Spiders do not bite.

Last week, the arthropod lab was lucky enough to be highlighted on the website “Montreal Openfile”.  When discussing our work with spiders as related to McGill’s spider collection, I was asked about the most common misconception about spiders, and I responded quickly with the following:

       There are a lot of misconceptions about spiders. The most common is the idea that spiders frequently bite people – they do not. Most so-called spider bites are caused by something else. Spiders generally have no interest in biting us, and would rather feed upon invertebrates. I have been working with spiders for over 15 years, and I have handled many, many kinds of live spiders and I have never been attacked by a spider.

It is really quite astounding – almost anyone you talk to seem to know someone who has been bitten by a spider and/or they themselves have a personal story about a spider that bit them.    These stories often include anecdotes like “it really, really hurt“, “the wound swelled up and festered“, “I was bitten over and over again in the middle of the night“, “the spider ran right at me and bit me” etc.   Related directly to this are the numerous questions I get about the brown recluse spider, and its occurrence in Quebec.   If I believed everything that people told me, I would NOT be an Arachnologist, and I would fear for my life – Venomous spiders everywhere!!!

Female wolf spider (Lycosidae) on my hand. She is carrying an egg sac.

Time for a reality check – Spider bites are very, very rare and other more likely causal factors should be given priority.  Let me go into detail:

1) Misdiagnosis:  other animals are more likely to be the cause of so-called “spider bites”.  The usual and more likely suspects include things like wasps, ants, bedbugs, black flies, etc.  Message:  these kinds arthropods are known to sting, bite, or “feed” upon mammals! (…and reactions to some of these can certainly be severe, and serious).  How do I know that spiders rarely cause reactions in humans? Two reasons:  experience and  the scientific literature (i.e., evidence or lack thereof).  For example, a few years ago colleagues of mine (Robb Bennett & Rick Vetter) wrote about this in a paper for Canadian physicians:

The title of the paper on spider bites

There are two key pieces of information in this article: first, the medical community must recognize the possibilities of other likely causal factors for symptoms sometimes attributed to spider bites.  Second, to properly verify a spider bite, the spider needs to be collected and properly identified.  This takes me to the next point – the importance of taxonomy.

2) Incorrect identification: Several years ago a woman approached me after a pest-control company sprayed her home – she brought me specimens of the ‘deadly’ spider that they had sprayed for.  It was NOT a dangerous spiders – it was a completely harmless wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) from the genus Trochosa.   She saw a spider, called in the professionals, and these professionals did not accurately identify the spider (they told her it was a brown recluse).  TAXONOMY IS IMPORANT and TAXONOMIC EXPERTISE is essential.  It is critical that a careful identification is done (by an expert!) on any spider that supposedly bites someone.  In my experience, a casual image search on the Internet will not suffice, and will likely confuse the situation, and perhaps cause undue alarm.   [as an aside, this blog post about ‘the taxonomy fail index’ is worth a look]

3) Spider behaviour: Spiders are “scared” of humans.  Ok, I recognize this is anthropomorphizing things, but the reality is that if you approach a spider, it usually runs away, or completely ignores us.  With the exception of jumping spiders, most spiders have very poor eyesight and respond to other stimuli (e.g., vibrations, light/dark).  Humans make a lot of noise, and cause a spider’s entire habitat to shake, rumble and roll.   Furthermore, spiders prefer to live in damp, dark places, and when we lift up an old shoe box, or sweep under the fridge, we sometimes disrupt a spider but if you wait a minute, they invariably run back to darkness.  Spiders would rather run and hide than hang out with us.

4) Home range: Venomous spiders (i.e., to humans!) just don’t live in Canada.  Of the almost 40,000 spider species, globally, there are less than a dozen or so that can cause serious health problems to the average, healthy human, and these do not occur naturally in Canada (Australia, however, is a different story!). One of the authors of the paper mentioned above (Rick Vetter) has a terrific website devoted to the “myth” of the brown recluse. Also, his list of publications will take you to some key literature on the broader topic of medically important spiders.  Rick has put together a terrific map showing the distribution range of the brown recluse, and I’ve copied it below.  As you can see, Canada is not part of the native range of the brown recluse (or its close relatives):

Range of the brown recluse & its relatives

5) Spider food: Spiders prey upon invertebrates and for the vast majority of spider species their venom is suited for invertebrates.  Their venom can certainly pack a punch, but it is generally not suited for vertebrates (at least certainly not in northern climes, there are spiders elsewhere who do prey upon birds, for example).

6) Biological constraints: For many species, the “fangs” of spiders (which are located at the end of the Chelicerae) are just too weak and small to be able to break the skin.  I have held many spiders and watched as they work away at trying to bite me, but they just can’t pull it off.  Our skin is generally too tough for their little, wimpy fangs.   Here’s a photo to show this (it’s another wolf spider, trying unsuccessfully to bite me):

A male wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) "attacking" me.

To summarize this rather lengthy post: in general, and in this part of the world, venomous spiders are rare, and bites from venomous spider bites are exceedingly rare, and I would argue that most suspected spider bites are not actually caused by spiders.  The risk of a spider bite is very, very low.  If you want to reduce risk, it’s far more dangerous to get in a car than be bitten by a spider.

Writing this post has inspired me to think about other misconceptions about spiders.  Stay tuned…there’s a lot more to come!

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132 thoughts on “Spiders do not bite.

  1. Hey thanks for this. I’m a recovering arachnophobe and I have a love/hate relationship with spiders: some I absolutely adore (Orb weavers, jumpers), some I absolutely hate. I respect them all, think they’re brilliantly elegant, beautiful, amazing creatures. Some of them also terrify me. I even got a spider tattoo in my quest to embrace them (metaphorically speaking) and the complicated relationship I have with them.

