Since graduating university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and educator. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
What Does Big Mean When is Comes to the Size of a Spider?
Deciding which type of Florida spider is the biggest is not as easy as it sounds. That's because there are different ways of judging how big a spider is. The size of a spider can be determined by judging three different factors. These are:
- Size of its body
- Length of its leg span
- Weight of its body
Considering each of these factors, I have listed below six spiders that are generally considered to be Florida's largest.
The Biggest Spiders in Florida
- Golden silk orb-weaver, or "banana spider" (3 inches)
- Wolf spider (2 inches)
- Black and yellow argiope spider (1 inch)
- Widow spider (1.5 inches)
- Daddy long legs (2 inches)
- Huntsman spider (6 inches)
1. Golden Silk Orb-Weaver (Banana Spider)
Sometimes called a banana spider by Floridians, the golden orb-weaver (Nephila clavipes) is most famous for its impressive webs and striking coloration. Although the males of this species are rather small (1/4 inch), females are usually just under three inches across (including leg span).
The golden silk orb-weaver is a brightly colored spider with with yellow and black striped legs. True to their name, they are excellent web spinners, and are known to build their three-dimensional, orb-shaped webs in wooded areas using yellow silk. With their bright coloration and large size, these spiders look formidable. However, their venom is not harmful to healthy adults, unless, of course, the spider bite becomes infected or the victim has an allergic reaction.
The relatively harmless 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.
Females can be up to three inches across
Brightly colored with striped legs
Areas of dense vegetation, as well as urban areas
2. Wolf Spider
These large, hairy spiders are common in Florida and cause a great deal of worry for those with arachnophobia. They can grow up to two inches in size, although their heavy bodies and thick legs can make them appear bigger. Wolf spiders (Hogna lenta) have heavy-looking bodies and long thick legs. They are commonly found scurrying on walls both inside and outside of buildings.
Wolf spiders don't build webs. They are extremely fast runners and utilize their speed in order to capture their prey. Their main food source is cockroaches.
These spiders are quick to bite if they feel threatened, but their bite is not considered dangerous. Still, the bite may be painful and can cause redness and swelling. Sometimes, the fangs will also cause one or two punctures in the skin. Wolf spiders vary in their coloration, but are usually brown, and are sometimes mistaken for the much more dangerous brown recluse.
Up to two inches, but their hair and thick limbs can make them appear larger
Usually brown in color with large, hairy bodies and long thick legs
On walls or in yard areas
May deal a painful bite, but its venom is not life-threatening
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3. Black and Yellow Argiope Spider
The black and yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia), also known as the writing spider, can be up to an inch in size and is easily identified by its characteristic silver carapace and yellow-and-black markings. This spider can usually be found along the outskirts of woodlands, and can be identified by its large, zig-zagging web.
Argiope spiders typically hang upside down in the center of their webs. Since these spiders have poor eyesight, they navigate by feeling the vibrations in the threads of their web. The males of this species court potential female mates by plucking and vibrating these threads.
Argiope venom is mildly toxic but is not considered medically significant. It can be compared to a bee sting, resulting in some redness and swelling. This spider usually only bites when it feels cornered or threatened.
Up to one inch
Black and yellow with striped legs
4. Widow Spiders
There are four species of widow spider that call Florida home. These are:
- Southern Black Widow
- Northern Black Widow
- Brown Widow
- Red Widow
The female widow is larger than the male, usually measuring about 1.5 inches across, including her legs. Unlike the other spiders on this list of the biggest spiders in Florida, the widow's bite packs enough venom to be considered medically significant, so you should certainly seek medical attention as soon as possible if bitten. Only the female widow is dangerous. Males do not carry enough venom to be considered medically significant.
The southern black widow and the brown widow are those you are most likely to encounter in Florida, as they live around buildings and other areas with lots of human traffic. The northern black widow can only be found in the panhandle area of the state, and makes its web on low tree branches. As for the the red widow, this spider prefers scrub and objects on the ground that it can burrow under.
The widow spider gets its name from the female's tendency to eat the male after mating. Scientists speculate that she does this because the male provides a good source of protein for her developing young. The practice may also explain why the average lifespan of the female widow is around three years, whereas the lifespan for a male widow is just one to two months.
What Happens If You Get Bitten by a Widow Spider?
Widows have a fearsome reputation, but you are unlikely to die if bitten by one of these venomous spiders. Children and the elderly are more vulnerable to venomous spider bites, but most likely, you will only experience the following symptoms:
Symptoms of a Widow Bite
- Severe pain
- Muscle and abdominal cramps
- Convulsions and tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Lesions in the bite area
Whether the symptoms appear to be severe or not, if you are bitten by a widow, do not hesitate to call 911 or your local emergency center immediately. Also, try to remain calm to reduce the spread of venom through the bloodstream, and never apply a tourniquet. If you can, capture the spider so that you can ensure an accurate identification. In the time between being bitten and consulting a medical professional, apply a cool, wet cloth to the site of the bite to reduce swelling and soothe the pain.
