Arkansas’ nickname is the “natural state.” The historical aridity of the region and current humid climate has allowed desert and tropical species to call this state home. If you get down on your knees and search carefully, you can find almost 30 different species of spiders crawling around habitats in Arkansas.
Sometimes what counts as a spider isn’t clear. As kids, many of us learn insects have six legs, and spiders have eight.
But to be more specific, it’s arachnids that have eight legs. Arachnids include mites, ticks, scorpions, pseudoscorpions, and harvestmen. It also includes various classifications people will call, often scorpions and spiders.
For instance, whip scorpions and whip spiders are the same creature but are neither scorpions or spiders.
Then, we have the true spiders, also scientifically labeled under order Araneae. They are distinct from other arachnids for:
- Having mouth pincers called chelicerae
- Having fangs that often can inject venom
- Having back-end appendages called spinnerets that eject silk
Spiders in Arkansas Lifestyle
All spiders are also predators and usually eat insects. They are so good at eating insects that spiders are one of the best natural pest controls out there. Spiders also eat each other. Their habits support farmers and private homes alike.
Any carnivorous creature more massive than a spider will likely eat it. Birds, spiders, insects, and small mammals all eat spiders.
Many spiders live around one to two years, but up to seven years if they find a safe habitat like human buildings. Females sometimes eat males after mating. So males don’t live as long.
Most also prefer to avoid large animals like humans. But female spiders can be aggressive when they have an egg sac to monitor.
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The common house spider or barn funnel weaver spider (Tegenaria domestica) is a member of the Agelenidae or funnel weaver family. They are native to Europe and spread abroad after climbing aboard ships.
Like the funnel weaver label suggests, these spiders like to create funnel-shaped webs. You may have seen one in a cluttered corner on the floor. Females stay put while males roam.
House spiders grow 6 to 20 mm (0.2 to 0.8 inches). You may find them in earthy, low-tone colors like orange, beige, brown, and gray. Those colors also form two darker stripes running down either side of their backs.
The spotted orb weaver spider (Neoscona domiciliorum) is in the Araneidae or orb weaver family.
These spiders stand out in Arkansas. They have massive bodies from 7 to 16 mm (0.3 to 0.6 inches) and make large circular webs that children’s books and cartoons use for illustrations.
In late summer, you can find half a dozen of these spiders in the middle of their webs nearby. They build under tree branches, eaves of roofs, in between rails, and even between cars. They also mingle with N. crucifera, which is larger.
Female spotted orb weavers have dark and light bands on their bodies and legs, but part of the legs may look red. These are the ones you can easily recognize. Males lack the distinct orb-shaped bulk, and their bands are dull compared to females.
The arrow-shaped micrathena (Micrathena sagittata) is part of the Araneidae or orb weaver family.
As their common name suggests, the females of these spiders have arrow-shaped bodies. The yellow abdomen has two black-tipped spikes that come together in the middle. The rest of the body is red. Males are black and rarely seen.
Young spiders start with elongated bodies with small spines, and the pronounced arrow shape comes as they age.
They grow 5 to 9 mm (0.2 to 0.4 inches) and live in forests, bushes, and backyards. Low to the ground, they create vertical, cylindrical webs.
The banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata) is part of the Araneidae or orb weaver family.
Banded garden spiders are massive and noticeable. You can see the females from across a garden. Females grow 15 to 25 mm (0.6 to 1 inch) while males grow only 4 to 5 mm (0.15 to 0.2 inches). Egg sacs have drum shapes.
Compared to their even more well-known yellow garden spiders, banded garden spiders are different. They have narrower abdomens and a paler yellow paired with the black bands. Young spiders have white on top of their abdomens.
You’ll see these spiders in the late summer and into the fall.
The yellow or black and yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) is in the Araneidae or orb weaver family.
Yellow garden spiders are one of the most familiar species in Arkansas. If you see a large spider in a web between fence boards in an Arkansas garden, it’s probably A. aurantia.
Their orb-shaped webs also have a “zipper” pattern in the middle called a stabilimentum. When the spider isn’t there, it’s dangling from a silk string, hiding in the vegetation until movement triggers the web.
As their name indicates, they are yellow and black. When small insects get caught in their webs, the spiders wrap the prey in silk, inject venom, and later drink the liquefied remains.
The females of this species grow 19 to 28 mm (0.7 to 1.1 inches) and are three times larger than the males.
The long-palped ant mimic sac spider (Castianeira longipalpa) is part of the Corinnidae or corinnidae sac spiders.
