We all know what it’s like to share our home with a spider or two. Most are harmless and can even be beneficial- anyone who’s had their house invaded by flies or mosquitos will appreciate a spider’s ability to clear off their unwanted guests in record time. Others are slightly less benign, and can pose a serious threat to human health with their bite. Understanding the difference between those that are friendly and those that are hostile will help you decide which spiders to keep, and which to serve with an eviction notice.
American House Spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum)
Parasteatoda tepidariorum (often referred to as the common house spider), is indigenous to the New World but can also by found in some parts of Myanmar and Pakistan. The American House Spider is a comb- footed spider, with long, skinny legs, a bulbous abdomen, and brown, speckled coloring. The spider has an average life cycle of one year, and exists on a diet of small household pests such as flies, mosquitoes, ants and wasps. Statistically, they are both the most commonly encountered spider in North America and the least aggressive. Although they can bite humans, they will only do so in self-defense. Bites can cause moderate to severe pain for up to 16 hours, and can occasionally result in systemic effects.
Longbodied Cellar Spider (Pholcus phalangioides)
The Longbodied Cellar Spider is a member of the Pholcidae family, and is known for living in the ceilings of houses, garages or cellars. Characterized by a small, rounded body, long, skinny legs and a light tan, beige or grey coloring, the spider is harmless to humans. Although it can bite, its venom is non -toxic and will result in a very mild burning sensation that quickly fades. The spider is, however, less friendly to other species, and is favored in some parts of the world for its appetite for more dangerous types such as Hobo and Redback Spiders.
Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa)
Loxosceles reclusa, more often known as Brown Recluse, is a member of the Sicariidae family. The Brown Recluse likes to reside in basements, attics, in between walls and even in furniture and clothing. With a brown or greyish coloring, the Brown Recluse has an oval body (about 1/3-inch-long), 3 rows of eyes and a violin shaped mark on its abdomen. Its bite is venomous and can result in reactions from the mild (redness and itching) to the severe (death). Given the potential consequences of a bite, immediate medical treatment is advised.
Sac Spiders (Family Clubionidae)
Sac spiders come from the family Clubionidae. In North America, the family is recognized to consist of two genera, the Clubiona and Elaver. The Sac Spider is known for its light yellow or beige coloring, ½ inch long oval body, and 2 rows of 8 small eyes. Its bite is considered largely harmless, with most people suffering no more than some slight swelling and soreness. People with allergies can be more vulnerable to severe reactions and are advised to seek medical treatment.
Jumping Spiders (Family Salticidae)
Family Salticidae, or Jumping Spiders, represent the largest family of spiders, consisting of more than 5,000 species in 500 genera. Jumping Spiders have short, compact legs, 3 rows of eyes, and are characterized, as their name suggests, by their distinctive jumping behavior (with the ability to jump more the 20 times their body length). They are considered one of the smartest families of spiders, with notable spatial memory and learning ability. Their bite is generally considered harmless, with most people experiencing no more than a mild sensation, similar to that of a bee sting.
Wolf Spiders (Family Lycosidae)
Wolf Spiders tend to live on the ground, and are noted for their excellent eyesight and speed. Wolf Spiders are common across North America, and can be found in a variety of habitats. Their coloring ranges from black to greyish- beige, while their bodies tend to be large (more than an inch long) with sturdy, hairy legs.
Their bite can be painful but is rarely dangerous.
Hobo Spider / Funnelweaver (Tegenaria agrestis)
Often mistaken for the Brown Recluse or Wolf Spider, the Hobo Spider has a tan or brown body, oblong in shape and measuring about ½ inch long. Known for residing in the dark spots of basements or beneath wood piles, Hobo spiders are venomous, but are not considered dangerous, with most people experiencing no more than a mild irritation to their bite.