Probably Fishing Spider from Africa

 

Subject:  Spider ID
Geographic location of the bug:  Llubovane Dam, Eswatini, Southern Africa
Date: 02/25/2020
Time: 12:03 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Good day,
Please can you ID these two spiders. The large one is beautiful. They were on a dead tree stump in the dam. The large one was walking down the stump under the water and coming back up, perhaps looking for food?
How you want your letter signed:  Jacqui

Fishing Spider we believe

Dear Jacqui,
The behavior you witnessed, “large one was walking down the stump under the water and coming back up, perhaps looking for food?”, and the markings on the carapace are both consistent with Fishing Spiders from the genus
Dolomedes found in North America, as evidenced by this BugGuide image.  While we have not had any luck locating any similar looking South African members of the genus, according to Wikipedia:  “The second largest number of species occur in tropical Africa.”  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to identify your gorgeous spider to the species level.  We do not know the identity of the smaller Spider in your image.  According to Science Direct:  “Sierwald (1988) examined predatory behavior of the African pisaurid Nilus curtus O.P.-Cambridge (=Thalassius spinosissimus [Karsch]). Its hunting posture is like that of Dolomedes, anchored by one or more hindlegs to an emergent object with its remaining legs spread on surface of water. When disturbed, the spider pulls itself below the surface of the water by crawling down an emergent object. They can remain submerged for up to 35 min. Prey swimming under water (insects, tadpoles) are grabbed by the front legs pushing down through the surface film. Prey trapped by surface tension were jumped on if close enough, or rowed to if further away.”  Members from the genus Nilus pictured on iNaturalist do resemble your individual.

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.

  • 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.

5 thoughts on “Where Do Fishing Spiders Live? Exploring Their Natural Habitats”

  1. I have no doubts: is a molting spider, the position of the hanging old exoskeleton is typical. You can see clearly the old carapace still on the spider`s abdomen.
    And a little explanation: male spiders don`t use chelicera to copulate, they use the palps (they are leglike but smaller and with its tip enlarged in males) to transfer sperm. I believe the spider is a male, you can see one palp with its enlarged tip, just in front of the head and between the first pair of legs
    The pictures are great!!

    Reply
  2. Hi Daniel! I agree with the genus Trechalea (of family Trechaleidae) for sure. There are a few species that are known from Costa Rica and even more from the rest of Central and South America as a whole. It looks extremely similar to our North American T. gertschi, but I don’t think that species extends down into Costa Rica. Best I can say with any certainty is just the genus (Trechalea). Nice shot, Fred!

    Reply
  3. I saw what I think is the exact same spider in Cascade, Idaho! And I’ve been trying to figure out what type of spider it is, all I could find was the 6 spotted one as well!

    Reply

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