Spiders in Kentucky can be identified by body size, color, and habitat. Both venomous and non-venomous spiders can be found in the state. Some spiders are found in homes but many Kentucky spiders live away from populated areas.
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Are There Venomous Spiders in Kentucky?
Spiders in Kentucky aren’t bound by state borders. They are often found in neighboring states as well. This is the case with the venomous spiders found in the state.
Most venomous spiders in Kentucky have tied the Black Widow species. However, the Brown Recluse is also highly present across the state.
1. Southern Black Widow
The Southern Black Widow (Latrodectus mactans) is the species of venomous Black Widow spiders living in the Southern US. These spiders have been first described 7 decades ago as shiny black spiders with a red hourglass marking. They are mostly known to those outside the scientific world as dangerous venomous spiders.
Clear data on the number of Southern Black Widow bites in Kentucky per year are unclear. However, it’s estimated that over 2.000 Southern Black Widow bites occur each year. Nearly half of these bites result in multi-day hospitalization. These spiders should be avoided. They’re mostly found under pieces of wood, rocks, and hollow tree stumps.
2. Northern Black Widow
The Northern Black Widow (Latrodectus various) looks very similar to the Southern Black Widow. Its venom is considered dangerous and potentially fatal for children. While there isn’t sufficient venom to kill an adult, complications happen following a Northern Black Widow spider bite.
Found across the state, this spider comes with all types of medical reactions. While an actual bite is rare, it typically attacks the central nervous system. The pain associated with the bite typically lasts an hour. But each individual is different and in some cases, the pain can last for a full day with medical attention required.
3. Brown Recluse
The Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) is one of the most dangerous venomous spiders in Kentucky. You can identify this spider by its large brown body and brown legs. However, you should bring the spider with you to the emergency room as this helps doctors identify the spider and treat the bite correctly.
Symptoms vary from mild pain to extreme reactions that can be visible up to 60 days when bitten by a Brown Recluse. There is no antivenin for its venom. However, doctors can prescribe various treatments depending on the venom quantity this spider has managed to inject.
Common Spiders in Kentucky
Most spiders in Kentucky aren’t venomous. They are less likely to bite as well. Some of these spiders are also easy to recognize due to their distinct shape and color.
1. Yellow Garden Spider
The Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) is the most common in Kentucky. This spider is found in large numbers in gardens, as its name suggests. You can recognize it quickly both by its striking appearance and by the pattern of its spider web. This spider is black and yellow and it weaves a zig-zag web.
The spider is mostly found in tall grass where it awaits its prey. Ideal prey is almost any type of small insect. The Yellow Garden Spider tends to wrap the prey in silk as soon as it gets caught in it. This prevents the insect from escaping and it also allows the spider to consume the prey a few hours later, but not later than 4 hours after being caught.
2. Bold Jumping Spider
The wide-bodied Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) can reach sizes of up to 18mm. Common colors this spider is seen in include black and red as well as black, white, and blue. These color combinations as well as its thick body make it easy to identify.
As its name suggests, the spider jumps. It uses thick short legs to jump a few times its body length. This is used both as a moving technique and as an attacking technique as the spider jumps to ambush its prey. The spider doesn’t weave webs as it hunts prey. However, webs are seen near Bold Jumping Spiders when they lay eggs, probably as a protective measure.
3. Tan Jumping Spider
This large spider (Platycryptus undatus) is among the jumping spiders the easiest to recognize. It has a flattened body with gray and black coloring and markings on its abdomen. Thick short legs are characteristic of these spiders that rely on their legs to jump.
The spiders grow to a size of 10 to 13mm. The Tan Jumping Spider also exhibits an innate curiosity, even towards humans. This is why the spiders can be picked up by hand. They are mostly found on the outer walls of the house.
4. Spotted Orbweaver
The Spotted Orbweaver (Neoscona crucifera) is a species of spider characterized by a hairy body and hairy legs, normally of different colors. This spider is generally tan with red-brown legs. However, it is often found in other colors such as orange and red or yellow and brown combinations. Hairs or fine bristles are found on all of these color variations.
These spiders prefer to live in woodlands. On occasion, they can be spotted in parks or gardens where they weave large webs. There aren’t many predators of the Spotted Orbweaver except for spiderlings. Young Spotted Orbweavers are used as food by various types of wasps.
5. Orchard Orbweaver
The Orchard Orbweaver (Leucauge venusta) is recognized by its long green legs and white body with green stripes. These spiders live in orchards or natural areas with plants. These areas tend to attract the most insects which are seen as the perfect prey for this spider.
One of the unusual characteristics of this spider is its proximity in web weaving to other spider webs. Most spiders don’t interact with other spider species until the mating season. But the Orchard Orweaver prefers to weave webs in areas with plenty of potential prey even if there are already a few other Orchard Orbweaver webs in the area. All spiders are seen in the center of the web where they await prey.
