Welcome to Arizona spiders. Researchers at New Mexico State University maintain a database of the spiders of the arid Southwest that includes the desert areas of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. In total their count contains 57 families, 272 genera and 1083 species.
Approximately eighty percent (80%) of the species belong to ten different families.
- Wolf Spiders (86 Species)
- Orb Weavers (58 Species)
- Sheetweb Spiders (130 Species)
- Cobweb Spiders (88 Species)
- Meshweb Spiders (72 Species)
- Jumping Spiders (147 Species)
- Ground Spiders (125 Species)
- Crab Spiders (47 Species)
- Running Crab Spiders (50 Species)
- Ant Mimics (23 Species)
The common names of some of these spider families sound familiar to most people because they are present year round in many yards. The picture at the top of the page shows a Yellow Garden Spider. Their circular, flat webs are a common site.
Other spider families such as the Sheetweb Spiders and Meshweb spiders are very small and often go unnoticed except for the presence of their webs.
The green Spider ID button compliments this introduction to Arizona spiders by providing pictures and descriptions of many of the more common and recognizable spiders presented in the list.
Of course the other twenty percent of Arizona spiders draw attention because they either tend to be common house spiders and yard spiders or they tend to be the big, scary and sometimes poisonous spiders that cause many a person to fear all spiders in general.
The picture shows one of the Brown Recluse spider species that is common in the Southern part of the state near the Tucson area. Note the violin looking pattern on the thorax as a key identification clue.
Fortunately Brown Recluse spiders do not want to engage with humans, and bites from them almost always happen by accident when a spider is hiding in clothes or shoes left around and put on without checking.
Arizona also hosts two widow species, the Western Black Widow and Brown Widow. As with all widow spiders, only the females are classified as poisonous. For individuals brave enough to peek at them in their cobwebs, they can be identified by the presence of hourglass marking on the bottom of the abdomen.
The hot to mild climate, depending on the season, suggests that they are present year round in many areas of the state. Usually they only present a potential danger when they take up residence around the yard around sheds or objects not often disturbed by human activity. For example, the bottom of lawn chairs that are not occupied or moved for long periods of time might make a nice place for a web.
Arizona also hosts a variety of tarantulas, although the exact number of species is subject to a wide range because of the limited amount of research on the topic.
Approximately 30 species of the traditional tarantula genus, Aphonopelma are documented. Some of them are endemic to California and Texas. Some tarantulas have a wider range and extend throughout much of the Southwest.
The light color of the abdomen helps with the identification of the Desert Blonde Tarantula, an Arizona specialty.
There are no records of serious harm to humans resulting from tarantula bites.
Best known as tropical and subtropical species, Huntsman spiders can also be found in the desert Southwest year round.
Counting leg length, they can grow to five inches and therefore cause a ruckus when they show up in homes and yards.
Sometimes the Solifugids can be mistaken for spiders or scorpions, hence the nicknames Camel spiders and windscorpions. However, they are an order of arachnids unto themselves.
They are mostly associated with the Southwest desert. However, there are over two hundred species in the western United States.
The extended appendages up front are pedipalps, not legs.
Arizona Garden Spiders
Back yards from the deserts of the south to the mountains in the north host a variety of spiders. Common names such as orbweavers, crab spiders and lynx spiders are the most colorful and eye catching species seen almost year round.
Species from three different genera
The picture at the top of the page shows the common Yellow Garden spider. It belongs to the Argiope genus. The picture under the Arizona Gaarden Spider heading shows a Western-spotted Orbweaver, one of a handful of Neoscona species present in the state. They often come in black and yellow forms.
Huntsman spiders, presented above, also go by the common name crab spiders. Any discussion of Arizona spiders in the garden would necessarily include a variety of other crab spiders. The crab spiders and running crab spiders in the top ten Arizona spiders category listed above suggests that around one hundered different crab spider species have been documented in the state. Given that the family Thomisidae (crab spiders) consists of around one hundred and thirty species, it’s reasonable to assume that Arizona hosts a large percentage of all the species with the common name crab spiders.
Five of the most colorful Thomisidae crab spiders
- Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)
- American Green Crab Spider (Misumessus oblongus)
- Swift Crab Spider (Mecaphesa celer)
- Northern Crab Spider (Mecaphesa asperata)
- White-banded Crab Spider (Misumenoides formosipes)
The name flower spider formally applies to the Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia), the only species in the genus. Females are typically three times larger and consequently receive more noticed than the male. Color and body pattern don’t often help with identification because all of the top five species share them. Instead, eye set up and body hair are used for initial identification purposes.
For example, according to Bugguide, the defining characteristic of the Goldenrod Crab Spider, “All four anterior (front) eyes are about the same size. When viewed from the front, and a little above, it seems all eight eyes are visible and form a crescent shape. The lateral eyes are on tubercles.” The Latin root of tubercles basically means lumps, so there are lumps under the two eyes on each end of the spider eyes. They are somewhat visible in the picture.
Macaphesa, the genera with the highest number of crab spider species, often initially get identified by the presence of hair on the body.
Ground crab spiders represent about one-half of the Thomisidae family and are even more difficult to identify to the species level. They are smaller sized, often around one-quarter of an inch in length, with dull color bodies. They fit into their background, tree bark and leaf litter.
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. Four species from two genera
- Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans)
- Lesser Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia longipalpis)
- Western Lynx Spider (Oxyopes scalaris)
- Striped Lynx Spider (Oxyopes salticus)
Jumping spiders are the largest spider family in terms of species, therefore it stands to reason that a good chunk of the population can often find multiple species in their yard.
Well over two dozen North American Phidippus jumping spiders inhabit the brush and walls around residential areas. Arizona hosts about half of the species.
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. While the list is not comprehensive, here’s a dozen common Phidippus species in Arizona.
- Brilliant Jumping Spider (Phidippus clarus)
- Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax)
- Apache Jumping Spider (Phidippus apacheanus)
- Desert Red Jumping Spider (Phidippus ardens
- Phoenix Jumping Spider (Phidippus phoenix)
- Hairy Tufted Jumping Spider (Phidippus comatus
- Phidippus asotus
- Phidippus carneus
- Phidippus californicus
- Phidippus octopunctatus
- Phidippus toro
- Phidippus tigris
Notice the multiple species that are Southwest specific? The Bold Jumping spider in the picture is probably the most common Phhidippus species in the United States.
The Brilliant Jumping spider is one of a handful of species with red coloration in the abdomen.
Arizona residents with grass lawns will notice the funnel webs during the warm seasons, especially with dew or water on the grass. Grass spiders, one of the genera in the larger funnel weaver family, can be found inArizona gardens. They are traditionally thin with shades of brown on the body. Spinnerets are visible at the bottom of the abdomen. Tops of bushes can also be covered with funnel webs from species from other genera.
Grand Canyon Spiders
Grand scenery explains many a visit to the Grand Canyon. Rightfully so, it’s a visually spectacular place. Spending time at the park also allows the eyes to adjust from the large and spectacular sights to the smaller sights such as spiders.
A checklist from the National Park Service called, Grand Canyon Spiders, currently documents around 125 arachnid species including spiders and scorpions.
When looking at the checklist it is important to note that some of the entries denote a spider genus only, and no actual species is provided.
Like many spider surveys, the checklist shows the most common species. For example, the Grande Canyon has a different Tarantula spider species and Recluse spider species than would be found in the Sonoran Desert in the south of the state.
Orbweavers are present, including the Western Spotted Orbweaver and the Arabesque Orbweaver in the final picture.