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How to Identify Venomous United States Spiders

Updated on January 5, 2018

Brown Recluse Size Shown

Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons Public Domain Via Br-recluse-guy
Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons Public Domain Via Br-recluse-guy

Venomous Spiders - Poisonous Spiders

Venomous spiders in the United States vary from highly dangerous, like the brown recluse and the black widow, to the virtually harmless, such as the St. Andrews cross spider.

Often, spiders are referred to as "poisonous" but this is actually inaccurate. Spiders are venomous, not poisonous. The difference being that venom is injected through fangs or other devices into the bloodstream. Poison is ingested. In theory, for example, one could drink rattlesnake venom without much effect to their well being. Arsenic, a poison, would have a markedly different effect. DISCLAIMER - THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT ONE SHOULD GO OUT AND DRINK VENOM IN ANY FORM. THAT IS DANGEROUS, IF NOT STUPID. It is just for the sake of distinction between the two types of toxicity.

That being said, spiders use venom to liquify their meals. They inject the venom, and it breaks down the insides of the prey to a drinkable "soup" that they then drink for food. This venom is also a means of defense when the spider is threatened.

As a rule, all spiders are venomous. The difference is that some spiders have venom that is dangerous to humans, and others have venom that is not. 

Now that you understand how venom works, let's look at a few spiders in the United States that you need to be aware of, as well as a few that ride the fence of being dangerous.

Dangerous Spider Bites!

Which Spider Scares you the Most?

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Close up Video Of Black Widow

The Black Widow - The First Lady Of Spider Bites

The black widow is one of the first spiders to come to mind when one considers dangerous United States spiders. This nasty little bugger can actually kill you if you are susceptible to spider bites. Any bite is serious, and should be treated immediately. The elderly, children, and people in poor health are the most likely to suffer extreme cases. All people that are bitten are in danger and should go to the hospital.

The black widow is generally easy to identify, though some things can throw you off. As a rule, the black widow female is the one that you should be most concerned with. It is about the size of quarter, and has a round, bulbous belly.

The black widow is famous for the red hourglass that is found on the belly, but this should not be all inclusive. The hourglass can be red or even orange in color. The hourglass can also be anything from a stripe to a dot, to a series of dots. This depends on age, as well as the location of the spider.

Color of the black widow is also something that can really confuse people. By and large, they are shiny dark black in color. They can also be slate grey, brown, or any other shade of black.

The black widow produces a drunken web, that tends to be highly irregular in shape.

The Brown Recluse Up Close and Personal

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons Public Domain
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons Public Domain

The Brown Recluse - Overlooked Danger

The brown recluse is the second spider in the United States that you have to be aware of. This spider is highly dangerous if for no other reason because they are often found around the house.

They also have a necrotic bite. That is, the bite will eat away the tissue around the bite site. A bite from the brown recluse has caused amputations and has the same risks as the ones mentioned above for the black widow.

The brown recluse, or fiddleback as it is sometimes called, can be identified by the violin shaped marking on its head and back. The neck of the violin points towards the back of the spider. The brown recluse has a uniformly colored belly that is like a long circle.

The color of the brown recluse is actually varialble as well, but most commonly brown. This spider can also be light brown, tan, or even almost white in color. Another telling feature of the brown recluse is the fact that they have six eyes rather than the eight normally found on spiders. These six eyes are arranged in pairs of two. Two in the middle and two sets on either side.

The Hobo Spider

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons Via Dr. Lee Ostrom's Hobo Spider Images
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons Via Dr. Lee Ostrom's Hobo Spider Images

Other Potentially Dangerous United States Spiders

Tarantulas - Several species of tarantula have very painful bites and can be found in the United States. Some are indigenous to the United States, and some are brought in as pets. Tarantulas are generally large spiders, that are covered in hair. This also gives the tarantula a large set of fangs that are no fun to be bitten by. Most tarantula venom is not particularly dangerous to humans, but bites shoud be treated.

Wolf Spiders - The wolf spider is a burrowing spider that is non-aggressive in nature. The union jack symbol is generally clearly on its back. This spider has a painful bite, but not a particularly dangeous one.

Mouse spiders - Many people are not familiar with this particularly painful spider bite. It is actually comparable to a red-back spider in toxicity, and should be treated right away if bitten. The mouse spider is known for a bright red head in the male, with prominent large fangs.

Hobo Spiders - Very comparable to the mouse spider in that people do not know much about them. They are dangerous to a degree and should be treated immediately if bitten. The hobo spider is often marked with chevron patterns on the abdomen. They are about brown with about a two inch leg span.


