Spiders, those eight-legged arachnids that often evoke a mix of fascination and fear, are some of the most diverse and intriguing creatures you can encounter in Washington State. To date, over 300 spiders in Washington statehave been identified, the world of spiders here is as varied as the landscapes they call home.
Spiders are arthropods, belonging to the class Arachnida, and they share a family tree with scorpions, ticks, and mites. They are characterized by their two main body parts, the cephalothorax and abdomen, and, of course, those iconic eight legs that help them move with agility. Spiders are skilled predators, known for weaving silk webs, creating intricate burrows, or actively hunting down their prey.
These arachnids play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of Washington State's ecosystems. Spiders are nature's pest controllers, preying on insects that, if left unchecked, could harm crops and disrupt the natural order. They are the unsung heroes of gardens and forests, quietly reducing populations of pests while supporting a thriving web of life.
Washington State is home to a diverse and impressive array of spider species. Each of these species brings its unique characteristics and adaptations, making Washington a haven for arachnid diversity. While Washington boasts an impressive number of spider species, only a handful are commonly encountered by humans. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the lives of the most frequently sighted arachnids.
A chart showing ten common spiders in washington
- Description -The giant house spider is known for its intimidating size and long, spindly legs. It's typically brown with noticeable markings.
- Habitat -Often found indoors, particularly in damp and cool areas like basements.
- Behavior -These spiders are harmless to humans and are skilled hunters of insects in and around homes. They are not aggressive spiders, but they can bite if they feel threatened. Giant house spider bites are rarely serious, but they can cause pain and swelling.
- Description -Yellow sac spiders are usually pale yellow and relatively small, with slender bodies.
- Habitat -They create small silken sacs as shelters, and you can find them both indoors and outdoors.
- Behavior -These spiders are generally non-aggressive and are not considered dangerous to humans. But Yellow sac spider bites can be painful and cause a rash.
- Description -Black widows are easily recognizable by their jet-black color and the distinctive red hourglass shape on their abdomen.
- Habitat -They prefer dark and sheltered areas, like woodpiles, garages, and sheds.
- Behavior -Black widows are venomous, but they are not aggressive unless provoked. Bites are rare and, if treated promptly, typically not life-threatening. Symptoms of a black widow spider bite include muscle pain, cramping, and nausea.
- Description -Hobo spiders are medium-sized and brown with distinct chevron patterns on their abdomen.
- Habitat -They are often found in and around homes, particularly in basements.
- Behavior -The hobo spider's bite can be painful, but it is not considered dangerous. Hobo spider bites can cause pain, swelling, and redness. Their presence in homes is generally unobtrusive.
- Description -Wolf spiders are typically brown, robust, and covered in hair, giving them a distinctive appearance.
- Habitat -They are commonly found outdoors in gardens and grassy areas.
- Behavior -Wolf spiders are agile hunters and are not aggressive towards humans. Some species carry their young on their backs.
- Description -Orb weavers encompass various species known for their intricate, circular webs.
- Habitat -Gardens, forests, and grassy areas are where you'll typically find orb weavers.
- Behavior -They are harmless to humans but they can bite if they feel threatened. Orb weaver bites are rarely serious, but they can cause pain and swelling. And play a vital role in controlling insect populations.
- Description -Cellar spiders have long, spindly legs and are pale yellow to light brown in color.
- Habitat -As their name suggests, they are often found in damp, dark places like basements and cellars.
- Behavior -These delicate spiders are not harmful to humans and they do not bite. They are known for their distinctive webs.
- Description -Jumping spiders are small, agile spiders with excellent eyesight.
- Habitat -They can be found both indoors and outdoors, often in gardens and on windowsills.
- Behavior -Jumping spiders are curious and harmless to humans. They are known for their distinctive hunting behaviors.
Here are some tips on how to identify common spiders in Washington state,
- Size and color -Spiders can range in size from very small to very large. They can also be a variety of different colors, including brown, black, red, yellow, and white.
- Body shape -Spiders have a distinctive body shape with eight legs and two body segments. The front body segment is called the cephalothorax, and it contains the spider's eyes, mouth, and fangs. The back body segment is called the abdomen, and it contains the spider's digestive and reproductive organs.
- Web structure -Some spiders build webs to catch their prey, while others do not. If you see a spider web, you can use the structure of the web to help you identify the spider.
- Eye pattern -Spiders have eight eyes, but the arrangement of the eyes can vary depending on the species. For example, orb weavers have eight eyes arranged in two rows, while wolf spiders have eight eyes arranged in three rows.
- Indoors -Common spiders like the giant house spider, cellar spiders, and yellow sac spiders are often found indoors, seeking shelter from the elements. Look in basements, attics, crawl spaces, and dark corners of your home.
- Outdoors -Many spiders, such as orb weavers and wolf spiders, prefer outdoor environments. You can find them in gardens, forests, and grassy areas. Check around shrubs, trees, and tall grasses.
- Specific Habitats -Some spider species have specific habitat preferences. For instance, black widows often inhabit woodpiles, garages, and sheds. Hobo spiders are commonly found in basements and similar locations while jumping spiders can be spotted on windowsills or sunlit walls.
- Web Location -The location of a spider's web can also provide clues about their habitat. Orb weavers typically construct their webs in open spaces between trees or bushes, while cellar spiders create messy webs in dark, sheltered areas.
