Often Misidentified Spiders

Brown Recluse

Loxosceles reclusa

AKA: Violin Spider or Fiddle Back

Black Widow

Latrodectus mactans

AKA: Hourglass Spider

Wolf Spider

Lycosidae family


The brown recluse is ¼ to ½ an inch long, and are yellowish-tan to dark brown in color. Their legs are dark grayish brown and covered with short dark hairs. On the spider's cephalothorax, the brown recluse has a distinctive violin-shaped marking, hence the name violin spider. Immediately in front of the marking is three sets of two eyes, unlike a spider's normal eight eyes, arranged in a semicircle.

The brown recluse hunts at night feeding on cockroaches, crickets and other small insects.


Southern and Midwestern United States. Can be active in temperatures ranging from 45 to 100 degrees F. Found mostly in wood piles, sheds, and dark corners within people's homes.

The brown recluse is very soft bodied. It is easily preyed upon and has been observed being eaten by crickets and even other small spiders.

Social Structure

The brown recluse is a nocturnal insect. It is also non-aggressive and will only bite when bothered either in its secluded area or while it is hunting. When the recluse does bite it can be very dangerous to humans, causing sickness, skin lesions, and permanent scars.

Birth and Offspring
The brown recluse reaches sexual maturity after ten to twelve months of life. The female lays eggs from May until August, usually about forty at a time. Throughout her life, about two years, she may lay up to 300 eggs. After about two to three months the eggs hatch and the spiderlings emerge.


The brown recluse has excellent sight, but as in other hunting spiders, only up to a foot away. Also, since the recluse is a hunting spider it doesn’t need to spin the web to catch its prey. Instead, the recluse uses its web as a shelter in which it resides in during the daytime and also for the cold winter months. In the winter time, these spiders do not even have to leave their shelter. They have the unique ability to go without eating for up to six months.


Black widow spiders are considered one of the most poisonous spiders in North America. They are also the largest web-spinning spiders. Adult black widow spiders are shiny black with two reddish or yellowish triangles on the abdomen that forms an hourglass shape. Their body is approximately one-half inch long and their legs about one-half inch long. Adult males are about half the size of the females and have a smaller body with red or yellow bands or streaks on the abdomen and spots over the back. Spiderlings are most often white or yellowish-white and acquire more black with varying amounts of red and white with each molt. Young black widow spiders resemble the males. Adult males and spiderlings are harmless.

Black widow spiders eat insects that get caught in their web.

Black widow spiders live in most warm areas of the world including the Eastern and Central regions of the United States. They spin their webs of coarse silk in dark places, usually near the ground in woodpiles, rubble piles, and under decks and under and around houses and outbuildings. They will occasionally spin their web inside as a result of cold weather.


Mud-Dauber Wasps are natural predators of black widow spiders. Alternating warm and cold weather in the winter and spring are detrimental to their survival.

Social Structure
Female black widow spiders hang on their webs belly up and rarely leave it. The females are shy and will not voluntarily leave their webs, however, if their web is disturbed they may rush out and bite.

Birth and Offspring

Female black widow spiders will usually eat the male after mating. She only has to mate once because she can store the male’s sperm then fertilize her own eggs as she lays them in the sac. The female lays her eggs in silken cocoons or sacs that are about a ½ inch around and are white, later turning to pale brown. Usually, about 4 to 9 sacs are produced during the summer with between 20 and 900 eggs per sac. The eggs hatch in 14 to 30 days after which only 1 to 12 of them will survive due to cannibalism. The spiderlings leave the web after they have hatched. They mature in 2 to 3 months and, during that time, will molt from 3 to 8 times.


The wolf spider is a member of the Lycosidae family, the order Araneae. There are around 125 species that are found in the United States and about 50 species that are found in Europe. A full grown wolf spider is typically a half an inch to two inches in length; they are usually brown or gray with various stripe-like markings on their backs. The markings are sometimes called Union Jack Impressions.? Wolf spiders are also very hairy.


Wolf Spiders

The eye arrangement of the wolf spider is one of its most interesting features; they have four small eyes in the bottom row, followed by two large eyes in the middle row, and two medium eyes in the top row. They received the name wolf spider due to an early belief that the spiders would actually hunt their prey in a group. Some other names for the wolf spider are the ground spider and the hunting spider. Wolf spiders do not actually make webs; instead, they hunt for its meal. They are most commonly found throughout Australia. They make homes by digging holes or living under rocks. The wolf spider will often cover the burrow with leaves or grass.


During the beginning of fall, the wolf spider is quite often found in the home. The reason for this is that they are looking for a warm place to live throughout the course of the winter season.

The wolf spider would most likely be seen running across the ground, during the daytime. They search for their prey during both day and night. They have both excellent vision and touch. However, due to the fact that the wolf spider is known as shy, if it’s disturbed it will quickly run away.

The mother wolf spider will usually carry around her egg sacs with them, which can tend to be on the large side. After they hatch, the newborn spiders will actually ride around on their mother’s back until they are about halfway grown.


Wolf Spider Bite

Even though the wolf spider is poisonous, its venom is not lethal. The wolf spider is not known to be aggressive; however, they will bite if they feel like they are in harm or danger. They also move extremely fast when they are disturbed. If bitten by a wolf spider, the wound should not be bandaged but an ice pack should be placed on the bite so that the swelling will go down. And if necessary the victim should avoid any movement if at all possible. It is extremely important that one sees medical attention if bitten by a wolf spider or any other spider.


Photo credits via by Aaron Burden, Nicolas Picard, and Genta Mochizawa.