Once you begin watching spiders, you haven’t time for much else—the world is really loaded with them.  I do not find them repulsive or revolting, any more than I find anything in nature repulsive or revolting, and I think it is too bad that children are often corrupted by their elders in this hate campaign.  Spiders are skillful, amusing and useful.  And only in rare instances has anybody ever come to grief because of a spider.

E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web

Zipper Spider

Zipper Spider

Spiders are not Insects

A spider is an arachnid. [3]  Spiders (arachnids) have eight legs and two main body parts while insects have six legs and three main body parts.  Here’s a comparison of spiders and insects: [2]


  • Two main body parts
  • 8 legs
  • Simple eyes
  • Piercing jaws (fangs)
  • Abdominal silk-spinning organs
  • Anterior abdominal genital opening

(1) four pairs of legs, (2) the cephalothorax, (3) the abdomen – from Wikipedia: Spider Anatomy


  • Three main body parts
  • 6 legs
  • Compound eyes
  • Chewing jaws (mandibles)
  • Antennae
  • Posterior abdominal genital opening
Insect with Numbers

(1) three pairs of legs, (2) head, (3) thorax, (4) abdomen

Spiders Are All Around Us

A Wired magazine article from October 23, 2013 was titled You Are Within 6 Feet Of A Spider Right Now. [5]  If you have arachnophobia this thought probably freaks you out.  Of course if it’s true, we think it’s pretty cool.

What is true, is that spiders are abundant. There are over 1,000,000 individuals per acre in a grassy field, [7] and there are probably between 100 and 200 living in your house right now. [8]  But this is a good thing, because spiders are actually beneficial (see below).

We also think the fear of spiders may be a bit overblown.  The effects of most bites are not serious and result in mild symptoms around the area of the bite.   Rarely they may produce a necrotic skin wound or severe pain. [27]   There are two venomous spiders in Georgia that are the exception:  the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse.  More on these two below.

If you wish to live and thrive, Let the spider run alive.

English rhyme

Benefits of Spiders

Controlling Pests:   Spiders control pests in your home and garden. One of the ways to reduce unwanted pests in your garden is to attract beneficial insects and spiders.  Many spiders build webs to catch insects, but others, such as Wolf Spiders and Crab Spiders do not.

Spiders love gardens because there’s good hunting there, especially if there is a lot of plant diversity.  Be thoughtful when you harvest and maintain you garden by giving spiders a few minutes to get out of he way.  And of course, avoid using pesticides which are lethal to spiders. [8]

Medicine:  In traditional European medicine, cobwebs are used on wounds and cuts and seem to help healing and reduce bleeding.   Spider webs are rich in vitamin K, which can be effective in clotting blood.   Webs were used several hundred years ago as gauze pads to stop an injured person’s bleeding. [21]

Medical Research:   Spider venom is used in research for new medicines such as pain relievers.  Many spiders kill their prey by injecting them with venom that contains protein molecules, known as peptides. Some of these peptides block nerve activity, so researchers are working on identifying spider venom peptides that could act as pain relievers in humans. [28]

Industrial Design:  Spider webs are helping industrial designers.  Ounce for ounce a spider’s silk is as strong or stronger than steel and there are lessons to be learned from the design of the web itself.

Spider Webs and Silk


Orb Web Building Steps (graphic: Dav92ide)

A web has to perform three functions: intercepting the prey (intersection), absorbing its momentum without breaking (stopping), and trapping the prey by entangling it or sticking to it (retention). No single design is best for all prey. For example: wider spacing of lines will increase the web’s area and hence its ability to intercept prey, but reduce its stopping power and retention; closer spacing, larger sticky droplets and thicker lines would improve retention, but would make it easier for potential prey to see and avoid the web, at least during the day. [1]

There are different types of spider webs found in the wild, and many spiders are classified by the webs they weave. The types of spider webs include: (21)

  • Spiral orb webs
  • Tangle webs or cobwebs
  • Funnel webs
  • Tubular webs, which run up the bases of trees or along the ground
  • Sheet webs

Several different types of silk may be used in web construction, including a “sticky” capture silk and “fluffy” capture silk, depending on the type of spider. Webs may be in a vertical plane (most orb webs), a horizontal plane (sheet webs), or at any angle in between. It is hypothesized that these types of aerial webs co-evolved with the evolution of winged insects. [21]

Georgia Spiders

Here are some Georgia spiders [13] along with a brief description of each.  We’ve grouped them into spiders that build webs (orb-weavers and others), those that don’t build webs and venomous spiders.