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    • profile image

      becky 4 years ago

      behind our nightlight in the bathroom we saw a big spider...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      The pet trade is selling venomous animals such as Tarantulas Scorpions Centipedes Mangrove Snakes and venomous fish. Tarantulas are the most popular. Some are docile while others are not so docile and some of them are extremely bad tempered and bite readily. New World Tarantulas can also fling their hairs and cause itching and rashes. The venom of Tarantulas is not fatal to a healthy adult human unless theres an allergic reaction. The venom can kill small animals and the venom is fatal for small pets. Some kinds of tropical Tarantulas have very painful venom and can cause serious sickness such as vomiting nausea hives headaches and muscular cramps. The generally bad tempered Haitian Brown Tarantula can cause severe pain hives and difficulty breathing. The Indian Ornamental Tarantula can cause agonizing pain and nausea and coma. The African Baboon Spiders which are also Tarantulas also have very painful bites. The Chinese Earth Tiger Tarantula is said to have killed a human baby. Unconfirmed human fatalities from Tarantula bites are reported in Central America India and Borneo. Thailand Malaysia New Guinea and Australia also has Tarantulas with dangerous bites. Very few Tarantulas are docile enough to handle. All are unpredictable. These animals have existed before the Dinosaurs since the Devonian period Paleozoic era some 405 million years ago. These animals are super ancient and adaptable. The aforementioned Haitian Brown Tarantula is Phormictopus Cancerides. Its sometimes docile but its better known for being bad tempered and cranky. The nasty ones greatly outnumber the gentle ones. Its a very angry spider and bites readily and the bite is said to hurt like hell by one person. The aggressive behavior is terrifying as they raise their large fangs and lunge and strike at anyone or anything coming near it. Yet some people keep it as pets and enjoy having them. People have a right to keep what they want as pets. I personally feel its insane to keep a venomous spider as a pet and especially with very aggressive species. The law allows it and there are people who like large spiders. Its a damgerous hobby.

    • profile image

      5 years ago

      Do U know if that new poison spider is in California at all?? That's where I live I been reading about it Thanx :)

    • profile image

      Dela 5 years ago

      My yellow lab was bitten by a spider, I don't know what kind it was. Her face got really swollen. I killed a spider the next day that it happened, and took a picture of it. It was light brown/ yellowish color and it had a strange light tan marking on its belly.

    • profile image

      sara 5 years ago

      i was in my attic i saw a little orange spider right next to me i start to scream and went down stairs and a few min later my leg is a little ichy i am really scared is little orange spider pousionus?

    • profile image

      kaitlinpluskis 5 years ago

      i got bit bye a brown lacros when i was 7

    • profile image

      Question Guy 5 years ago

      Victoria,Have you tried looking it up? most often Google has pictures of spiders and did it bite you

      ? if so, then i suggest calling a local doctor! If you dont know what type of spider it is and it bit you then it's venom could be potentionaly harmful.

    • profile image

      Victoria 5 years ago

      I Recently was on the couch watching tv and all of a sudden a yellow spider started to crawl on the pillow nad i FREAKED OUT! (im 16 btw) so i called my grandma cause my parents were at work and she didn't know what it was. Can you please help? I thought it was a garden spider or jumping spider but its not. North Carolina spiders anyone help?

    • profile image

      A.L 5 years ago

      I want to thank the HUB pages for such good information over spiders THANKS!

    • profile image

      A.L 5 years ago

      spiders are very intresting,and dangerous but cool

    • profile image

      lopez la 5 years ago

      spiders when of the most dreaded creatures in the world but they are very intresting when you learn about them

    • profile image

      christina 6 years ago

      i never been bit by a spider before

    • profile image

      Robin 6 years ago

      I recently moved to the northern tip of MI and it seems I am deluged with spiders here. They make their webs on my windows and screen doors and I am always finding one in the bathroom. They are the size of a quarter to a half dollar, some are black, others brown. I just noticed one outside the front door today- he was fuzzy and had a horseshoe shape on his belly. I do not like spiders and was bitten by one a few years back that caused my foot to swell to twice its size and was so painful, I couldn't put pressure on my foot. When a red line started moving up my leg, I went to the doctor, who gave me the strongest antibiotic you can take and in two days, I could actually walk on my foot again, so I am afraid of them, especially now that they seem to be everywhere in and around my new home. I recently purchased some spider spray- don't know yet if it will help, but since they pretty much look alike and don't look or sound like anything mentioned here, not sure what kind they are. I am just afraid for myself and my pets if they should bite. What causes them to hang around- so many and so often? Is there any deterrent other than poisonous sprays?

    • profile image

      g-unit  7 years ago

      hey i found a spider tht looked like a black widow but it was white but still had tht red spot on it i was jst wondering if it's poisonous or not here's my email to get back to me

    • profile image

      Lecie 7 years ago


      i have a question for you. i live in ohio and around pine trees. i have found several of the spiders in my apartment that i can't find on any site. they are black with a white spot on their back. when i go to approach them to kill them they usually become defensive and run right for me. i'm very scared of spiders. no site i've been to can tell me what this spider is or has pictures of it. have i found a new breed? is it dangerous? can you help me find out because i have spent hours searching and have no answers. great hub.

    • profile image

      h8er 7 years ago

      to the person that said mythbusters is not accurate about the daddy longlegs, you are a moron. 1st off- they are way more intelligent than you will ever be. 2nd they do way more research than you realize. 3rd they let one bite them and had no reaction. lastly if they were poisonous my cat would be dead because she eats them constantly..