    I’ll buy your assertions that spiders bite way less often than they’re ascribed to. However – the ones that I most loathe (even while rather admiring their m.o. and survivability) and which everything I’ve read seems to indicate do bite, are yellow sac spiders (sorry that sentence isn’t remotely grammatically correct). They are ubiquitous here in central MN, although I never saw them growing up in far northern MN. Due to their hunter/stalking nature they get damn everywhere, as they tuck/sac themselves into any/every nook/cranny you can imagine – which unfortunately includes lots of places that put them into contact with me. I’ve flicked or unkindly disposed of them (s/times in their sacs) from beneath collars, in folded up clothing, in my bedding, in folds of shower curtain, dropping on me from above (that thing they do!) and most visibly in the corners of rooms.

    I’ve learned to not anthropomorphize the unfortunate creatures, to not ascribe nefarious and malicious intentions/motives to them. I try to remember that their no-not-at-all-creepy stalker/hunter m.o. and springing-at-me-from-everywhere is good for me because they nom bugs I don’t like/want in my house. I try to remember that if/when they do bite, it’s likely from being startled/upset – not because of a house-wide plot to kill me, and that hey at least it’s not lethal. I try, I really try – but I haven’t yet mastered my fear/outrage/violence towards them such that I don’t stomp/squish them to pieces whenever they’re within reach (and even s/times they’re not). In the end I find it hard to be friends or even peaceful co-existers when they’re constantly invading my privacees.

    Clearly I’m a bit obsessed/fixated. :D

  2. Thanks for the comment and I appreciate your sentiment. And I also recognize that Arachnophobia is real, and important. Btw, I do plan on eventually writing a post about the yellow sac spiders. I get a lot of requests for info about them

    • I always have wolf spiders come right at me & try to crawl on me. I make noise & stomp the floor to scare them & they still come at me. I have never been bitten that I know of nut I always kill them because they always come right up to me. I know you are not suppose to kill them but why are they attracted to me?

      • It is me again & I have NO bugs in my apt except for wolf spiders. I finally got bit a few days ago & it was a rather large hard good sized bump & it stayed red & was bigger than a golf ball & it really itched every day for a week then it went away & is a tiny scab now. It is on my forearm & I have thin skin. I swear it was a wolf spider.

  3. However, the Australian huntsman spider is big enough to bite, and so I was just recently. It didn’t hurt so much as feel like something pulling the hairs on my leg, but I saw the beast (I gently released her – I think it was a female – into the wild and then went in search of first aid, which I couldn’t find). Since huntsmen do not brush their chelicerae, it got mildly infected.

    As a kid I used to keep redback spiders who are quite venomous, and yet, here I am.

      • Huntsmen are terribly calm spiders. I used to feed them by hand [you need to stun a fly but not silence it or the spider won’t “see” it]; and it wasn’t her fault. I was trying to dry myself with her in a towel. I’d have bitten me. Mind, I reacted pretty much like any arachnophobe at first. That startle response is hard to overcome.

      • I’m glad I’m not the only one who feeds spiders. Isn’t there some rule that if two or more do a thing it makes you not a nutter? I’ll go with that :).

        I feed the orb weavers when they appear on the scene circa August. Not that they need my help, mind you, being fantastically competent to capture their dinner themselves. I just love to watch, and well I’m fond of them.

  4. Well and I cop to not really having arachnophobia in a clinical sense (I think) – I’m just freaked the hell out by some of them. And over time that continues to work itself out via my fascination with them and my continuing to not-die despite the fact they exist and clearly exist a lot in my immediate vicinity. :)

    I’m studying to apply to med school, but initially weighed the notion of pursuing grad school for in some arachnological area/focus.

    Anyway – thanks for your blog, as a hobbyist – I’m much appreciative of a good spidery-info-centric blog!

  5. Hi again – thanks again for the comments – indeed, in (northern) North America, many of the orb-weavers mature in late season (i.e, Aug), so that’s the best time to see the adults in all their magnificence!

  6. When you mentioned that spider venom is usually more suited for invertebrate prey I immediately thought of the Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) whose venom, I’ve read, is particularly toxic to primates. Any speculation on the evolutionary origins of this unusual adaptation?

    • I can think of several: one is that the genus evolved in south east Asia and is only relictual in Australia. There are primates in Asia and they often eat spiders. Another is that they are venomous to another species that happens (but we do not know it yet) to lack the IgG protein we also do that inactivates the neurotoxic effects (say, bats or rats). A third is that it is an accident of evolution; accidents happen all the time. A fourth is that the mammal species in Austronesia have coadapted and independently evolved IgG. A fifth is that it works on potential prey animals when juvenile (it affects newborn mice). A sixth (for fun) is that there used to be primates in Australia, but they were all killed by funnelweb spiders… But I can’t find any studies on this.

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  8. Hi. Nice post, but your title is misleading. From the post, obviously they do bite, but only in very limited circumstances.

    I’ve known two instances of confirmed bites (in Singapore, not Canada)- one orb weaver (Nephila sp.) where the idiot was holding the abdomen and got bitten, as well as a large jumping spider (Hyllus diardi) which had been sedated and was probably dazed so decided to bite the person handling. Both cases, the human was handling the spider, so you can probably put in another caveat – if you don’t want to get bitten, don’t handle the animal,.

  9. Good post. However, I’ve been bitten by a wolf spider. And, I have NEVER been, nor am I now, an arachnophobe. I was up at Reelfoot Lake in TN, picked it up, and the damn thing bit me. Yeah. While I agree with the sentiment of your post – that people should not fear spiders – I disagree with your assertion premise, that “spiders do not bite.” Further, you do not provide evidence of what they do. If they don’t bite, what DO they do? Rub your belly? Sing the blues? Please. I have seen Black Widow spider bites, recluse spider bites and they aren’t pretty. Again, does that mean folks should fear all spiders? Absolutely not. But again, most folks don’t and won’t care as much as do you, or I. BTW, I am a Registered Nurse with ER & Trauma experience, so I’ve seen just about all there is to be seen – the good, the bad, and the dead. Again, I want to emphasize that while I enjoyed your post, and the sentiment that it hoped to express – that in general, spiders should not be feared – most folks are not going to be looking closely to identify what type spider they may see. Same thing with snakes. Remember the Jim Stafford song “I don’t like spiders and snakes”?

