Arizona Spiders: Pictures and Identification

picture of a yellow Western Spotted Orbweaver, part of the Arizona spiders collection

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)
Not all species are present in Arizona. However, as a baseline for comparison, it’s fair to estimate the presence of approximately one thousand species in the state.

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 version of the common Western Spotted Orbweaver. 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.

picture of a Brown Recluse spider, Loxosceles sabina in Arizona
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 top picture, for example, 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.

picture of a Desert Blonde Tarantula
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.

picture of a Huntsman Spider in Arizona
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.

picture of a Solifugid arachnid
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.

Grand Canyon Spiders

picture of an Arabesque Spotted Orbweaver, part of the Arizona spiders collection
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.