Web Builders – Orbweavers

Orb-weaver spiders or araneids are members of the spider family Araneidae. They are the most common group of builders of spiral wheel-shaped webs often found in gardens, fields and forests. “Orb” was previously used in English to mean “circularhence the English name of the group. [14]

The building of a web is an engineering feat, begun when the spider floats a line on the wind to another surface. The spider secures the line and then drops another line from the center, making a “Y”. The rest of the scaffolding follows with many radii of non-sticky silk being constructed before a final spiral of sticky capture silk. [14]

About half the potential prey that hit orb webs escape. [1]

Zipper Spider in a vegetable gardenGarden Orb-weavers – The name comes from the tendency of this spider to live in gardens.  Our friends on the north end of Peachtree Park have three large beautiful Zipper Spiders (aka Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Corn Spider, and Writing Spider) in their vegetable garden.  If this spider is disturbed, it will vibrate its web aggressively. [13]

(photo: Zipper Spider in a vegetable garden)

Thorn SpiderSpiny Orb-weavers – They are also commonly called Spiny-backed Orb-weavers, due to the prominent spines on their abdomen.  These spiders can reach sizes of about 1 1/4 inches in diameter (measured from spike to spike). Although their abdomen is shaped like a crab shell with spikes, it is not to be confused with a crab spider.  Orb-weavers’ bites are generally harmless to humans. [14]

(photo: Thorn Spider)

Golden Silk Orb-weaverGolden Silk Orb-weaver – The Golden Silk Orb-weavers are noted for the impressive webs they weave.  They are also commonly called Golden Orb-weavers, Giant Wood Spiders, or Banana Spiders. [32]

They have striped legs specialized for weaving (where their tips point inward, rather than outward as is the case with many wandering spiders).   Golden orb-weavers reach sizes of 1.5–2 inches in females, not including legspan. [32]

(photo: Golden-silk Orb-weaver)

Barn Spider (photo: Abrahami )Barn Spiders – The Barn Spider is a common orb-weaver spider native to North America.  They are around three quarters of an inch in length and are usually yellow and brown in color.  They often construct their webs in wooden human structures, hence their common name.  This species is notable for being the basis for the character Charlotte in the book Charlotte’s Web by  E. B. White.

(photo: Barn Spider, credit: Abrahami via Wikimedia)

Web Builders – Others

Sheet Weaver WebSheet Weavers – These spiders are in the family Linyphiidae which is a family of very small spiders, including more than 4,300 described species in 601 genera worldwide.   This makes Linyphiidae the second largest family of spiders after a family known as Salticidae.

Spiders in this family are commonly known as Sheet Weavers (from the shape of their webs), or Money Spiders (in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and in Portugal, from the superstition that if such a spider is seen running on you, it has come to spin you new clothes, meaning financial good fortune). [30]

(photo: Sheet Weaver Web)

Cellar SpiderCellar Spiders – Some species, especially Pholcus phalangioides, are commonly called Daddy Long-legs Spider, Granddaddy Long-legs Spider, Carpenter Spider, Daddy Long-legger, or Vibrating Spider.   Confusion often arises because the name “Daddy Long-legs” is also applied to two distantly related arthropod groups: the Harvestmen (which are arachnids but not spiders), and crane flies (which are insects). (see Is Daddy Longlegs a Spider? below)

When the arachnid is threatened by a touch to the web or when too large a prey becomes entangled, the arachnid vibrates rapidly in a gyrating motion in its web and becomes blurred and difficult to focus on. For this reason pholcids have sometimes been called “vibrating spiders”, although they are not the only species to exhibit this behavior.[12]

(photo: male short-boddied Cellar Spider, credit: Patrick Edwin Moran)

Ogre-Faced SpiderOgre-faced Spiders – The Ogre-faced Spider gets its name from its large protruding eyes and fangs that cause the spider to have an ogre-like appearance. [13]   They are in the spider family Deinopidae which consists of stick-like elongated spiders that build unusual webs that they suspend between the front legs.   When prey approaches, the spider will stretch the net to two or three times its relaxed size and propel itself onto the prey, entangling it in the web. Because of this, they are also called Net-casting Spiders. [40]

In Florida, the Ogre-faced Spider often hangs upside-down from a silk line under palmetto fronds during the day. It emerges at night to practice its unusual prey capture method on invertebrate prey. [40]

(photo: Ogre-faced Spider, credit: Chen-Pan Liao)

Southern House SpiderSouthern House Spiders – Southern House Spiders are also known as Crevice Spiders. The name Crevice Spider comes from this species tendency to spin webs in corners or crevices.[13]