  10. Thanks for these comments! I appreciate them. First, indeed, the title is meant to be ‘extreme’ in part because of the unbelievable number of websites and posts out there that claim that all spiders bite and that all spiders should be feared. I’m working to swing the pendulum the other way. The title is therefore meant to be a bit controversial. Second, this post is really more from the point of view of northern (Canadian) systems. My comments are not all generalizable to all parts of the world.

    • I have wolf spiders and they charge at me. They can be clear across the room in broad daylight & come right up to me before I kill them. I can make noises or clap or stomp my feet & they still come right towards me. I hate spiders. Why do they do this?

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  12. I think I was bitten by a spider in the garden a couple of years ago. Can’t think what else could have caused a relatively painless bruise that went from the palm of my hand through to the back of my hand. (No, I’m not religious – it wasn’t a one-handed stigmata :D.)

    We have lots of different spiders in and around the house. I give any resident huntsmen a name – for some reason they like my bedroom and I often have a resident who stays for anything from a few days to a few weeks. Only one was freaked out and raced across the room when I entered – I helped it out the window. Usually we get along just fine.

    In the garden there are redbacks, different orbs, leaf curlers, jumping spiders, wolf spiders and lots more large and miniscule. I don’t know all their names. The wolfs are great when they are carrying their young on their back.

    My most memorable experience was one year some decades ago walking up the hill behind the house and coming across dozens of beautiful coloured large spiders – rich aqua, bright yellow etc. Glorious.

    (BTW I live in Australia.)

  13. Thanks for the comment and thanks for sharing – indeed, GLORIOUS is a nice way to state it. Australia is truly fascinating for its arachnofauna. It’s just a completely different world than north-eastern North America.

  14. Hi. I have a basement that tends to lean during heavy rains. Old house. Cement drain around the inner wall. One corner has shelves, throw rugs, etc and it’s where I keep my rabbit since we have dogs in the main floor and no ac in the attic so she gets heat and ac in the basement. Anyway, we get a lot of camel crickets and tiny spiders but weeks ago I caught a wolf spider that was on bunny’s blankie in the bottom of her cage where she often sleeps. I put it outside. Tonight I found another in bunny’s little trashcan by her cage! I never kill stuff but these things are creeping me out now. I don’t want one to accidentally bite her if she startles one. Why are they by her cage?? Ive seen maybe three prior, one in my attic room. Two in a month is too many! Any way to keep them away from her cage? Don’t mind if they pick another corner and stay out of sight but I worry about bunny.

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  16. Nice post… but you do have Brown Widows in Canada, and conceivably BRS, since I know you do import stuff and the little guys are somewhat notorous for hitching rides in nice dark shipping crates. Now I’m sure they all die off during the winters, but there could be outbreaks in the summer. Apparently there was one last summer in Nova Scotia, at least it was all over the news that there was.

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  18. Hello,
    Around four years ago I was studying abroad in Australia. After a night of heavy drinking I woke up with a wound on my foot that was swollen red and had two clear puncture marks. As a irresponsible college student of course I didn’t go to a doctor (no health plan) but I had swelling and pain aroud the wound for a few weeks but it eventually went away but to this day I have a scar. To me the puncture marks are too close to be a snake but are wide enough to question whether it is a spider or not. They are still visible today and was wondering of u could shed any light on the incident?

  19. Brett – thanks for the comment – interesting account – It’s hard to say, but it’s possible it was a spider bite, but difficult to know without you catching the spider in the act. The fangs of spiders are quite close together…if that helps at all. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Thanks so much for writing this article you really are a life saver i was so scared about spiders and there bites but after reading what you wrote really changed my perspective on spiders shoo thank you very much

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  23. OK so this may be a bit of a dumb question. Why do Daddy long legs like being sung to. I sing ALOT and I notice that the Daffy’s in particular seem to like my voice. The front legs will move and the daddy’s will actually come toward me and sit on my hand, arm or even my ear. I absolutely LOVE Daddy long legs! I have heard they are the most poisonous spider but due to the size of their mouth they can’t hurt us. I find them to be phenomenal creatures. Most other spiders scare the crap out of me though…Kind of dumb I know….So do all spiders gravitate towards singing? I have only noticed it in the Daddys.

  24. I was bitten by a white (light beige actually) Araneus diadematus as a kid, I collected a lot of specimens -most of which I set free a week later-, the white one I found so pretty that I wanted to study her features a little while longer. When I returned her to freedom about another week later, she bit my finger quite fiercefully. It hurt like a forcefull fingerprick, but there was not even a visible penetrationmark let alone a festering wound.

    I’ve got a housespider -which I believe to be a yellowsac, but I’m not sure-, that consistently comes to inspect my recordplayer whenever it’s playing a record. I guess it diggs the vibes.

  25. Thanks for the comments! ….these comments about music and singing and responses by arachnids are quite interesting. Many (most?) Arachnids to respond to vibrations, so responses to various sounds could indeed happen. I will certainly look into this in more detail….

    Brandi – Daddy longlegs are not venomous – they do not have venom glands – it’s a myth that they are dangerous to humans.

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  27. While certainly most spiders don’t deserve the fear they get, I’m somewhat surprised that there’s no mention at all of black widows here, when they’re the most ubiquitous venomous spider in the US. I have a cousin who was bitten by a black widow (ID’ed) as a child and was ill for quite some time afterwards.

    The key with spiders is knowing the ones that are dangerous, I think, and recognising that the rest are not. But (as it should be pointed out), it’s a stupid idea to handle venomous spiders unless you know what you’re doing.

