The 6 Biggest Spiders in Florida

Updated on April 20, 2018
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Since graduating university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and educator. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

The golden silk orb-weaver spider is generally accepted to be the biggest spider in Florida.  This fascinating arachnid builds orb-shaped webs with golden silk, and is known as a "banana spider" by many local Floridians.
The golden silk orb-weaver spider is generally accepted to be the biggest spider in Florida. This fascinating arachnid builds orb-shaped webs with golden silk, and is known as a "banana spider" by many local Floridians. | Source

Deciding which type of spider is the biggest in Florida is not as straightforward as it sounds.

That's because there are different ways of judging how big a spider is.

You can do it according to:

  • The size of its body.
  • The size of its leg span.
  • The weight of the spider.

With the above in mind, I have listed below the six spiders that are generally considered to be Florida's largest.

The 6 Biggest Spiders in Florida

  1. Golden Silk Orb-Weaver (Banana Spider)

  2. Wolf Spider
  3. Black and Yellow Argiope Spider
  4. Widow Spider
  5. "Daddy Long Legs" (Harvestmen and Cellar Spiders)

  6. Huntsman Spiders

Note: If you are bitten by any spider that you believe to be venomous, or experience an allergic reaction to any spider bite, seek medical attention immediately.

#1 Golden Silk Orb-Weaver (Banana Spider)

Sometimes called a "banana spider" by local Floridians, the Golden orb-weaver (Nephila clavipes) is most famous for the impressive webs that it builds.

These large spiders build their webs in wooded areas, their webs are three-dimensional, orb-shaped and built using bright yellow silk.

Although the male of the species is small (1/4 inch), the female can be just under 3 inches across (including leg span). Brightly colored, with stripy legs, these spiders are difficult to miss.

They look intimidating, but their venom is generally far too weak to be dangerous if you are a healthy adult, unless you are unlucky enough to have an allergic reaction.

Golden Silk Orb-Weaver at a Glance

  • Size: Females are up to 2.7 inches across.
  • Appearance: Brightly colored, with stripy legs.
  • Habitat: Areas of dense vegetation, urban areas.
  • Bite Danger: Bites will cause a mark but aren't dangerous.

Banana Spider Confusion?

The relatively harmless North American Orb-weaver, which is often called a "banana spider", should not be confused with the Brazilian "banana spider", which is far more aggressive and dangerous.

A banana spider web in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida.  The yellow silk spun by the spider is incredibly strong and has been used to create human clothing with.  The webs are up to 3ft in diameter, the spider sits in the middle.
A banana spider web in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. The yellow silk spun by the spider is incredibly strong and has been used to create human clothing with. The webs are up to 3ft in diameter, the spider sits in the middle. | Source

#2 Wolf Spider

These large, hairy spiders are common in Florida and cause a great deal of worry for those with arachnophobia. They have heavy-looking bodies and long thick legs. You will see them on walls both inside and outside buildings, as well as out in the yard.

Wolf Spiders don't build webs, they hunt by running, which they do extremely fast. They can even outrun cockroaches, which are one of their main food sources.

Florida Wolf Spiders can grow up to two inches in size, although their heavy bodies and thick legs can make them appear bigger.

These spiders are quick to bite if they feel threatened. The bite can be painful and cause redness and swelling. Sometimes the fangs will also cause one or two punctures in the skin.

They are sometimes mistaken for the much more dangerous brown recluse.

Wolf Spider at a Glance

  • Size: Up to 2 inches, but their hair and limbs can make them appear larger.
  • Appearance: Brown in color. Very large and hairy, robust-looking bodies and long thick legs. Sometimes mistaken for the more dangerous brown recluse.
  • Habitat: On inside or outside walls, in yard areas.
  • Bite Danger: These spiders will bite if they feel threatened. Bites can be painful and cause redness and swelling.

Interesting Facts About Wolf Spiders

Most spiders have two rows of eyes, but wolf spiders have three.

The spiders are also unusual in that they carry their young upon their back until they are ready to hunt for themselves. The female can carry over 100 eggs at a time.

Wolf spiders are able to see at night and are more active during the dark hours.

The biggest enemy of the wolf spider is the hunting wasp.

