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Biggest Spider in Florida: Top 5

Updated on November 20, 2016
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Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.


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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 is the biggest spider 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.

Bearing the above in mind, I have listed below the five arachnids that I consider to be Florida's largest.

#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 around 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.

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

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 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

#2 Wolf Spider

These large, hairy spiders are common in Florida. 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 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.

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.

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

#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.

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.

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

#4 Widow Spider

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 by one.

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.

Why are They Called Widows?

The widow spider gets its name because the female of the species has a tendency to 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.

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

#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 and so confuse them together.

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 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.

© 2015 Paul Goodman

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    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 22 months 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...

    • Just a question 2 months ago

      What about the huntsmen spiders?

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