Types of Spiders
The spiders section begins with a video play list of some common spiders in action, followed by a gallery covering different types of spiders native to North America. Most of the spiders belong to the orb weaver family, (Araneidae) and they are commonly found in residential areas, and subsequently in homes across North America. Please click on any of the links in the relate box to discover more information about any of the types of spiders presented on this page.
Most spiders have eight eyes and you can identify spiders by the eye arrangement.
The 2-4-2 eye arrangement of the spider in the picture indicates it is a wolf spider.
Giant House Spider
Any spider found within a residential dwelling might rightly be called a House Spider. In fact, most people's squeamishness around spiders often translates into something along the lines of, any spider found in the house is naturally a giant, gigantic, large and hairy spider, or something close to that description.
True enough. One spider species, Eratigena atrica, a member of the funnel weaving family, also formally goes by the name Giant House Spider because it can grow up to four inches from leg to leg. Its close relative, Eratigena agrestis goes by the name Hobo Spider, with unconfirmed reports of its being a spider of medical importance.
The Araneus genus of spiders consists of many familiar orb weaving spiders found in and around residential areas throughout North America.
Because of their size, the size of their web and their affinity for living in residential settings, many people refer to araneus spiders as garden spiders, without knowing their taxonomic group.
While most people associate orbweavers with round bodies, the Arrowshped Micrathena represents on of a handful of orbweavers with spiky or pointed bodies.
Phidippus: Jumping Spider
Well over two dozen North American Phidippus jumping spiders inhabit the brush and walls around residential areas.
Differences among Phidippus deal more with color than with body form. Generally, Phidippus species have darker banded legs, with shades of black, brown, red or yellow on the cephalothorax and abdomen.
Argiope spiders often go by the name garden spiders or writing spiders, and they are credited as the inspiration for one of the world's most popular spiders, Charlotte of Charlotte's Web.
Females generally grow larger than males, often having a body over an inch in length, with equally long front and back legs.
Writing spiders build large nest nests around homes and gardens. Their nickname derives from their web construction practices, which includes what is formally called a stabilimentum, or a series of Zs or Xs down the web's center.
North America hosts about five Argiope species, however, only two, the Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) and the Banded Argiope (Argiope trifasciata) range across the continent.
The majority of Lynx Spiders (family Oxyopidae) live in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.
However, species in three different genera can be found in the United States.
The are small to medium sized hunting spiders, and like the crab spiders and jumping spiders, their preferred habitat consists of low growing plants and bushes.
Tarantulas are timid spiders that inhabit southern areas, especially the Southwest.
The Writing Spider is using its silk to wrap up a bee caught in its web.
Yellow Sac Spider
Yellow Sac Spiders (Cheiracanthium) commonly inhabit residential areas and can wind up on walls. While they are not considered spiders of medical importance (more commonly known as poisonous), their bite can be painful.
The red part of the legs often serves as a useful starting point for identifying Spotted Orbweavers.
The Six-spotted Orbweaver is fairly small and colorful, with the six black abdominal spots providing the best identification clue.
West coast residents might occasionally find a Mouse Spider on the wall.
Grass spiders are one of the many funnel weaving spiders that inhabit North American residential areas.
Golden Silk Orbweaver
Golden Silk Orbweavers are known as the spiders that build the largest orb or circular web in North America.
Furrow spiders, also called bridge spiders because of their tendency to build webs around bridges and water, are one of many genera in the larger orbweaver spider family.
What Do Spiders Eat?
Spiders, long considered carnivores, (although there might be exceptions to that rule), traditionally choose insects and other arachnids as their primary source of food.
Arachnologists, scientists who study spiders, have long been intrigued by spider diets. One question they consider, "Are Spiders Picky Eaters", has been the subject of both observation and scientific experimentation.
Like all scientists, when arachnologists conduct experiments on spider diets, they are trying to stay as objective as possible with respect to the potential answers.
Objectivity in scientific experimentation often loosely translates into scientists trying to prove their thinking is wrong, rather than prove their thinking is correct. Scientifically, the process is known as testing the null hypothesis.
A pair of arachnologists conducting experiments on the pickiness of spider eating habits, started with the hypothesis that spiders eat any insects that come their way.
They conducted an experiment with an Araneidae species, an orb weaving spider (Micrathena Gracilis).
Over an extended period of time, they counted the number and size of insects that flew into the web. They also recorded the number and size of the insects that the spider captured for dinner.
Testing the null hypothesis meant that the researchers thought that the spider would eat all the insects that landed in the web, regardless of insect size.
At the end of their experiment, they concluded that when given the choice between large and small insects caught in the web, the spider preferred larger insects.
In scientific terms, they concluded there was a statistically significant relationship between spider diet and insect size. The hypothesis that spiders are picky eaters still stands.
Types of Spider Webs
Spiders can be either hunters or gatherers, with webs serving as the primary hunting tool for gathering spiders.
All spider webs are made from silk, produced by an organ called spinnerets, which are located on the spider's abdomen.
All spiders, including the hunters, use silk for one reason or another.
Jumping spiders, for example, although formally classified as hunting spiders, use silk as a type of bungee cord for added protection as they literally jump from leaf to leaf or branch to branch in search of prey.
Because of their specialized hunting method, web building spiders typically have a larger number of silk glands than hunting spiders.
Spiders are often further classified according to the types of webs they build.
Three of the better known groups of spiders that build different types of webs are the orb weavers, cobweb spiders and funnel weavers. The picture on the left shows a basic orb web.
Many common garden spiders, such as the writing spider, are orb weavers.
Cobweb spiders belong to the family Theridiidae. They make their multidimensional webs in many homes and gardens. Most references you read on the internet also point out that black widow spiders (redback spiders in Australia) belong to this family.
Funnel web spiders (family Agelenidae) also go by the name grass spiders because their webs are commonly found at ground level. Like cobweb spiders, their webs are multidimensional, with the added feature of a built in funnel shaped hole. It serves as protection as the spider waits to catch prey.
There are close to one hundred different species of funnel web spiders in the United States.
Each of the following five questions comes accompanied by a spider picture. Click on the circle next to your answer for each question. When you are finshed, click on the results button to see your score.
© 2001-2014 Patricia A. Michaels