A Wolf Spider in Delray Beach, Florida.  These spiders are large and hairy with thick legs.  They don't build webs, instead they capture their prey by running after them.  They will eat cockroaches and attack southern black widows.
A Wolf Spider in Delray Beach, Florida. These spiders are large and hairy with thick legs. They don't build webs, instead they capture their prey by running after them. They will eat cockroaches and attack southern black widows. | Source

#3 Black and Yellow Argiope Spider

Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) spiders can be up to an inch in size and are easily identified by their characteristic silver carapace and yellow-and-black markings.

Their webs are large and normally seen along the outskirts of woodlands. Argiope spiders typically hang head down in the center of their webs.

These spiders have poor sight, but are sensitive to vibrations and wind currents. The male of the species tries to impress potential female mates by plucking and vibrating her web.

Black and Yellow Argiope Spider at a Glance

  • Size: Up to an inch.
  • Appearance: Black and yellow with stripey legs.
  • Habitat: Woodlands.
  • Bite Danger: These spiders are essentially harmless.

Are Black and Yellow Argiopes Venomous?

Argiope venom is only mildly toxic, the equivalent to a bee sting, causing redness and swelling.

Argiopes are not aggressive and will only bite if they feel threatened in some way.

Argiope aurantia is known by a variety of names including the golden garden spider, yellow garden spider, black and yellow garden spider, corn spider, and writing spider.  They are common in other parts of the USA, as well as Florida.
Argiope aurantia is known by a variety of names including the golden garden spider, yellow garden spider, black and yellow garden spider, corn spider, and writing spider. They are common in other parts of the USA, as well as Florida. | Source

#4 Widow Spiders

There are four species of widow spider who call Florida their home:

  • The Southern Black Widow
  • The Northern Black Widow
  • The Brown Widow
  • The Red Widow.

Unlike the other spiders in the list, the widow packs some serious venom in its bite and can hurt you, so you should certainly seek medical attention as soon as possible if bitten.

The Southern Black Widow and the Brown Widow are the ones that you are most likely to encounter as they live around buildings. The Northern Black Widow is only found in the Panhandle area of the state and makes its web on low tree branches. The Red Widow prefers scrub ground for its habitat.

Only the female widow is dangerous. She is also bigger than the male and can be up to 1.5 inches across at full leg span.

Widows at a Glance

  • Size: Females are up to 1.5 inches across.
  • Appearance: Glossy black body, usually with red hourglass shape on underside.
  • Habitat: Varies according to species.
  • Bite Danger: Bites are a serious matter and you should seek medical attention immediately.

What If I'm Bitten by a Widow Spider?

Widow bites are usually easy to identify, as severe symptoms will generally begin within 30 to 60 minutes of being bitten.

Symptoms of a Widow Bite:

  • Mild to intense pain.
  • Swelling and redness at the bite site.
  • Fang marks (one or two tiny red spots).

Symptoms of a SEVERE Widow Bite:

  • Muscle cramps and spasms that begin at or near the bite site and then radiate outwards and increase in severity for 6 to 12 hours.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Restlessness or stupor.
  • Severe stomach, back, or chest pain.
  • Extremely high blood pressure.

What to Do If You're Bitten by a Widow Spider:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Stay calm to minimize the flow of venom in your blood.
  • Try to identify the spider or safely catch it to confirm its type.
  • Apply a cool, wet cloth to the bite site, or cover the site completely with a cloth and an ice bag.

Why are They Called Widows?

The widow spider gets its name because the female of the species can sometimes eat the male after mating.

Scientists speculate that this so that she gets a good source of protein to help her developing young.

The practice may well also explain why the female widow lives for around three years, whereas the male lives for just one or two months.

The distinctive red hourglass marking on the underside of a Southern Black Widow.  Unlike the other spiders in this list, widows are highly venomous and can give a dangerous bite.  You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if bitten.
The distinctive red hourglass marking on the underside of a Southern Black Widow. Unlike the other spiders in this list, widows are highly venomous and can give a dangerous bite. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if bitten. | Source

#5 "Daddy Long Legs" (Harvestmen and Cellar Spiders)

The term "Daddy Long Legs" is used by people to refer to two different species of arachnid with small bodies and very long legs (it is also sometimes used to refer to crane flies too, but that's another story!)