These spiders are black with four white lines on their abdomen. Their heads can range from black to white, and their legs can be translucent to brown upfront. The hind legs are black with white bands. Ant mimics grow extra small, reaching 3 to 13 mm (0.1 to 0.5 inches).
But they inherited the ant mimic name not because of their appearance but because of their behavior and movement.
Ant mimics raise their front pair of legs to look like six-legged ants. Scientists theorize that mimics do this to sneak close to ants before killing them.
The southern house crevice weaver spider (Kukulcania hibernalis) is part of the Filistatidae or crevice weaver family.
This species resembles the brown recluse with its light gray-brown color and a small, oval body. But it is not related, and the crevice weaver doesn’t have the same harmful bite. It is common in the household wherever they find a mess, just like recluses.
Much like its name, this species likes human abodes, particularly wherever they find a crevice-like structure. And like common house spiders, the females stay in their woven webs while males wander.
The webs lack the extra sticky droplets other species put into their webs to catch prey. Instead, the webs have a cat-cradle design where it’s the shape of the weave by itself that traps prey. The web also traps debris, which disguises it.
The eastern parson spider (Herpyllus ecclesiasticus) is part of the Gnaphosidae or ground spider family.
Parson spiders are the most common of the ground spiders. They use their webs to secure under debris, foliage, and rocks during the day. At night, they roam and hunt.
This species is reddish-brown with a light stripe down the middle. Some have compared it to a 17th- and 18th-century cleric tie or cravat called a parson. The spider grows 6 to 13 mm (0.2 to 0.5 inches).
The ground spider (Sergiolus capulatus) is part of the Gnaphosidae or ground spider family.
They grow 6–13 mm (0.2 to 0.5 inches). Most of their bodies are reddish-orange, but the abdomen is brown with white bands.
Despite how common they are, we know little about them. Ground spiders live in the forests and meadows of the eastern United States. You can see them scurrying away if you disturb the ground near them. Otherwise, their life history and ecology are poorly understood.
The rabid wolf spider (Rabidosa rabida) is in the Lycosidae or wolf spider family.
They prefer forests, fields, and human constructions. These versatile preferences make wolf spiders a common sight to someone who discovers a spider in Arkansas. Rabid wolf spiders like ground-level “messes” like leaf debris, rock crevices, and trash.
Rabid wolf spiders are dark gray and have elongated lighter gray stripes on top. They grow 13 to 21 mm (0.5 to 0.8 inches).
Male rabid wolf spiders find females by tripping the female’s silk tripwire.
Female rabid wolf spiders lug a silk cocoon around with their eggs inside. It’s attached to a string ejected from the spinnerets.
The speckled wolf spider (Tigrosa aspersa) is part of the Lycosidae or wolf spider family.
This species is one of the most common of the often-seen wolf spiders. It grows 13 to 25 mm (0.5 to 1 inch) and has the classic out-stretched posture of wolf spiders. You can identify them further by their mostly dark body with banded legs and yellow around the eyes.
Wolf spiders get their name from their behavior. They don’t weave webs or set traps but rather run like wolves when catching prey.
The swamp wolf spider (Tigrosa georgicola) is in the Lycosidae or wolf spider family.
This species is endemic to the American Southeast. Hardwood forests provide the best habitat because of their rough bark and ample leaf debris.
Swamp wolf spiders grow 10 to 21 mm (0.4 to 0.8 inches). They are covered in dark brown with a light brown stripe down the middle of their backs.
Female wolf spiders stand out as arthropod mothers. They protect their eggs until the young hatch. Then the young get to ride on the mother’s back for a few weeks before becoming independent.
The black-footed yellow sac spider (Cheiracanthium inclusum) is part of the Cheiracanthiidae or prowling spider family.
Yellow sac spiders are debris dwellers. They like leaf litter and rocks. Sometimes they will also find crevices and corners in fences and walls.
They bite more than most spiders and resemble recluse and black widow bites. Though they don’t cause severe reactions as often as recluses do, when it does, it takes 1–10 hours for the pain and fever to run their course. Rarely, it will cause muscle cramps, nausea, and fever.
The bites happen when a person is gardening or putting clothing on that the spider was hiding in. They bite when they think you’re the invader.
This species grows 4 to 10 mm (0.15 to 0.4 inches). Like its namesake, yellow sac spiders have yellow abdomens that look like sacs. The rest of the body is brown to dark yellow.
They hunt at night and return to their retreat during the day.
The green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) is a member of the Oxyopidae of the lynx spider family.
These spiders grow 12 to 22 mm (0.4 to 0.9 inches). They are known for their hexagon arrangement of eyes and being bright green. As per their coloring, they prefer hiding among herbaceous or non-woody plants.