What Is the Most Venomous Spider in Florida?
There is not one spider that can be considered the most venomous in Florida, but many. The contenders for this title include:
- Northern Black Widow
- Southern Black Widow
- Brown Widow
- Red Widow
- Brown Recluse
Females can be up to 1.5 inches across
Glossy black body, usually with a red hourglass shape on the abdomen
Varying according to species
5. Daddy Long Legs
The term "daddy long legs" is used to refer to two different species of arachnid with small bodies and very long legs. The two species are Harvestmen (Opiliones) and cellar spiders (Pholcidae). Although these are separate species, many people struggle to tell them apart.
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 also have tiny bodies and large leg spans, which is why they get confused with Harvestmen. Unlike Harvestmen, however, this species is actually a spider. Their legs can be up to two inches long.
An Urban Legend
Both Harvestmen and cellar spiders are completely harmless. Despite this fact, an urban legend exists that says daddy long legs are the most venomous animals on the planet, but they are unable to hurt humans because their fangs are too small to break skin. This urban legend has no basis in reality. Mainly because neither Harvestman nor cellar spiders have venom glands.
Up to two inches long
Small, brown body with very long legs
Under logs and rocks
6. Huntsman Spiders
Huntsman spiders are actually an invasive species from Asia. They are sometimes called the giant crab spider, and are generally found in the southern end of the state, where the climate is to their liking. The type found in Florida, Heteropoda venatoria, has a body length of around an inch and a leg span that can stretch up to five inches. As with many spiders, the females are larger than males.
Like the wolf spider, this spider does not build webs. Instead it relies on sheer speed and the strength of its jaws to hunt and kill its prey. While their bite is venomous, it is too weak to be considered medically significant, causing only localized pain.
Up to six inches, including the body and legs
Very large and brown, sometimes mistake for an oversized brown recluse
Tree bark, homes, sheds, barns, and vehicles
What Is the Largest Spider in the World?
The largest spider in the world is the goliath bird-eating tarantula (Theraphosa blondi). Spanning up to one foot in body length, this spider uses its massive body and one-inch-long fangs to consume birds and other types of unfortunate prey. While this spider's bite is not deadly to humans, it is extremely painful and may result in nausea and profuse sweating. The goliath also has hairs all over it body that will shoot outwards when it feels threatened. In order to warn potential offenders, this spider makes an eery hissing sound that can be heard up to 15 feet away.
A native to South America, Floridians don't have to worry about encountering this scary, and gigantic, spider.
What Is the Smallest Spider in the World?
The smallest spider in the world is the patu digua, spanning only .37 mm across, roughly one-fifth the size of the head of a pin. The first samples of this spider were collected in Rio Digua, Columbia.
What Is the Biggest Spider Ever Recorded?
The largest spider ever recorded was a male goliath bird-eating spider discovered in Venezuela in 1965, according to Guinness World Records. The spider spanned 11 inches across, long enough to cover a dinner plate.
- Golden silk spider | UF / IFAS
- Beneficials in the Garden: Black-and-Yellow Argiope Spider
- Why Black Widow Spider Venom Is So Potent
- Insects and spiders of the world
- The Spider Myths Site | Burke Museum
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Paul Goodman
Mike on June 23, 2020:
Yup, found the second one in my house within a month. I may be moving out now lol. They are big and fast. Not sure how to get rid of them.
Stephen on August 01, 2019:
I found a spider as big as a baseball
hi on May 14, 2019:
there was a spider that was in our house not sure if it was a huntsman spider so wanting to make came here thank you for the info
INeedToKnowAboutInsects on August 06, 2018:
Inside my bedroom there’s this crack in the wall and every night I see two shiny black fangs hanging out of it and it makes my cats jump at the wall. Every night, I get scared to sleep in case it’s venomous and I get worried for my cats. I’ve tried using a hoover in the day but had no luck as it wasn’t there. So I tried at night, it was there, but when we used the hoover it the spider was too big and there was a nest. What’s the best way to remove a spider nest without getting hurt or damaging it? And more info about the spiders look: shiny black fangs red streaks across its body. I’m so scared and am worried to go in my room at night...What type of spider isn’t this and is it venomous?
Fred on June 20, 2018:
Did you not even research any of these before you wrote this? Embarrassing.
Ke young on June 17, 2018:
Yes cellar spiders are dangerous if you are allergic to them. I almost lost my ear to one. The bite destroys tissue and causes the tissue to foam away. Be advised to get antibiotic, antihistamine and use ice to push toxins out. Else the toxins will spread killing more tissue.
Chrisanne on April 09, 2018:
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
firstname.lastname@example.org on August 08, 2017:
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!
VelvGu9 on July 29, 2017:
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.
squirrelhoudini on July 15, 2017:
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
Shakylakey@aol.com on July 02, 2017:
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
Chase on June 27, 2017:
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.
Just a question on November 02, 2016:
What about the huntsmen spiders?
kjforce from Florida on March 09, 2015:
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...