If you’re like most people, you just call a spider a spider and leave it at that. At least, that’s what you do until you encounter one yourself. Then, you’re excruciatingly aware of its every tiny distinguishing feature. Does that marking mean it’s poisonous? Are its legs that long because it’s some displaced tropical monster? Is it going to eat me?
The truth is, the scariest things about most spiders is what you don’t know about them. If you can identify a spider by looking at it, you’ll know whether you’re in danger and how to react to the situation. That’s why we put together this list of the most common spiders in the midwest. It might not help you totally overcome your fear, but at least you’ll have more specific things to scream about!
The grass spider, or Agelenopsis pennsylvanica, is one of the most common and immediately familiar spiders encountered in the midwest. These small, brown-grey or brown-yellow spiders range in size from around ⅜ to ¾” and inhabit a wide variety of environments. They commonly spin their large, thick, concave “funnel”-type webs in grasses, bushes, and underbrush. Adult grass spiders have distinctive thick black striping running vertically down their wide upper abdomen.
Grass spiders may enter your home, but adults don’t overwinter indoors. Like most species, grass spiders are very shy and don’t bite humans unless cornered. Bites may cause redness and swelling but they very rarely cause serious harm. Grass spiders rely on their agility to catch prey instead of a sticky web, so they’re one of the fastest-moving common spiders. They’re most active from mid-August to October.
Common House Spider
Several spider species are frequently referred to as “House Spiders”, because they seek out man-made structures to inhabit. The one you’re most likely to encounter in the Midwest is the appropriately-named “Common House Spider”, or Parasteatoda tepidariorum. House spiders come in a variety of sizes and colors; usually, they’re around ⅛-¼” long, and translucent dull brown, tan, grey, or yellow. Their coloration and size may make them hard to spot, but their distinctive tangled cobwebs are a common sight on window frames in and outdoors.
House spiders usually enter structures through damaged window screening or by wiggling under window frames. Unlike grass spiders, house spiders can and will reproduce inside, and female house spiders can lay hundreds of eggs. Adult house spiders attempt to enter structures from May to September. They’ll usually only bite humans in self-defense, but their bites can cause moderate to severe pain.
Brown Crab Spider
Crab spiders are some of the frequently encountered outdoor spiders in the midwest. One of the most common crab spiders is the Brown Crab Spider, or Xysticus ferox. Crab spiders stay near the ground, hiding under rocks, loose bark, or leaves. Their drab brown coloration and small size helps them hide. Crab spiders are usually only around ⅕ to ¼” long. Their relatively broad lower abdomen is covered in spiny hair has dark brown markings.
Brown crab spiders don’t spin webs or enter structures. Instead, they use their flat bodies to hide in surprisingly small cracks, where they wait for prey to pass near them and attack with their long front legs and venomous bites. The name “crab spider” is a reference to the distinctive way they hold their front legs in front of their bodies in a way that makes them resemble crabs.
The Arabesque Orbweaver, or Neoscona arabesca, is the one of the most widespread orb-weaver spiders in North America. Orb-weavers spin the vertical, circular webs you probably picture when you think of a spider web. The Arabesque Orbweaver builds its web close to the ground in environments as diverse as yards, parks, forests, or swamps. Almost all Arabesques are ¼” long, but they range in color from beige to light brown or even orange. You can easily identify an Arabesque by the prominent, brightly-colored markings on its abdomen.
Unlike many spiders, it’s common to see active Arabesques building their webs during the day. The name “Arabesque” is a reference to the graceful repetitive movements the spider performs as she builds a web. When the web is complete, they hide in foliage or brush nearby to wait for prey to get stuck. Arabesque orbweavers are active from July to October and shouldn’t generally be considered dangerous.
By now, you’ve probably identified a couple important things each of these common spiders have in common: they’re small, they’re usually not dangerous, and they want nothing to do with humans. In fact, many spiders prey on more harmful pests, making them quite beneficial–in their proper place.
That proper place should not be your home, however. If you have a spider problem, or any other kind of pest problem, don’t hesitate to give Varment Guard a call. We’ll be able to tell you what kind of spider you’re dealing with and make sure you never have to deal with it again.BACK TO BLOG