  28. While I was reading “spiders do not bite”- plenty of questions flooded inside me. As I have known (after my graduation in agriculture) that almost most spiders are farmers’ friend since they are categorized as a prominent predator. Beside the usefulness of spider, I have an experience about it. If, I recalled my childhood that I had some kinds of red pimples (about 20-30) near my elbow following the morning. There was nothing at all on my elbow at evening before going to bed. Though that was not spider’s biting symptom, but what my parents told me at that time, that was happen due to spider’s venom. The venom was spread at my elbow while the spider has been disturbed. That was not only my experience. we had many such incidents at my town because most of the houses were made from thatch and mud which provide ample space to harbor spiders. However, now I am fully satisfied with the writer that was not the symptoms of spider’s bit. If the spider was not bite anymore than what were those dozens of pimples at my elbow which were developed overnight?

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  30. I was comforted to know that the bites that I sometimes wake up with (not flea or mosquito) aren’t due to the 8-leggers that often find their way on to the corners of my bedroom ceiling. I find it a little odd that I seem to wake up with these bites (not bed bugs, bites are bigger than mosquito-huge swelling) at the same time every year as the spider bloom that happens in late summer/fall. But ok. Spiders don’t bite. And then I remember 10 years ago when I lived in the redwood forest of Mendocino CA., when I got up in the middle of the night to use our composting toilet (the lid of which is always supposed to stay closed) and after I was done delivering my deposit, felt what can only be described as a bite on my ass. I screamed and jumped off (compost toilets are things you have to climb on to) and woke every one up. Someone came in with a flashlight (when you live off the grid in the middle if the forest and get woken up in the middle of the night, it’s often the first thing you grab) and they flashed it into the toilet after seeing the huge red mark on my cheek, and lo and behold there was a Spider in the toilet. Being people that believe in spider bites, none of us thought to look for another culprit besides the huge hairy arachnid looking disturbed on my shit. There weren’t any camera phones back then to make it easy to just take a pic, but I remember studying it before someone gathered it up and released it outside. It wasn’t sleek, it had hair. It had about a 2 inch leg span (sorry, the American measurement system is retarded) and it’s body was about an inch long. It was brown with some yellow or tan markings on its back that were quite pretty. I think if I were to see a picture now, even a decade later, I would recognize it. I surfed the web later to see if I could find out what it was, but it wasn’t the next day, because when I woke up the next day, I discovered that I couldn’t use my legs. I could feel them and everything, they were just jelly. And then the dizziness and nausea set in and I was put back to bed while the bite was examined for dead tissue or blackened skin (which is what we were told was the reaction of a brown recluse bite). Of course we all knew that brown recluses didn’t live up in our area, plus we had seen the little guy. I woke up like 8 hours later and I was completely normal. I have never had an experience like that before and haven’t since. I am not afraid of spiders. I think they’re cool. I’m a beekeeper and am very comfortable around insects in general and am familiar with what stings feel like. This was nothing like that. So… I appreciate this post about how spiders don’t bite. I like the idea of quelling people’s stupid fears. But I also, must respectably disagree with your assertation, as my ass can attest too!

  31. Anonymous, you can handle spiders without being bitten or having the spider fear you. You wouldn’t be able to have tarantulas as pets if they did. And I know a couple of YouTube channels where people own jumpers and other spiders as pets and never been bitten by them because the spider is so damn comfortable with them. What you should’ve said is “if you’re going to be a jackass and scare the poor spider when you handle it, don’t handle spiders”. The title is a litttle misleading but I absolutely agree that people think everything is a spider bite if its big and swollen. I’ve been bitten by a red velvet ant before and it turned purple almost instantly. It hurt a lot too. And double ironically, we had little wind scorpions there too, and I’ve NEVER been bitten by any of them. Also, spiders rarely bite. Unless you’re being a total complete jackasses, biting someone is a spiders last resort. I’ve had spider lunge off my or spin a web than hunger jump off me to safety when they were scared. So yeah, I agree. People think just because its a gnarly looking bruised up bite it MUST be a spider. You know what? Instead of hating on your local arachnids, who really want nothing to do with you do to their independent nature, why don’t you look up the THOUSANDS OF INSECTS that have enzymes that can rip you a new hole, literally.

  32. This was a good post, thank you! And personally, funnel web spiders and jumping are my favorite. I’m from southern Wisconsin and we can get some huge farm raised wolf spiders. My younger brother and I would always try to find crickets to feed them. Hadn’t done it in a few years but this past summer we had a funnel type wolf spider web in our garage. When I started feeding it, it could have maybe fit on a dime. By the end of summer, just a couple months ago, it could have fit and then-some onto a quarter. My goal was to try and pick it up, but I moved and it got cold out. I do love picking up jumping spiders and having them launch off my finger and play with the anchor line. I wish I had a tamed spider as opposed to a store bought tarantula. I always thought they were the most boring spider lmao

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  34. i have heard recently that there have been spottings and “bites” of the brown recluse in alberta canada. i noticed that hobo spiders and brown recluse spiders look similar and are relatives. I personally think i have spotted one of these spiders in my bathroom but im also not a spider expert but it was large in size about the size of a quarter, brown skinny, and long thin legs, and ran very fast. (this sounds like a daddy long leg but it wasnt i know what those look like and this was not one.)

  35. Hi! I’m not really scared of spiders, I’m just have a hard time holding one with bare hands. (If I have a thin glove on I don’t mind, as long as they are relatively small spiders). For some reason, I cannot get myself to kill a spider ever. Even if it’s huge, I can’t. I just catch it and let it go outside if it bothers me that much.

    I say this only because I was up at like 5 in the morning and I was barefoot. I was sitting on my bed and I looked down to see a brown lump. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so my eyesight is VERY bad. Well, I went and got a clear bowl to put over the brown lump (I still didn’t know what it was at the time) and I threw it over the lump and I saw it spazz underneath. It was a spider, and when I put my glasses on, it was a lot bigger than I thought. It scared me. Lol. But, I did slide a cardboard underneath and took it outside.

    Anyways, I came across this page because I saw a small spider crawling along the air mattress I’m sitting on. I don’t know where it is now, (haha) but I was curious if small spiders can bite. I only wasn’t sure because my old science teacher has a pet tarantula (i couldn’t get myself to hold it, I will someday though!) and she was explaining that it’s hard for a tarantula to bite human skin (especially if your hand is flat). It’s like trying to bite a wall is how she explained it.

