Virginia Spiders: Pictures and Identification Tips

picture of an Arrowhead Spider, Virginia spiders

The nine hundred or so Virginia spiders and their seasonal appearance depend on a few factors such as the climate and terrain. A southern climate means that many spider species are present as soon as the first flowers bloom and the first insects, their prey of choice, arrives. Those facts often translate into a spider season that lasts from early spring through late fall.

Climate and terrain along Virginia’s western border, the Appalachian Mountains, generally translates into a shorter spider season.

This presentation of Virginia spiders provides a representation sample many common and some uncommon of the states species. Visitors interested in additional spider identification help are welcome to press the green spiders button.

Residents with an eye for spiders, who travel around the state and region soon learn that many Virginia spiders are similar to those of their northern and southern neighbors, making them common throughout the state. Whether one lives in Richmond, Charlottesville, Norfolk or any urban or suburban area of the state, most common Virginia spiders around the home and garden stay pretty much the same. With very few exceptions, this fact holds true for the state’s orbweaving spider population, including the Arrowhead spider (Verrucosa arenata), pictured at the top of the page.

picture of a Marbled Orbweaver
With about eighteen different species, members of the Araneus genus top the orbweaving spider diversity list. A bright orange body catches the eye makes the Marbled Orbweaver one of the most easily recognized Araneus species.

picture of a Joro Spider
Two members of the Golden Orbweavers (Genus Trichonephila) could be bound to make news. Virginia is situated on the northern boundary of the Golden Silk Orbweaver (Trichonephila clavipes). They are a heat sensitive species. A changing climate suggests an increase in temps could move their range north, including Virginia.

The Joro spider (Trichonephila clavata), an East Asian imported species has less heat sensitive are projected to migrate up the east coast, including Virginia. Both species build large webs and are larger than average spiders. Residents of the Southeast have long become accustomed to the presence of the Golden Silk Orbweaver and are ready for the Joro spider. Neither of them poses a problem for humans, with the caveat to keep eyes out for the large webs. Joro spider webs can be twice the size of the average Golden Silk Orbweaving webs.

picture of an Orchard Orbweaver, Virginia spiders
Orchard Orbweavers belong to a different family, the Long-jawed Orbweavers. Look for the webs at forest and orchard edges around the state.

picture of a
Sheetweb spiders, the often small and inconspicuous spiders, lead the list of Virginia spiders with the most species in the family. Small in size, it’s often easier to see their webs against the early morning lawn dew, rather than seeing the spider. The picture shows the Black-tailed Red Sheetweb spider. It grows to about one-eighth an inch in length. A good macro lens is necessary for a picture.

picture of a
The Bowl and Dolly spider, another very small sheetweb spider in the Eastern United States, builds an easily recognized bowl shaped web as shown in the picture.

picture of a
Virginia jumping spider populations also closely mirror Southeast trends. ranks high on the number of species list, a fact that mirrors jumping spider populations throughout the Southeast. These medium to small sized spiders population the bushes around residential areas throughout the state.

They can take a variety of shapes and colors. The Sylvan jumping spider in the picture, for example has a long, thin abdomen. Virginia might host up to one dozen different jumping spider species with brown bodies. It’s important to closely examine the patterns on the body for accurate species identification.

Phidippus jumping spiders often have red coloration on one or both body parts along with green jaws.

picture of a
Magnolia Green jumpers, another common species, have a translucent green body. There’s no mistaking them for any other jumping spider species.

picture of a
Crab spiders (family Thomisidae), another very common group of spiders found in residential areas, consists of around one hundred and thirty species, divided into at least ten genera. Because their range extends across the entire United States, species from three of the genera:

  • Misumena
  • Misumenoides
  • Mecaphesa
are commonly found on flowers throughout the state. These are the more colorful and stationary hunters.

Mecaphesa go by the common name Hairy Crab Spiders.Over two dozen species have been documented in North America and the majority of species live in warmer climates. Northern Crab Spiders (Mecaphesa asperata), one of those species, can be initially identified by the presence of hair on the body.

picture of a
Half of the family Thomisidae consists of ground crab spiders, the less colorful crab spider species. It’s easy to recognize them as a group. The picture highlights their basic body shape and leg positioning. Experts often recommend microscopic examination of specimens to determine identification to the level of species. Look for them on or close to the ground.

picture of a
Ground crab spiders share the space with other spider species, including wolf spiders, ground sac spiders and ground spiders in the family Gnaphosidae.

Virginia researchers continue to document state spiders, with a recent ground spider survey documenting forty five of the expected sixty to sixty five species. see Hoffman, Richard L. Virginia Ground Spiders: A First List (Araneae: Gnaphosidae). Banisteria, Number 33, pages 18-29. 2009.

The picture shows a Variegated Ground Spider, very common throughout the eastern United States. According to Hoffman, it also has the widest documented range across Virginia. Prominent spinnerets at the end of the abdomen help identify ground spiders compared to other spiders found at ground level.

picture of a
Twenty years of research has also documented the presence of larger than expected populations of spiders called Mygalomorphs. The group consists of a handful of spider families with tarantulas the best known. Because they are spiders that burrow in the ground, they need loose soil and their underground existence puts them among the least seen spider species.

Virginia does not host tarantula species. However, they do host the related purseweb and trapdoor spiders, named for the way they dig holes in the ground and cover them with silk. Males emerge from underground during the spring and/or summer months in search of females. The picture shows a trapdoor spider in the genus Ummidia.