The 6 Biggest Spiders in Florida
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
Golden Silk Orb-Weaver (Banana Spider)
- Wolf Spider
- Black and Yellow Argiope Spider
- Widow Spider
"Daddy Long Legs" (Harvestmen and Cellar Spiders)
- 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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- 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.
#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 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.
#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.
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© 2015 Paul Goodman