All spiders are predaceous; they eat mainly insects, other spiders, and related arthropods. Some species capture prey in webs. Others stalk insects across the ground or vegetation or lay in wait and pounce on them. Almost all spiders are capable of producing venomous bites. However, there are very few species of spiders in the United States and Georgia that produce harmful bites. In Georgia, three groups of spiders, the widow, wolf and the recluse spiders, are of most concern.

black_widowBlack Widow – Most people are familiar with the Southern Black Widow (Lactrodectus mactans), a glossy black spider with a complete red hourglass marking on the underside of its abdomen. The widow spiders are large with mature females measuring 1 1/2 inches with legs extended. The smaller male widow spiders can be distinguished from the females by the swollen (knob like) palpal organs projecting from the front of the head. The widow spiders have eight eyes clustered on the front of the head. Male black widows and immatures and other widow spiders (red and brown widows) pose little health threat. The female black widow usually spins a silken web in protected places such as under stones, house steps, decks, etc. The spider is rarely found inside houses. The widow spider is most apt to bite when her eggs are threatened. The black widow bite produces a sharp pain that may persist for hours. Local muscular cramps may develop. The pain may become severe and spread to the abdomen and be accompanied by weakness and tremor. Spasmodic breathing, a feeble pulse, cold clammy skin and delirium may be noted.

Wolf spiderWolf – Wolf Spiders vary from ½ to 2 inches in length, are fairly hairy and are known to be easily confused with the venomous brown recluse. Their stout body shape and elongated legs helps these spiders to attack prey with great force.  Wolf spiders to not pose a very large threat to humans. They rarely bite and if they do the pain is restricted to common symptoms of swelling or itchiness.


brown_recluseRecluse – The brown recluse is a small, light brown to yellow, quite harmless appearing spider. Its slim body is about 3/8″ long with long legs which extend its length to more than one inch. The primary key to identification are the three pairs of eyes. The “fiddle” or violin outline on the back is not a dependable character since many brown spiders have similar markings. The male brown recluse is similar in appearance to the female except it has a smaller abdomen and large knob like palpi on the front of the head. The brown recluse is a shy spider and searches for its insect prey primarily at night. During the day it rests in closets, boxes, under furniture, in attics under insulation, and in ceiling light fixtures. People typically are bitten accidentally while putting on clothes in which the spider is hiding or rolling on to them while in bed. The bite of the brown recluse usually produces a necrotic (death of tissue) condition followed by deep scaring of tissue. Lesions are slow healing and often require skin grafts. The bite may also produce a systemic reaction causing the destruction of red blood cells resulting in kidney failure and death.

cellar_spiderCellar/Daddy Longleg – The two more commonly seen species are the long-bodied and short-bodied cellar spiders. The female long-bodied cellar spider is approximately 1/4-5/16 inch long with legs extending another 2 inches. The female short-bodied cellar spider has a 1/16 inch long body with legs extending about 5/16 inch. In instances where cellar spiders are pests, it is due to the large amounts of webbing they produce. Many species of spiders consume their old web before making a new one, but cellar spiders do not. They continuously add to it, creating large amounts of webbing which becomes a nuisance to remove. Cellar spiders construct loose haphazard webs, often in corners, to catch insect prey. They hang upside down on the web until a food item gets tangled.