    So yeah, thank you for helping people (like me) try to understand these creatures a bit better! They are very misunderstood! :(

  36. Thanks, Annabelle, for the comment. I agree – I think by understanding spiders to a deeper level, it is possible to learn not to fear them as much. Great that you took that spider outside! Well done.

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  38. Nice post. I was watching continuously this website and I’m impressed! Extremely useful info especially the last part I care for such info much. I was looking for this specific information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  39. My brother has told me that he has a spider friend. I have tried to do some research but can’t find any evidence of any spiders befriending humans. Supposedly when he plays his computer game the same spider comes close and watches him. Is there any possibility that spiders befriend humans?

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  41. Geepers…thanks to everyone for the posts, quite interesting reading. I just bought a house in Granbury Texas and it’s a little off the beaten trail but still about 3 miles at most to town. There is a little creek bed like ditch about 35 feet behind my house with all the usual country trimmings seperating me from the neighbors 5 acre property on the other side. Next door a half rick of firewood sits on the ground. Several trees all around, with lots of leaves on the ground. Perfect for spiders, and just about anything else including snakes that live in the country in southern Texas. There must be at least 4 billion different specie of spiders living in my garage and all around the house. Some friendly…some come with a nasty bite. It took quite a while to find a house to buy and after 8 months of having everything in storage at 4 different storage facilities, moved everything “quickly” into the new house and garage. Having moved in only about 5 weeks ago, I still have to go through a hundred or so boxes which are being stored in the garage and in the house and was wondering if a pair of thin nitrile exam gloves would be enough protection from a Brown Recluse or Black / Brown Widow fang. There is a Recluse stuck on a glue board in a video on utube and the guy is poking at it with what appears to be a pencil. Naturally the spider tries to bite the pencil more than once as the guy was trying to show the fangs on the little critter. The fangs look pretty long and I thought may be able to puncture through nitrile exam gloves. The latex/nitrile gloves for house cleaning are just too bulky for going through papers and the boxes in the garage. I could use box handling gloves like they use for FedEx or UPS though they are a lot harder to sort papers and go through boxes of junk with.
    How long can the fangs get on a Brown Recluse or a Black Widow? Long enough to go through nitrile exam gloves? The exam gloves are not very thick but thicker than the light weight latex or food handling gloves. I’m more concerned with the recluse than the widow because from what I’ve learned though their habits are simular, the recluse tends to be a bit more “active”.

    Thank you Chris …. lots of good information here.

    I’m trying to find the You-tube video of the guy poking at the recluse to draw a bite reaction. If I do I’ll come back and post the link.

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  43. “Spiders do not bite. | Arthropod Ecology” atrexl ended up being a fantastic posting.
    In case it included even more photos this would definitely be possibly even even better.
    All the best ,Diego

  44. Hello:) i am scared to death of spiders…so thanks so much for this article! It really helps me out! The picture of the spider “biting” you really brought it home for me. I did not realize there fangs were so weak! Seriously i am still extremely fearful but thanks for this!

  45. if this were true den y so many people get holes in there body. bed bugs r other insects dont leave holes. my cousin was bitten an the spider laid eggs in him. I have been bitten by various insects and no bite looks like the spider bite

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  48. Hey very nice site!! Man .. Beautiful .. Superb .
    . I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds also?
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  49. This type of very helpful article. Quite interesting to see this kind of article.
    I wish to thank you for the endeavours you had made for
    writing this great write-up.

  50. Great reading thank you, I have just come across a rather nasty looking critter whilst watering my seedlings. I guess it startled me more than anything. I have no idea what it was of course, dark brown with a large fat body and quite short fat hairy legs, carrying an egg sac. well it sent me scuttling in the house. I do feel better after reading all the information here, but i would love to have taken more notice of it to identify it

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  54. Hello. I live in central Missouri where you can find black widows and brown recluse in almost everything. I am highly scared of these spiders. Especially with my 10 month getting into every nook and crany of my house. Is there anything I can do to assure my tiny one doesn’t come across one and try to play with it? Im trying to get over this fear of spiders but media etc isn’t helping. Your blog and comments are opening my eyes thank you all.

  55. Damn! I’ve been hanging around in the radioactive lab at work, trying to get spiders to bite me, and it turns out I’ve been wasting my time!

    • Recluse spiders are nasty as you can see in these phtoos. I had one bite me on one of my legs. I’m ok now and the muscle that got rotted is filling in nicely. I hope the same happens for your Pop but it will take time. I got bit over ten years ago and its taken this long to have the area fill back in so as to not be obvious that it ever happened.*Big Hugs for both of yas!*

    • Never saw a spider like that beofre Adam. Pretty cool. I have always wanted to visit Key West (in fact, your images have led me to plan a trip there next winter), but now I am not so sure ;-oLen Saltiel recently posted..

  56. Their little wimpy fangs (conveniently you put up a picture of a tiny frail-looking spider)? Have you heard of the massive spiders like the Huntsman or the Goliath? The black widow alone is big. Christ. Spiders CAN bite, especially if they feel threatened. Doesn’t matter if it’s a mantis or a human. And venemous spiders can and have killed humans. That is nothing to dismiss or ignore. If you see a big or dangerous-looking spider your first instinct should definitely be to get away from it or if it’s in your home, to kill it. No one wants that in their homes. Same with wasps (although that is better dealt with by professionals).
    I do however agree that wasps are a far greater problem than spiders.

  57. Hello Liz – thanks for the comment. I certainly have heard of “massive spiders” but I had a good reason for for selecting a small spider for that photo – the vast majority of spider species are relatively small – in my region of the world, the Linyphiidae, for example, are the most diverse family yet are seldom larger than 5 mm. I am not dismissing or ignoring – I am providing some factual information to help ward against unnecessary paranoia about spiders and to provide some antidote against the tremendous amount of misinformation out there about spiders and spider bites. Of course some species can bite, but I maintain the point that spider bites are exceedingly rare.