    • profile image

      Rolrik 7 years ago

      Contrary to popular belief the daddy long legs is not poisonous in fact its not even a spider, its often confused with the cellar spider which is also non-poisonous.

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 8 years ago from Holly, MI

      Very informative Hub! I am a Vegan and I know I'm suppose to love all creatures but I really really do NOT like spiders. Lucky for me I very rarely ever find one in my house....I think my 2 dogs and cat get them before me. lol :) I swear I am obsessed with checking through my dog's long fur as often as possible looking for spider bites. I'm pretty terrified of them.

    • profile image

      tiejier 8 years ago

      there was a hairy gray spider in my car about the size of a dime with an orangish spot on its back. I just about wrecked, it went inside the vent and has never come back out. Does any one know what kind of spider this is.

    • profile image

      princesslips77 8 years ago

      Ewwwww! I just about had a heart attack,a few minutes ago, when a spider crawled right across my computer table!

      I had my bedroom light off, so the glow of my computer screen is what made me see it. I don't think it was a brown recluse. I studied it a bit ,before flushing it, and after killing it. Yeah,call PETA...but they terrify me,lol.(spiders,not PETA) A google image search led me to this site.

      It was helpful, thanks Rodney!

    • profile image

      momof5 8 years ago

      I was bitten by a red spider last night, I could not feel my right hand and it was affecting my arm. I got feeling back a half hour later. Last summer I was also bitten by a black spider that had white spots on it. It has green eyes, when you look at it the eyes turn red. It took 6 weeks for my foot on the underside to heal. Can someone find and tell me what these spiders are. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Slowinski 8 years ago

      Hi, great sight. I've never been bitten by spiders tend to lieave them alone unless they are in areas i spend a lot of time,like my bed car etc. Was wonder about a species i encountered in my parents basement, never seen anything like them before or since. They had bodies like a large black widow but on the back of the abodomen they had a series of six sided plates that covered about half of abodomen, the plates where colored black and white in a random way, as one i noticed had a black white skull shape on it's plate while others didn't. was just wondering what they where

    • profile image

      spartomic 8 years ago

      daddy longlegs are poisonous i have been to over 20 spider research websites and each one claim that the daddy longleg is one of the most poisonous in north america and the entire world for that matter (even though their mouths are too small to bite humans) and mythbusters is probably not a very accurate scource fot information.

    • profile image

      Ken 8 years ago

      For the most part. Nice site. I came here for the brown recluse pictures to identify a spider in my bathroom and definitely good information. And BTW, the daddy longlegs is not poisonous. That's an urban myth. The Mythbusters disproved that one a long time ago.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 9 years ago from West By God

      That may take a while to get a picture. I don't see them all that often and it is kind of hard when they become free toys for my cats. When I get a picture of one I will send it to you.

    • aidenofthetower profile image

      aidenofthetower 9 years ago

      We moved from Michigan (with only a few spider concerns often more with escapies then with those found there naturally) to Texas where lots of people talk about dangerous spiders. The brown recluse is of particular concern in the area that I live and it freaks me out a bit. Thanks for all the good information!

    • rodney southern profile image

      rodney southern 9 years ago from Greensboro, NC


      Any chance of getting a pic? I am pretty sure I could find out if you can.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 9 years ago from West By God

      I have not been able to find the spider I have in my house that bit me and it took 6 weeks to heal. My foot swelled. It's about the size of a dime, black, with a white spot on it back. This little guy was in my bed sheets at night and had bit me. I have my husband kill them when I see them. I got bit on the underside my my toes and my toes swelled and at first I didn't see the spider and I didn't know that it had bitten me. After a week I went to the ER. OMG! We couldn't believe what the doctor had told us and he wasn't joking. He told us that spiders don't bit people---we want to know what planet he lives on! Anyway after getting some anti-swelling and ani biotics the swelling went away after a few days. Can you find what kind of spider this is? oh and it's kind of flat and it will lift it's eyes up when you look at it.

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 9 years ago


      Rodney wrote this hub, all I did was comment :)

    • sheryl c profile image

      sheryl c 9 years ago from canton ohio

      Trish great hub hate spiders my ex husband was bitten bye a brown recluse the hospital said it could have killed him because they bore down into the bone it was quite nasty bite he was lucky and they do have a violin shape on them here in Ohio they are every where ugly creatures Thanks Sheryl

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 9 years ago

      Excellent hub. I have never heard of some of the spiders you mention, and thankfully, have never been bitten by one. As a child growing up, the one I saw most frequently was the daddy long legs. I don't know anything about it but they used to scare me. I didn't think they'd bite but their legs made my hair stand on end as I imagined one of them crawling on me. I did have a scare one night while reading in bed. All of a sudden, a spider came down from the ceiling and was dangling over my book. I flung the book and high-tailed it out of the bedroom lol. I also have an aversion to killing bugs of any kind. It just creeps me out. Once I made the mistake of stepping on a June bug, those big nasty looking beetle thingies. It crunched under my foot, ughhh! Also, as a child, I didn't step on ants if I could help it. I felt they had a right to live just like I did. To this day I tend to walk looking down, I suppose, so I don't step on bugs.

      Interesting hub and thanks for sharing.