They are often seen on commercial crops and eating pests. But they will also prey on beneficial insects like honey bees.
Unlike most active hunting spiders, lynx spiders hunt during the day. They can also jump and see almost as well as jumping spiders.
The long-bodied cellar spider (Pholcus phalangiooides) is part of the Phocidae or cellar spider family.
Cellar spiders have small, elongated bodies and extra-long legs. Sometimes they are called daddy longlegs, though that name is more known with a non-spider known as harvestman.
Long-bodied cellar spiders live in man made buildings and other dark, quiet locations like caves.
They grow 6 to 8 mm (0.2 to 0.3 inches). But the legs are 50 mm (2 inches) long.
Unlike many spiders, cellar spiders expect to live more than one year. Because of their safe and stable choice in habitat, they take that first year to mature and breed the next.
Also unusual, these spiders will vibrate and move in a circle on their web when they feel threatened.
The dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) is part of the Pisauridae or nursery web spider family.
Fishing spiders are like wolf spiders. They are large, brown, and point their legs wide in all directions. But rather than knowing them for chasing prey, we know them for living near water. They catch small fish and aquatic insects. Fishing spiders also often walk on top of the water.
Dark fishing spiders are less aquatic than other fishing spiders. They will inhabit homes and forests. In forests, they will climb trees and rest in bark crevices.
This species grows 7 to 26 mm (0.3 to 1 inch), with females twice as large as males.
The gray wall jumping spider (Menemerus bivittatus) is in the Salticidae or jumping spider family.
Like other jumping spiders, gray wall jumpers have excellent athletics and vision. Most arthropods like insects and spiders tend to have poor sight. So a spider with clear, colored vision stands out.
This jumper originates from the tropics in the eastern hemisphere. Much like their journey to Arkansas and the rest of North America, they live strictly among human structures.
Gray wall jumpers grow 8 to 10 mm (0.3 to 0.4 inches). They have black and off-white bands on their legs and bodies.
As heavy-built spiders, they can leap at and take down large flies, including crane flies.
The tan jumping spider (Platycryptus undatus) is part of the Salticidae or jumping spider family.
Like many jumping spiders, tan jumpers have two eyes on the front of the head and six eyes wrapped around the head.
Some of their gray-brown fur is dark, and other parts are light. The contrast forms lattice-like patterns. The “undatus” in their name refers to the undulating of that pattern.
Tan jumpers live in natural and manmade habitats. They like vertical surfaces like tree trunks and house walls. Arkansas, in particular, has forests dominated by shagbark hickory. These trees have shaggy bark that the jumpers like to live in.
The zebra back spider (Salticus scenicus) falls within the Salticidae or jumping spider family.
Zebra backs are native to Europe. But in modern times, they live anywhere in the northern hemisphere. Also, like many imported species to Arkansas, these spiders prefer to live close to humans. You can find them on vertical surfaces like fences, walls, and windows.
This spider grows 4 to 7 mm (0.15 to 0.3 inches). As the name suggests, they have a pronounced black and white striped pattern.
Jumping spiders are an athletic family. They have mating rituals where the male dances in a zigzag pattern. Also, as visually acute they are, the females are attracted to stripes and how stripes appear in movement.
Mother jumping spiders also protect their young until they complete their second molt. This parental investment is more than most arthropods.
The spitting spider (Scytodes longipes), like its species name, is a member of the Scytodidae or spitting spider family.
This species got its name from the spider’s ability to spit from its fangs. The spit is a mix of silk, venom, and glue. So when the spider hunts, it hunkers somewhere dark, uses silk for a tripwire, spits to immobilize the prey, and snags it.
Spitting spiders grow 3 to 6 mm (0.1 to 0.2 inches). They prefer to live in houses, specifically in cabinets, basements, and other dark corners. Though they also inhabit fields, trees, and under rocks.
Mothers will keep their young in their sheet-like webs and feed them until they are ready to become independent.
The brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is part of the Sicariidae or violin or recluse spider family.
Arkansas is the heart of the brown recluse’s range. It lives throughout the state and surrounding states, but not much else. They live in cramped hiding spaces in houses, under rocks, and outdoor debris.
This small brown spider with a fiddle-shaped mark on its abdomen is notorious for its necrotic or flesh-killing toxic bite. But the spider is not aggressive. Like other species, it’s more afraid of you than you are of it. Still, you may prefer to be safe and capture and release it outside.
If you get bitten, you may not notice pain or swelling for many hours. Sanitizing with rubbing alcohol and applying ice will slow and minimize the process. If you develop other symptoms, you may want to check with a doctor.