- Seasonal Variation -Spider activity can vary with the seasons. Some species are more active in spring and summer, while others, like the giant house spider, become more conspicuous in the fall when they seek mates.
Two spiders in different habitats
- Hunting Methods -Spiders are primarily carnivorous and use different methods to capture their prey. Some, like orb weavers, build intricate webs to ensnare flying insects. Others, such as wolf spiders and jumping spiders, actively stalk and pounce on their prey.
- Silk Production -All spiders are capable of producing silk. They use silk for a variety of purposes, including building webs, creating egg sacs, and constructing shelters. The silk produced by each species may vary in texture and purpose.
- Molting -Spiders molt as they grow, shedding their exoskeleton to reveal a new, larger one. Molting is essential for spiders to continue growing and reproducing.
- Territorial and Mating Behavior -Spiders can exhibit territorial behavior, especially during mating seasons. Male spiders may engage in courtship rituals, and in some species, females may become aggressive if they feel threatened.
- Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus hesperus) -The black widow is the most well-known venomous spider in Washington State. It possesses neurotoxic venom, which, while rarely life-threatening, can cause severe pain and discomfort if bitten.
- Hobo Spider (Tegenaria agrestis) -The hobo spider's bite is not life-threatening, but it can cause local pain and tissue damage. Identifying hobo spiders accurately is essential, as their bites have been controversial in the past.
- Stay Calm -If you suspect you've been bitten by a venomous spider, stay calm. Panicking can elevate heart rate and spread venom faster through the body.
- Wash the Area -Clean the bite area with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection.
- Apply a Cold Compress -Applying a cold compress or ice pack can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Keep the Bite Elevated -Elevating the bitten area can help minimize swelling.
- Pain Management -Over-the-counter pain relievers can help with pain management. Always follow the recommended dosage.
- Seek Medical Attention -If you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, muscle cramps, or severe pain, or if you are unsure about the spider's identity, seek medical attention immediately. Healthcare professionals can provide appropriate treatment and monitor your condition.
- Capture the Spider -If safely possible, capture the spider or take a clear photo of it to assist with identification and treatment decisions.
It's important to note that spider bites in Washington State are relatively rare, and the majority of spider species are harmless to humans. Understanding the behavior and venom of common spiders can help mitigate any concerns and promote coexistence with these arachnids.
- Seal any cracks or gaps around your doors and windows. Spiders can get through very small openings, so it's important to seal up any cracks or gaps in your home's exterior.
- Keep your home clean and tidy. Spiders are attracted to clutter and mess, so it's important to keep your home clean and tidy to reduce their hiding places.
- Regularly vacuum and dust your home. This will help to remove any spider webs or eggs that may be present.
- Store food in airtight containers. Spiders are attracted to food, so it's important to store all food in airtight containers to keep them out.
- Take out the trash regularly. Spiders are also attracted to garbage, so it's important to take out the trash regularly to reduce their food supply.
- Remove any cobwebs or egg sacs that you see. If you see a spider web or egg sac, remove it immediately to prevent the spiders from hatching.
If you have a spider infestation, there are a few things you can do to get rid of them,
- Use a spider spray. Spider sprays are available at most hardware stores. Be sure to follow the directions on the label carefully.
- Set traps. There are a variety of spider traps available, such as sticky traps and glue traps. Place the traps in areas where you've seen spiders.
- Call a professional pest control company. If you have a severe spider infestation, you may need to call a professional pest control company to get rid of them.
- Use peppermint oil. Spiders are repelled by the smell of peppermint oil. You can mix a few drops of peppermint oil with water and spray it around your home to help keep spiders away.
- Plant herbs. Certain herbs, such as lavender and basil, are also known to repel spiders. You can plant these herbs around your home or place them in pots in your home.
- Remove clutter. The less clutter you have in your home, the fewer places spiders will have to hide.
- Keep your home dry. Spiders are attracted to moisture, so it's important to keep your home dry and well-ventilated.
- Inspect your home regularly. Look for any cracks or gaps around your doors and windows that need to be sealed up. Also, be sure to remove any cobwebs or egg sacs that you see.
It is important to note that some spiders, such as the black widow spider, are venomous and can be dangerous. If you are bitten by a spider, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
Of the roughly 100 scorpion species found in the United States, two are located in the Evergreen State, according to arachnid expert Rod Crawford of the University of Washington Burke Museum.
According to the Guinness World Records, the Sydney funnel-web spider, Atrax robustus, is the most dangerous spider to humans in the world. Native to Australia, this poisonous spider is found in moist habitats such as under logs or in gardens.
The largest spider in the world is Theraphosa blondi, commonly known as the Goliath birdeater, according to National Geographic. This tarantula can reach up to 11 inches in length and weigh 6 ounces; this size is big enough to cover a dinner plate, says Guinness World Records.
Spiders are a diverse and fascinating group of creatures that play an important role in the environment. While there are a few venomous species of spiders in Washington state, the vast majority of spiders are harmless to humans. In fact, spiders can be beneficial to have around, as they help to control populations of pests.
Understanding the behavior, identification, habitats, and potential risks associated with the venomous species is key to coexisting harmoniously with these eight-legged wonders. By respecting their place in nature and taking simple preventative measures, you can minimize spider encounters in your home.
Remember, while some spider species may evoke fear, they all play vital roles in controlling pest populations and maintaining ecological balance. By appreciating the diversity of spiders in Washington State, we can foster a greater sense of wonder and admiration for the intricate web of life that surrounds us.