The two species are harvestmen (Opiliones) and cellar spiders (Pholcidae). Although these are separate species, many people struggle to tell them apart.

Harvestmen

Harvestmen are actually not spiders at all, although they are arachnids. They are more closely related to mites and scorpions than they are to spiders. They have tiny bodies but huge leg spans.

Cellar Spiders

Cellar spiders also have tiny bodies and big leg spans, which is why they get confused with harvestmen. Unlike harvestmen, however, this species are actually spiders. Their legs can be up to 2 inches long.

Both harvestmen and cellar spiders are completely harmless.

An Urban Legend about Daddy Long Legs

The urban legend says that Daddy Long Legs are the most venomous animals on the planet, but they are unable to bite humans because their fangs are too small and short. The arachnids are therefore essentially harmless.

The urban legend is false for a number of reasons. One being that there is no known species of Daddy Long Legs with venom glands. Another being that their chelicerae are not actually fangs but grasping claws that are usually tiny and not powerful enough to pierce human skin.

A female cellar spider with egg sac.  Both harvestmen and cellar spiders are called "Daddy Long Legs" by people, mainly because they confuse the two species and cannot tell them apart.
A female cellar spider with egg sac. Both harvestmen and cellar spiders are called "Daddy Long Legs" by people, mainly because they confuse the two species and cannot tell them apart. | Source

#6 Huntsman Spiders

These spiders are actually an invasive species from Asia, rather than indigenous to Florida. They are sometimes called the giant crab spider

They are generally found down towards the southern end of the state, where the climate suits them best.

The type found in Florida, Heteropoda venatoria, has a body length of around an inch and a leg span that can stretch to five inches. As with many spiders, the females are larger than males.

This spider does not build webs, but instead relies on sheer speed and the strength of its jaws to hunt prey. They can walk on walls and ceilings.

Their bite is venomous, but so weak it's virtually harmless to humans, causing only localized pain.

Huntsman Spiders at a Glance

  • Size: Body length of about an inch and a leg span of up to five inches.
  • Appearance: Very large and brown. Sometimes mistaken for an oversized brown recluse.
  • Habitat: Crevices of tree bark, but frequently wonder into homes, sheds, barns, and vehicles.
  • Bite Danger: Generally harmless, but bites will cause some localized pain.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Paul Goodman

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      • profile image

        Chrisanne 13 days ago

        Not sure what I have found outside very large says only 2 times found inside and in the month of April yes. About one inch long black big fangs and need to know if it's poisonous or harmful to Pat

      • profile image

        richard1937@btinternet.com 8 months ago

        I have a picture of what i thought was a golden web spider but its leg span was at least ten inches, what do you think it is. I tried to paste the pic on this comment but failed!

      • profile image

        VelvGu9 8 months ago

        Anyone know what kind of Florida spider likes to spin a thick line from higher up and then somehow always find my car before morning? The thread is quite thick.

      • profile image

        squirrelhoudini 9 months ago

        I'm my house, big, black, with a circular pattern around its base, on the back, and it's main body is about quarter to half dollar size? I have a picture

      • profile image

        Shakylakey@aol.com 9 months ago

        I had s spider and babies bite me today from a bag of mulch. It had black legs, Grey body and white stripes on body's. I searched online but can't find it. Any help is appreciated

      • profile image

        Chase 9 months ago

        What kind of spider here in Florida will be very large, brown, and typically carry its babies under its stomach or butt. But when i say big, im talking 3-5 inch leg span. The spider normally has markings on its head and butt.

      • profile image

        Just a question 17 months ago

        What about the huntsmen spiders?

      • kj force profile image

        kjforce 3 years ago from Florida

        Paul ( BigBrains ),owning a horse barn,Thank you for a very informative and well written article/with pics...I have forwarded your write to many of our friends who have recently relocated to Florida..this will be a welcomed gift..

        When we relocated to Florida over 35 years ago and owning a Horse barn what an education !!!, we learned about these Spiders the hard way... first hand..bite by bite...thanks again for the share...

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