Even if the bite starts killing your skin, the damage will remain local and heal within a few weeks. The doctor comes in if the person bitten is young or elderly because these demographics can get fevers with their bites.
The orchard orb weaver spider (Leucauge venusta) is part of the Tetragnathidae or long-jawed orb weaver family.
Orchard spiders grow 3.5 to 7.5 mm (0.14 to 0.3 inches). They have pale colors with dark markings on their elongated bodies. If you look closely, both the pale and the dark have green and have orange patches on the underside.
These spiders love warm, humid climates. In nature, they seek habitats like meadows, bushes, and forests. In manmade environments, they prefer gardens and sheds for their relative shade and humidity.
Young spiders build classic, circular webs lower than mature spiders. The web gets rebuilt every morning. Adults die in the fall while the eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring.
Leucauge venusta is the only spider name given by Charles Darwin. It means “with a bright gleam” and “charming,” respectively.
The chocolate tarantula (Aphonopelma hentzi) is a member of the Theraphosidae or tarantula family.
The tarantula is the largest spider in Arkansas, averaging 50 mm (2 inches). They are dark, hairy, and look nothing like any other spider in the state.
This species loves hiding under rocks and lining its home with webbing. The home is often a crevice or an abandoned animal burrow.
If you’re driving in Arkansas in the late summer or early fall, you might see male tarantulas crossing the road.
Because they are so large, they eat different insects than other spiders. Tarantulas can grasp robust creatures like beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, and grasshoppers.
Sometimes they wander out for these insects, but often tarantulas prefer to wait at the opening of their home for prey to come to them.
Rare among spiders, tarantulas take many years to grow up. They mature after 10 years. Pet tarantulas can live for 25 years.
The southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans) is part of the Theridiidae or cobweb spider family.
This species is one of the easiest to identify. It has a shiny black body. Females, in particular, have massive abdomens and a red hourglass-shaped patch underneath. They grow 3 to 10 mm (0.1 to 0.4 inches), with males much smaller than females.
Black widows like hiding in dark crevices and under debris. Sometimes they’ll find a spot under a lid or in an outhouse.
Males create sperm-lined webs and collect a sample on their feelers. They seek out the female and use the sperm-carrying palps for mating. A female needs to mate only once in her entire life. She can store the sperm and use it again whenever she wants.
Contrary to their reputation, females don’t always eat their mates.
Black widows prefer to avoid trouble. But if cornered, they bite with neurotoxic venom. This venom blocks nerve impulses that cause localized pain. Rarely, severe cases result in hours of painful abdominal muscle spasms, nausea, and high blood pressure.
The common house spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) is in the Theridiidae or cobweb spider family.
One of many “common house spiders” and a good reason for scientific names, this species has migrated worldwide from the tropics.
These are less shy than other house spiders. You’ll likely see one up in corners under roofed porches or between window sills and screens. The spider is harmless, but in Arkansas, you might be taking a broom to a bunch of them and their egg sacs from spring to fall.
House spiders grow 4 to 7 mm (0.15 to 0.3 inches) and have dark bodies with light, wavy markings. Males often live with the females, sharing webs for extended periods.
The goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia) is part of the Thomisidae or crab spider family.
These crab spiders are the chameleons of the spider world. They change color according to the flower they rest on. Crab spiders can be yellow, white, green, and more, though yellow is a challenging transition. Transitions range 5–25 days.
Crab spiders also have front legs like pincers and sometimes walk sideways, which earned them the “crab” name. They grow 4 to 10 mm (0.15 to 0.4 inches).
Like flowers, you’ll find these spiders in the summer in the brightest sun. If you work outside during this time, you might discover one that blew onto you.
The eastern harvestmen or daddy longlegs (Leiobunum vittatum) is not a spider, though we refer to it as one.
It is a member of the Opiliones order, which is a broader classification than a family. They are a sister order to spiders, but they are most related to mites and other non-spider and non-scorpion arachnids.
Harvestmen have an iconic gray or brown oval body attached to the hairline-thin incredibly long legs compared to spiders. Many children have memories of gawking and playing with these creatures, especially in the late summer. Contrary to a popular myth, they are not venomous.
Spiders in Arkansas FAQs
1. Are there venomous spiders in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, there are three venomous spider species. They are the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa), the southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans), and the northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus). All are in the Theridiidae or cobweb spider family.
2. Why do all spiders have spinnerets if not all spiders weave webs?
Spider species that don’t weave webs still use their spinnerets for creating egg sacs and nests. Sacs require lots of silk for creating a controlled climate while the baby spiders develop.
The mother also has to use webbing to secure the eggs in a nest in a location safe from predators and other disturbances