  58. I can’t thank you enough for this article. I’ve been told spiders do bite and such, so when I saw a spider in my room, I freaked and tried to kill it. I haven’t seen it in a while, so going to sleep was becoming difficult. Reading this made me feel a lot better.

  59. Pingback: Update: spiders STILL don’t bite | Arthropod Ecology

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  62. Good article. I live in a basement apartment and have been seeing a lot more spiders this year. I saw two very large ones just today! I’m not generally afraid of spiders, but I don’t really like them either, especially when one is in my sink or the bathroom.

  63. I’m deathly afraid of spiders!!!! I read everything on this page but I’m still not comforted by the idea that spiders don’t bite humans or that they don’t normally go on beds! I’m on my bed right now with the lights out…& there is a spider under my dresser. I’m afraid it will crawl on my bed when I’m sleeping or it will…idk… Do something that will freak me out & have me screaming running out of the room!

  64. I don’t get this post, you said you have held so many spiders and they never try to bite you and that they are too scared to bite humans…then you post a picture of a spider trying to bite you …who just cant because hes too small.. WHAT?

    • Thanks for the comment! I always appreciate them.

      So sorry this post has caused you confusion, although I must be honest in saying I’m not sure why. I suppose your definition of ‘bite’ is different than mine. I mean a ‘bite’ to be when a spider would actually pierce skin. A spider trying to bite, and being unsuccessful, is not really a bite. I think the confusion is about semantics. At the end of the day, a spider has never ‘successfully’ bitten me.

  65. Great article! I’m from Houston, Texas and to be honest, I don’t think that I’ve ever actually SEEN a brown recluse. I DO know that there are a number of other spiders that resemble the recluse, but IIRC, the only way to tell for sure is by close examination. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the recluse is supposed to only have 6 eyes, in 3 separate pairs, whereas most other spiders have 8 eyes. Correct? I can’t count the number of people that I’ve known that claim they were “bitten by a Brown Recluse”, and in reality probably 95% or more of the “bites” were actually ‘staph infections’.
    One of my favorite ‘spider interactions’ was something that I learned as a teenage boy while spending the weekend at a friends ranch in Flatonia, Texas. After supper on Sunday evenings, people would often ‘visit’ one another. The old farm house didn’t have air conditioning, so the adults would sit on the front porch. If you’ve ever been on a ranch, you know that flies can be a nuisance at times. My friends grandmother would take one of the large bowls that was used during that evenings meal and ‘scrape it clean’ with a spoon, so that there was still some food residue in the bowl. She would then send her grandson (my friend) and I to find and catch the biggest ‘jumping spider’ that we could find. We would place the spider in the bowl, which naturally attracted most of the flies that were buzzing around, and it would have a ‘field day’ pouncing on flies and webbing them up. After a little while, and many dead flies later, the little fella would eventually stop and we would have to go and find another one. Two spiders were usually sufficient to last for a couple of hours, till the sun went down and it was time to go in. I always thought that was the neatest trick. ;-)

  66. I love spiders I always try to set them free outside or I just let them go about there day in the house, since my house is on a ant hill the spiders get rid of them I’m always the one my friends call to move a spider I’m the strange girl that like to play with them, I did that one day in class back in high school I was playing with one in the corner of the classroom, people asked me what i was doing and they all like freaked I was like what? I use to have a pet tarantula , could you do a piece if you haven’t already on the adorable jumping spider. :)

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  68. Saw a brown fast spider yesterday and tonight. No where to be found. I don’t havr a pic. But. I’m hoping it don’t bite me in my sleep cuz I havr ait mattress. On floor. Will I be ok? And what kind do u think?

  69. Pingback: Are Snarling Super-Spiders Eco-friendly? Or Just Extra-Scary? | nosyhal

  70. Pingback: Do spiders bite Canadians? « Why Evolution Is True

  71. Hi Chris,

    Very happy to have discovered this blog–I’ll be following with great interest. And I completely agree with you about the misdiagnosis of spider bites and that the risk of a spider bite is very low. However, when you wrote that there are no venomous spiders (to humans) native to Canada, I think you neglected the western black widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus). This species is found in southern Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. It is common in the Okanogan (southern British Columbia). Although it shouldn’t be considered “deadly”, it is certainly of medical importance.

    Cheers,
    EC

  72. Hello, i was just bitten by something last night so i was doing some research. I got a little dot which had a circle swell around it. I was walking upstairs and i felt a painful pinch on my arm under my sleeve. Maybe a spider was caught under my sleeve so it bit me? I then looked at it in a few minutes and i had dots all around my arm in the same area. I saw on another website that spiders tend to do things like this but i dont know for sure. Would this be something a spider does?

  73. Replying to a post from summer 2012: it’s not true that daddy long-legs spiders have no venom — like all spiders but the Uloboridae, they do. The confusion comes from the nickname “daddy long-legs” being applied to three different creatures: a spider, a harvestman, and a crane fly. The latter two, of course, are not venomous. The long-legged spider is usually called a cellar spider.