Female Southern House Spiders are rarely seen, as they build radial webs around crevices. Females seldom move except to capture prey caught in their webs.  Males, on the other hand, typically wander in search of insects and females to mate with, having no particular territory. [41]

Male Southern House Spiders sometimes appear aggressive, but they do not bite unless trapped, and their mouthparts are too small to easily penetrate human skin.  They do, however, have an unnerving tendency to crawl across anything in their path regardless of whether it is alive. This is not aggression; these spiders are simply nearly blind and cannot see larger animals. [41]

(photo: Southern House Spider, credit: National Park Service employee)

Not Web Builders

Carolina Wolf SpiderWolf Spiders –  These are robust and agile hunters with excellent eyesight.  They live and hunt mostly alone. Some are opportunistic hunters pouncing upon prey as they find it or even chasing it over short distances.  Some will wait for passing prey in or near the mouth of a burrow. [24]

Wolf spiders will inject venom if continually provoked. Symptoms of their venomous bite include swelling, mild pain, and itching. [24]

The Carolina Wolf Spider (H. carolinensis) is usually regarded as the largest of the Wolf Spiders found in North America.  At almost one inch in body length, these spiders are large enough to easily capture grasshoppers, crickets, and other such large agricultural pests.   It is the official state spider of South Carolina, designated as such in 2000.   South Carolina is the only U.S. state that recognizes a state spider. [23]

(photo: Carolina Wolf Spider, credit: Kevinbercaw)

Crab SpiderCrab Spiders – Rationalization for the name Crab Spider is generally subjective and anecdotal.  It is commonly said to refer to a fancied resemblance to crabs, or to the way such spiders hold their two front pairs of legs, or their ability to scuttle sideways or backwards.

Crab Spiders do not build webs to trap prey, though all of them produce silk for drop lines and sundry reproductive purposes; some are wandering hunters and the most widely known are ambush predators.

(photo: Crab Spider species, credit André Karwath, Aka)

Green_lynx_spiderLynx Spiders – Lynx spider is the common name for any member of the family Oxyopidae.  Most species make little use of webs, instead spending their lives as hunting spiders on plants.  Lynx Spiders, in spite of being largely ambush hunters, are very speedy runners and leapers, alert and with good vision. Except when defending egg purses, many tend to flee rapidly when approached by predators or large creatures such as humans. [34]

One Lynx Spider, the Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans), is bright-green and is usually found on green plants. It is the largest North American species in the family Oxyopidae. [35]

(photo: Green Lynx Spider, credit: Stephen Friedt)

Bolas SpiderBolas Spider – This one is particularly fascinating. A Bolas Spider is any of several species of orb-weaver spider that, instead of spinning the typical web, hunt by using a sticky ‘capture blob’ of silk on the end of a line, known as a ‘bolas’. By swinging the bolas at flying male moths or moth flies nearby, the spider may snag its prey rather like a fisherman snagging a fish on a hook. [37] Wish we had a video of that!

It’s creative, but why go to all that trouble? It’s because traditional orb webs are not effective for capturing moths, because only the moth’s scales will stick, allowing the moth to escape. [37]

(photo: Bolas Spider, credit: Lendebeer)

Trapdoor Spiders – This spider makes a trapdoor from plant and soil materials which is hinged on one side with silk.   The spiders wait for prey while holding the door with their legs.   When insects, small spiders, or small vertebrates disturb the trip lines the spider lays out around its trapdoor, the spider leaps out of its burrow to make the capture.  It is not poisonous and is a valuable member of your landscape ecology. [33]

fishing_spiderFishing Spiders – They are also known as Raft Spiders, Dock Spiders or Wharf Spiders. [38]

These spiders are covered all over in short, velvety hairs which are unwettable (hydrophobic). This allows them to use surface tension to stand or run on the water, like pond skaters. They can also climb beneath the water, and then air becomes trapped in the body hairs and forms a thin film over the whole surface of the body and legs, giving them the appearance of fine polished silver. [38]

(photo: Fishing Spider with prey, credit: Brian Gratwicke)

Jumping Spiders – Jumping Spiders have some of the best vision among arthropods and use it in courtship, hunting, and navigation.  Although they normally move unobtrusively and fairly slowly, most species are capable of very agile jumps, notably when hunting, but sometimes in response to sudden threats or crossing long gaps. [36]

Venomous Spiders

from WikipediaBlack Widow – The female Black Widow has unusually large venom glands and its bite can be particularly harmful to humans.  [18] However, despite the notoriety, Black Widow bites are rarely fatal except to small children, the elderly, or the infirm.  Only female bites are dangerous to humans.   Fortunately, the spiders are non-aggressive and bite only in self-defense, such as when someone accidentally sits on them. [19]