6. Arrowhead Orbweaver
The Arrowhead Orbweaver (Verrucosa arenata) is another atypical spider. Its body is triangle-shaped, as its name implies. This brown-red spider has a white-yellow arrow on its abdomen. It also stands out from other orbweavers by waving a very strong spider web.
The spider web is used to catch various insects. The Arrowhead spider bites the insect caught in the web injecting venom that liquefies the interior body of the insect also immobilized them. The spider later returns to consume the liquefied organs. Still, large insects are also the most common predator of the Arrowhead spider. Dipterans are its largest enemy.
7. Dark Fishing Spider
This spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) lives next to the water. As a fishing spider, it feeds mostly on water insects or small fish. It can be found around lakes and ponds as well as next to streams and rivers. This spider is normally identified by a body of up to 13mm and brown shades coloring. Some spiders are characterized by a brown body with black marks which extend to the legs.
This spider is a bit more difficult to see from a short distance as it tends to run away from humans. Bites have been reported. Most Dark Fishing Spider bites are rare without any serious medical complications. In some of the most serious cases, this bite is followed by 1-2 hours of local pain.
8. Furrow Orbweaver
This spider (Larinioides cornutus) is characterized by its oval-shaped body. However, its body is seen in different colors. The body measures up to 14mm in females and up to 9mm in males. It’s typically white-yellow with brown markings. The body can also be light red with a similar color being seen on its legs.
This spider lives in high humidity areas, particularly near water. The Furrow Orbweaver prefers to hide during the day. This is why spotting one might be difficult. Research shows the Furrow Orbweaver also remains active throughout the year. Its body is well adapted to cold temperatures, even well below the freezing point.
9. Spined Micrathena
This spider (Micrathena gracilis) is known for its unique body shape and its unique mating habits. The spider has a bulbuous body with a spiky abdomen. It is generally a white and black spider. Part of the Micrathena family, the spider has been found to live in woodlands, particularly in hardwood areas where oak trees grow.
The Spined Micrathena spider prefers moist areas of the wood where it takes extra care of its spider web repairing it every day. Newer data suggests this spider prefers a moist area with a potential for flooding during the mating season. This is tied to a protective tactic towards its eggs.
10. Arrow-shaped Orbweaver
An arrow-like body with tubercles pointing outwards describes the irregular shape of the Arrow-shaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata). This spider has a red color (similar to red ants) and a yellow body with an arrow shape. This is a type of Mycrathena spider.
The Micrathena genus comes from the Greek word “micro” which is understood as small. This is why the spider is known for its small body. Male Arrow-shaped Orbweavers barely measure 5mm (body length) when they reach adulthood. The females are larger but still small at a maximum body size of 9mm.
11. Grass Spiders
Grass Spiders (Genus Agelenopsis) are common through Kentucky. They are seen all over the state. Mornings are one of the best times to see Grass Spiders as dew collects on their original webs. The Grass Spider weaves a flat spider web with a funnel at the edge.
This funnel is where the spider lies and eats. Once a fly is caught up in the web the Grass Spider rushes to check if it’s an insect. A bite inserts venom into the insect allowing the spider to drag the prey inside the funnel area of the spider web. This takes both the prey and the spider away from sight and it also allows other insects to get caught up in the spider web until the Grass Spider consumes the prey inside the funnel area of the web.
12. American Nursery Web Spider
The American Nursery Web Spider (Pisaurina mira) is one of the most popular spiders in the state and even in the country. Largely seen on crops from May till June, this spider is known for its hairy brown body, long legs, and vertical stripes on the abdomen.
The spider is popular among those interested in cannibalistic spider mating behavior as the male uses silk to immobilize the female’s legs during mating to avoid being eaten by the female. However, the spider is also known as a very good hunter. It doesn’t sit around on a spider web waiting for insects but it prefers to hunt them actively. It solely relies on the web to keep and protect spiderlings until they reach adulthood. This spider is not dangerous to humans due to not having sufficient venom for a lethal attack.
13. Rabid Wolf Spider
The Rabid Wolf Spider (Rabidosa rabida) is a species similar and often confused with the American Nursery Web Spider. It’s known for its brown color with a dark body and white stripes. The species is a hunting species as Rabid Wolf Spiders hunt instead of weaving spider webs.
These spiders only consider using silk as a means of protection for eggs while mating. Otherwise, they go out at night preferring to hunt small insects themselves. The mating process of the Rabid Wolf Spider is rather complex as well. The male dances in front of a female. Eggs are laid in front of the male-only if the female is impressed by the dance of the male spider.
14. Golden Jumping Spider
The Golden Jumping Spider (Paraphidippus aurantius) is similarly shaped to the Bold Jumping Spider. However, it looks different from the male to the female of the species. Male Golden Jumping Spiders are mostly black, with some white marks on the body. The female has a bright gray-silver color with a golden abdomen with 2 rows of white dots.