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  76. Hi Chris,
    I know this was a sort of tongue-in-cheek title, but as someone who is an arachnophobe I can attest that saying something about spiders that is simply not true does not help me overcome my fear. I have a strong respect for spiders and find them beautiful and fascinating, and would never kill one on purpose. But I am absolutely terrified of them to the point where I’ve had to quit a job before (delivering pizzas in college and I couldn’t make myself walk around outside a house in the dark because I know what’s hanging between the trees), and I can’t sit outside anymore with my wife on our patio after dark from September to almost November.
    If you’re trying to foster a healthier relationship with spiders, lying about what they do in order to drive web traffic just makes me more distrustful. What I really want to know is what actually happens when I encounter one of these giant orb weavers, walking through their web in the dark face-first into the spider? When/if it bites, what does it feel like? I hear that it’s a “mildly painful” bite, but to me that is somewhere between spilling a drop of fresh coffee on my thumb and a scorpion sting. Not very helpful.Funny thing is that I’ve been stung by a scorpion on my back, stung dozens of times by yellow jackets when I stepped in a nest, and yet I have no fear of either. In our house, I get the scorpions and my wife takes care of the spiders. Never been bitten while awake by a spider, and I for some reason I’m scared to death of them and I don’t know why. I just have a horrible image in my head of getting one tangled in my hair biting me over and over after walking into a web.
    In short, you didn’t convert any arachnophobes by posting a sensational title. Spiders do bite, and everybody knows it. What we want to know is, what does it feel like?
    And, please don’t say “semantics” like you did to an earlier poster when the difference is between trying to bite and biting. That spider was doing its damnedest to bite you. Just because it didn’t break the skin doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Do you somehow believe that if the spider were the size of a large wolf spider it would have somehow known it could bite and then choose not to because “spiders don’t bite?”
    No disrespect intended, but us phobics aren’t comforted by statements we know to be false, even in jest.

    • Thanks for your comment – I honestly meant no disrespect, and an sorry if you are disagree with my approach to this topic. I understand that arachnophobia is a serious issue for many people. That being said, if my ‘sensational’ title draws people to this blog post, and helps dispel some misinformation about spiders, than I consider it a success. What is extremely important, in my view, is to provide arguments and evidence to try to educate about arachnids, and bring to light their amazing biology. I am afraid I cannot give you more specifics about what a bite feels like, etc, since I have never been bitten by a spider.

      • NEVER?! Hmmmm… First off, I think your blog is excellent. (I’ve posted to it, and continue to follow it.)
        But, in the ‘interests of science’, don’t you think that it would help all (or at least, some) of the ‘arachnophobes’ out there, if you were able to give a more definitive answer to the question asked by Chris? Since you admit that you, personally, have never been bitten by a spider, perhaps you have some colleagues that might be able to answer that particular question. (I’ve never been bitten by a spider either for that matter, at least never that I’ve been aware of.) I’m aware that different spiders produce venom that varies in toxicity, (especially as it applies to it’s effects on humans) and wonder if there is any information concerning how painfull, and the effects of the bites of the various spiders that are indigenous to North America, (in particular) and of spider bites in general.
        Perhaps that information might assuage some of the fear of spiders, that is felt by so many.
        Just a thought…

  77. Johnny, Brett: thanks for the comments – I’m thrilled that the blog is initiating discussion. I do understand your point, and I will certainly do some research and see about getting some information about how painful bites, are etc. I did write a follow-up post to this one, and I do encourage you to have a look at it: http://arthropodecology.com/2013/06/13/update-spiders-still-dont-bite/ If you would like, I can e-mail you the paper referred to in that post – it does some some details of the (rarely) recorded spider bites.

  78. Two of my field assistants were bitten by Phoneutria spiders in French Guiana. These were likely Phoneutria fera, one of the “dangerous” Phoneutria. They described fairly intense pain and numbness from the site of the bite spreading upward on the leg. After 24 hours, the pain went away and there were no further complications. It is likely they did not receive a full dose of venom. Both spiders were encountered when these women put their boots on in the morning, and were captured after the bite.
    Serious envenomation by Phoneutria can be dangerous, especially to children, The more critical cases will result in heartbeat irregulatities, difficulty breathing or fever-like symptoms.
    For the garden variety orb-weavers, I don’t know. It would be difficult to be bitten by one, because when you run into them, they either drop, or climb up the intact portion of the web. They would rarely, if ever, be found in boots or clothing.

    • Thanks for posting that info, smccann27!
      As for the beautiful orb weaver spiders found here in Texas, I agree that it’s highly unlikely to find one in your boots or clothing. But I was just wondering if, say… one happened to walk into the web of an orb weaver in the dark and said spider somehow got into one’s clothing, I would think that the poor spider would probably bite, wouldn’t you? My curiosity is, what would the bite of an orb weaver feel like?

  79. This is stupid. Spider bites are rare because spiders are not common in the city and high population areas due to spraying poisons. Where spiders are more common, where there are less people, spiders bite more often. I personally, get bit almost every day at least once by various types of spiders. Hell, I just woke up this morning to being bit in my arm pit by a brown recluse.

    • Hello – I’m sorry you think this is stupid. Spiders are quite common in cities – many species are well adapted to life in urban areas – living on porches, buildings, living inside many/most buildings.

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  81. very interesting! I live in the country, and have lots of spiders, not as pets though. I much prefer spiders to bugs, so I don’t kill any that I see. I don’t understand arachnophobia, though I do understand being startled by unexpected things. I’ve lived with them for over a decade, and I’ll take spiders any day over venomous insects, bugs. I’m thankful for spiders!

  82. Great post, Chris. I’m a spider lover who lives out in the country (Quebec). They are omnipresent and I admire their ability to quickly set up shop and feast on other creep crawlies. One of our daughters is the designated protector of all things buggy and she will quite readily scoop one of up in her hand to rescue it from becoming a cat snack or a foot crunch. When I was a teen and lived in the Middle East, I had the privilege of sharing my flat with a camel spider who would somehow gain access to the bathroom during the night. It would stalk its prey – usually mice – in the bathroom. Once – and it was enough – I walked in on the aftermath a kill…not pretty given the particular methods employed by a camel spider (think ‘Saw’). After that overnight visits to the toilet were out of the question.

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  84. I’m not exactly a spider fan, but I don’t freak out when I find them. Like anything else in nature, I like to identify them, learn a little from their behavior, observe them for a while. I like to watch webs going up in the corners of my porch. I feel the same way about birds, bees, and squirrels. I’m constantly telling people who question why I trap them and release them out my front door that I would prefer to have them eating the bugs I don’t want than to call an exterminator. That said, I DID call and exterminator when I discovered a huge brown recluse hanging out in my son’s toilet one weekend when he was at his Dad’s. I knew what I was looking at and I scooped it into a jar to show the guy when he showed up.