Female widow spiders are typically dark brown or black in color, usually exhibiting a red or orange hourglass on the underside)of the abdomen; some may have a pair of red spots or have no marking at all. [18]

(photo: Black Widow, credit: Bloomingdedalus via Wikimedia)

Brown_RecluseBrown Recluse – Of the venomous spiders, the one that people seem to fear the most is the Brown Recluse.  It’s one of two spiders (the other being the Black Widow) with medically significant venom in North America. [17]

Nancy Hinkle is an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.  She says the spider gets its name for a reason: it’s reclusive and almost never seen. They have been found in less than 20 percent of Georgia counties, mostly in the northwest corner.    “In all of recorded history, fewer than 100 Brown Recluse spiders have been collected in Georgia, despite hundreds of pest control operators and entomology students avidly looking for them,” she said. [16]

(photo: Brown Recluse: credit: Rosa Pineda)

Is a Daddy Longlegs a Spider?

Daddy Longlegs

Daddy Longlegs

The critter that we grew up calling a Daddy Longlegs is not a spider but it is an Arachnid in the order Opillones commonly known as ‘Harvestmen’.   Opiliones are known for having exceptionally long legs relative to their body size.  Opiliones have no venom glands so they pose no danger to humans.  They also have no silk glands, and therefore do not build webs. [10]

We haven’t seen many Daddy Longlegs in the last several years and are hoping this is not due to yard pesticide use.

Daddy Longlegs Spider

Daddy Longlegs Spider
(photo: Olaf Leillinger)

There is another creature called a Daddy Longlegs Spider, and this one is a spider in the family Pholcidae.  They hang inverted in messy, irregular, tangled webs.  These webs are constructed in dark and damp recesses, such as: caves, under rocks and loose bark, abandoned mammal burrows, and undisturbed areas in buildings, such as cellars (hence the common name “cellar spider”).  However, they are also quite commonly found in warm, dry places, such as household windows and attics. [12]

There is no reference to any pholcid spider biting a human and causing any detrimental reaction.  [11]

One more thing…

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.
And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

References and Additional Information

[1]  Wikipedia: Spider
[2]  Australian Museum:  What are Spiders?
[3]  Wikipedia: Arachnid
[4]  Wikipedia: Spider Anatomy
[5]  Wired Magazine: You Are Within 6 Feet of a Spider Right Now
[6]  Wikipedia: Arachnophobia
[7]  University of Kentucky, Entomology: Common Spiders Found Around Homes and Buildings
[8]  Mother Earth News: Spiders in the Garden
[9]  Wikipedia: Cephalothorax
[10]  Wikipedia: Opillones
[11]  University of California, Riverside: Daddy Longlegs Myths
[12]  Wikipedia: Pholcidae
[13]  The Darlington School: A Virtual Guide to Georgia’s Common Spiders
[14]  Wikipedia: Orb-weaver Spider
[15]  Wikipedia: Long-jawed Orbweaver
[16]  University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: FACES newsletter, Sept 29, 2010
[17]  Wikipedia: Brown Recluse Spider
[18]  Wikipedia: Latrodectus
[19]  National Geographic: Black Widow Spider
[20]  Wikipedia: Barn Spider
[21]  Wikipedia: Spider Web
[22]  Smithsonian: Why We Should All celebrate Save a Spider Day
[23]  State Symbols USA: Carolina Wolf Spider
[24]  Wikipedia: Wolf Spider
[25]  Wolfspiders.org
[26]  Wikipedia: Hogna carolinensis   (Carolina Wolf Spider)
[27]  Wikipedia: Spider Bite
[28]  Medical News Today: Newly identified compounds in spider venom could help treat chronic pain
[29]  Wikipedia: Thomisidae   (family that includes Crab Spiders)
[30]  Wikipedia: Linyphidae  (Sheet Weaver family)
[31]  Wikipedia: Spider Silk
[32]  Wikipedia: Golden Silk Orb-weaver
[33]  Walter Reeves: Trapdoor Spider Identification
[34]  Wikipedia: Lynx Spider
[35]  Wikipedia: Peucetia viridans (Green Lynx Spider)
[36]  Wikipedia: Jumping Spiders
[37]  Wikipedia: Bolas Spider
[38]  Wikipedia: Dolomedes (Fishing Spiders)
[39]  Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences: Fishing Spider
[40]  Wikipedia: Deinopidae (includes Ogre-faced Spiders)
[41]  Wikipedia: Southern House Spider