As a true jumping spider, the Golden Jumping Spider has wide hairy legs. These legs are shorter than in most spiders that weave a spider web. The jumping spider relies on strong telescopic legs to jump directly on its prey. Very good spider vision helps its athletic abilities.
15. Common House Spider
The Common House Spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) is known for its variety of prey. This spider eats all types of flies, insects, and even mosquitoes. It will randomly attack grasshoppers as well. The Common House Spider prefers to shoot silk towards its prey while also pulling it towards itself to catch it quicker.
These spiders are generally friendly to humans. Since they often share the same habitats, Common House Spiders don’t bite humans. It’s the females of the species that tend to get violent against each other the most.
16. American Green Crab Spider
This green spider (Misumessus oblongus) is highly common in the summer. It’s seen mostly in green fields from late May to late August. The spider is rather small as the male measures just 3mm while the female measures up to 6mm. It’s known as a green spider but its coloring is rather translucent than full color.
The spider gets its name from its legs. Spread out in front just as crab spiders, these legs allow the American Green Crab Spider to move sideways easily. The spider can further be identified by 2 rows of eyes. The outer eyes are larger than the inner eyes.
17. Banded Garden Spider
This spider (Argiope trifasciata) is widely found across the state. Its brown, black, and white body makes it a spider that isn’t difficult to recognize. You can also recognize the Banded Garden Spider by its spider web. The female makes a large spider web while the male weaves a smaller spider web nearby. The spider web is different from a regular web from other spiders as it features thicker threads in some areas. These are believed to be either decorative or structural but they are known as stabilimenta.
18. Thin-legged Wolf Spiders
This black and grey spider (Genus Pardosa) is very common in Kentucky as well as throughout the entire North American and Central American continents. It’s known to have very specific characteristics such as sparkly eyes that lose their intense color as the spider ages.
The Thin-legged Wolf Spider doesn’t spin a spider web. It’s a Wolf spider which means it prefers to go out and hang both during the day and during the night. Those interested to see the spider might find it in areas that get plenty of sunlight as this is believed to improve their vision and allow them to move quicker, also making them easier to spot.
19. Marbled Orbweaver
The Marbled Orbweaver (Araneus marmoreus) is known for a small round body that resembles a pearl and which is colored like a piece of marble, with marking and lines that improve camouflage. The spider has a yellow body with red, brown, or black markings on the back. Its legs are mostly red.
This spider spins a large web where it awaits prey. The Marbled Orbweaver retreats to a hidden area near the spider web to stay away from potential predators. Vibrations of the spider wen whenever an insect gets caught up signal the Marbled Orbweaver to come out of hiding.
20. Long-bodied Cellar Spider
The Long-bodied Cellar Spider (Pholcus phalangioides) grows to a size of up to 9mm. It has 8 legs and a pale brown body. These legs are elongated compared to almost any other spider species. These legs are used both on and off the spider web efficiently.
The spiders are known for mostly staying on the spider web waiting for prey. When this doesn’t happen, the Long-bodied Cellar Spider can also get off the spider web looking for other food sources. Other spiders and their eggs are the main targets. In the most extreme cases, the Long-bodied Cellar male and the female spider will try to beat each other to avoid starvation.
21. White-banded Fishing Spider
This mostly-white spider (Dolomedes albineus) is known for its aquatic habitat. Like other fishing spiders, it has adapted to living next to the water and even on the water. It manages to float by using hairs on its body. It also traps oxygen molecules under its body which keep it afloat. Once on the water, this spider starts to look for prey such as invertebrates.
22. White-jawed Jumping Spider
This is one of the smallest jumping spiders found in Kentucky. The White-jawed Jumping Spider (Hentzia mitrata) measures around 4mm in adulthood. The female can be slightly larger. It’s a spider recognized by its pale brown body with white hairs and white legs and head, making it appear like having white jaws.
It can be found during the day in the grass, on flowers, or on shrubs where it’s mostly looking for prey. This spider doesn’t spin a web. It prefers to jump around ambushing invertebrates. Part of the Salticidae family, the White-jawed Jumping Spider is part of a large family of spiders. All Salticidae spiders are known for having excellent vision. Unlike spiders that live on spider webs, Salticidae spiders rely on jumping abilities and on good vision to pounce on the prey quickly as a surprise element.
23. False Black Widow
Often confused with Black Widow and Redback spiders, the False Black Widow (Steatoda grossa) also has a dark-colored body, but without hourglass markings. This spider isn’t truly black, but some people wrongly identify it as a Black Widow species.
Its venom is dangerous and it requires medical attention. However, its symptoms are considered less impactful than those of a Black Widow bite. The False Black Widow’s venom comes with mild pain which goes away in a few hours. It’s only in rare cases that this