    So, here’s how I found myself here. AND, I’m only posting something because this seems like a likely place to get an answer.

    That spider was easily twice the size of any brown recluse I have seen before. It was definitely larger than the descriptions say that the species grows to. I have seen this in other species of spiders. Most noteably wolf spiders and fishing spiders. I am not kidding when I say that I have seen several wolf spiders nearing the size of my hand.

    How does this happen? Why is it so difficult to find information on these aberrations? I keep thinking that this must have something to do with food sources and habitats – as all of these sightings were near dense woods or overgrown areas. I still wonder if it’s a form of giganticism?

    Any thoughts?

    • Hi Sally – first, I’m sorry to be slow in replying to your post. Hmm – I’m a little stuck on what to say, except that there is often huge variation in spider size. The published estimates are often quite variable, and even for people that study them regularly, size can differ depending on geographic location, overall fitness (level of food, as you suggest). I’m afraid that’s about the best I can do re: speculation on your question. Thanks for sharing!

  85. I was once on a boat on the Murray River in Australia and I somehow ended up with a red-back spider on my neck, probably from the vegetation on the river bank. It must have been there a for a few minutes but I never noticed it until my family started freaking out, and even when I brushed it off it never attempted to bite, just goes to show that even those species considered dangerous may rarely bite. It’s also worth noting that since the introduction of antivenin in Australia no one has been killed by a Red-back, and since the Sydney Funnel-web antivenin’s introduction again no one has been killed, despite it being considered the most dangerous species in the world by some.

    • Hi James – thanks for your comment! Indeed, although Australia sure has its host of ‘dangerous’ animals, you point out an important point – spiders aren’t out to ‘get us’! And with the advent of anti-venom, a bite from one of these critters is not nearly as dangerous as it once was. The more dangerous and risky things we do involve vehicles. We ought to be terrified every time we are on the freeway.

  86. I found a tiny spider the other day on my kitchen floor. I thought it was a piece of food & when I went to pick it up it started crawling & I smashed it by mistake. I have never seen a spider like this one. It was a tiny red spider that looked like a crab from a beach in Florida. It’s legs were all out sideways just like a crab. I live in lower Michigan. Do you know what kind of spider this may be it was bright brownish red?

  87. Pingback: You were not bitten by a spider in your sleep | standingoutinmyfield

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  89. I have been bitten my multiple wolf spiders in bc. I have one friend who almost died from a black widow, and I know two people with TERRIBLE scars from brown recuses. They are so dangerous.

  90. I really understand parts of this article, but indeed, sorry to say, spiders DO bite, and we have hordes of them where I live in Northern Cali. When I moved into my home, I hadn’t put my bed together yet, and although I had seen dozens of spiders in the home each day, right away, because the screens and screen doors were horrible and had zero insulation around the edges, I had to sleep on the floor for about a week, due to an issue with my frame. I was being bitten in the night, and would wake up with multiple bites all over me. Finally, one night, I had a dream like voice, mine of course, trying to wake me up as I was being bitten. And, I did wake up. I felt them biting. I moved slowly, turned on the light slowly with a remote, and removed the covers slowly, and BINGO! Not only did I have two spiders up my pajama legs biting me, but I literally had them pushed up against my body, SLEEPING AGAINST MY SIDE! And they were conked out! I got up and they just laid there all cozy and warm, and I poked at them with a hanger, and they got up all perky ready for attack. I took two of them into the center to be identified, because they were everywhere. They turned out to be a spider shipped in from Europe, on grape vines, which I had all around my home in the wine country.
    We also have massive amounts of yellow sac spiders, which don’t really bother me, major amounts of wolf spiders, which run at me, but don’t seem to want to bite, and many other critters. I was also bitten in Texas at my moms house by a recluse on the eye. I caught it, and ended up having to go to the hospital, as my face swelled pretty badly and there was a lot of pain. But, it went away in a couple of days, so I guess they would basically consider that a fairly “dry” bite, since it did not create any necrotic lesions. The spider was identified, so there was no question about it. They are NOT hard to identify. Those suckers are everywhere in Oklahoma and Texas, where all my relatives live. They DO get bitten as well. They have discovered a few different home remedies that work, and thus far, no major issues, as they treat the bites immediately. So, although I would like to say you are right that they don’t bite, I can’t. Sorry. I’ve had emails exchanged between myself and Rick, in regards to Hobo spiders, and I find him to be intolerable in attitude. He has an issue, and it isn’t JUST about
    the fact that people misidentify spiders. He has an anger issue, imo, which seems to make his commentaries very biased, also, imo. If he didn’t have the anger issues, I would put more stock in his words. My brother, an MD in Oregon, has treated and had the spiders identified.
    Some of the wounds are horrifying he has had to deal with. Hobo spiders were brought IN!
    So, sorry, just don’t bye it.

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  93. Hello, I own Paramount Pest Control here in Ottawa, I was very happy to find this great, detailed article on spiders. I have always told customers that getting tons of bites from spider attacks just doesn’t happen!! Over the last 20 years in the field of Environmental Pest Management I have tried to explain the facts on spider biology and behavior to many customers who just didn’t want to hear the facts. I will now Always make a point to show this article to those customers who don’t believe me because they are sure they are being attacked every night by “killer spiders” lol. Thanks a million for your great information and direct answers. You made my next 20 years in pest control much much easier.
    David Saunders
    owner: Paramount Pest Control
    Ottawa, Canada.

  94. I love your post and do love to observe nature and all it’s lovely creatures, big and small. I have mostly the crab looking orb weaver spiders in white and red. My concern is regarding the brown recluse spiders. I like everything u have said to inform that all spiders do not intentionally attack people. They’re more afraid of us and rather run. Of course they bite if frightened. I do want to point out that the maps on the locations of brown recluse needs to be updated cause they have made their way down to south Florida. All the way down to Miami. Something that should be made public. I have a friend that was bitten by one in Miami and she was able to identify it since she caught it and took it to the hospital. Thank u for all your information about spiders.

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