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Most Venomous Spiders and Insects in North America - Most Poisonous Spiders

Updated on July 19, 2014

Venomous Spiders and Insects

There are more than 35,000 species of spiders in the entire world, but only 27 of those spiders are dangerous to humans. Some spiders simply have a painful bite but other spiders can inflict life threatening health conditions that may cause death.

Spiders are often the most feared insects but there are other insects that can inflict very painful bites such as the centipede, scorpion, a variety of ants, and a variety of bees.

Here is a list of not only the deadly insects but some of the more common painful insect biters in North America.

Black Widow with its prey.
Black Widow with its prey.

Watch a Black Widow Spider

# 1 Black Widow

The Black Widow is one of the more well known deadly spider for its shiny black body and red hourglass shape on its abdomen. Many also know that the female eats the male after mating. The male black widow is not dangerous, just the female.

Female Black Widow spiders can become more aggressive when protecting their eggs sacs. There have been 36 recorded deaths from a Black Widow spider bite between 1965-1990. Even though a Black Widow's bite is believed to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake's, healthy adults do not usually have to worry if bitten by a Black Widow spider, however, small children and elderly are at more risk when bitten by a Black Widow. If bitten, symptoms may include nausea, muscle aches, and difficulty breathing.

Black Widows on average are the size of a paper clip. So they are much tinier than most expect. The spiders are more active during the nighttime, and prefer to live in dark areas and crevices. When eating, the spider injects digestive enzymes into the corpse of their prey and the enzyme and the spider's fangs liquefy the insides of the insect turning the insect's insides into liquid, which the spider drinks.

Northern Black Widow spiders have a red hourglass shape on its abdomen but the hourglass is usually broken apart and can be accompanied by red dots or white stripes. The body of the spider can be black or dark brown.

Southern Black Widow spiders also have an hourglass shape on its abdomen but once again the hourglass can be broken in half. There may also be a red dot on the abdomen of the spider.

The Western Black Widow spider can also have a red hourglass shape on its back, possibly being broken apart. However, the Western Black Widow may not always exhibit the red hourglass shape sometimes they may just have orange and red spotting on their backs. They can also be black or brown in color.

Black Widow Spider Bite
Black Widow Spider Bite
Locations of Black Widow Spiders
Locations of Black Widow Spiders
Brown Recluse Spider
Brown Recluse Spider

Watch Brown Recluse Spider

Brown Recluse Spider Bite
Brown Recluse Spider Bite

# 2 Brown Recluse Spider

Brown Recluse Spiders are usually small spiders between 6-20mm in size. However, some can grow to be larger. They are usually brown in color, varying from dark brown, light brown, and cream colored brown or blackish gray. Sometimes the Brown Recluse can have a violin shape on its head/cephalothorax, but not all Brown Recluse spiders will have this mark. One unique characteristic that the Brown Recluse Spider has is six eyes instead of eight eyes.

Brown Recluse Spiders are very difficult to identify and can often be mistaken for another type of spider. The Brown Recluse builds its nest in dry, undisturbed places. People usually find Brown Recluse spiders in woodpiles, closets, garages, and sheds. However, when a Brown Recluse is found inside a home, they can be found in shoes, dressers, toilets, work gloves, and not frequently used beds. Like most spiders, Brown Recluse spiders are more active at night.

The majority of Brown Recluse spider bites do no result in any symptoms, however, some can cause deep ulcers that take months to heal. Most reports of Brown Recluse spider bites happen in Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Locations of Brown Recluse Spiders
Locations of Brown Recluse Spiders
The Hobo Spider
The Hobo Spider

Watch the Hobo Spider

# 3 Hobo Spider

The Hobo spider is not native to North America, and was believed to be brought from Western Europe in the 1930s aboard a ship. Hobo Spiders are believed to have come for Seattle ports. The Hobo Spider tends to live in dry and arid areas. This species of spider has been found in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Canada.

The Hobo Spider usually measures in size anywhere from 1/3 - 2/3 inches in size. The Hobo Spider is very difficult to identify. It can have a light stripe running down the middle of the sternum. The abdomen has v-shaped patterns down the middle with the V-shapes pointing toward the head.

Hobo Spiders are known to be quite aggressive in nature, especially if protecting an egg sac. It is believed that the bite of a Hobo Spider can cause necrosis.

Map of locations of Hobo Spiders
Map of locations of Hobo Spiders
Yellow Sac Spider
Yellow Sac Spider

Watch a video of Yellow Sac Spiders

# 4 Yellow Sac Spider

The Yellow Sac Spider is usually very pale and light in color. The abdomen of the Yellow Sac Spider can vary from yellowish to beige and greenish or pink in color. Yellow Sac spiders vary in size from 6 - 10 mm in size.

It is believed that the Yellow Sac Spider is attracted to the smell of gas. Yellow Sac spiders are responsible for most spider bites that occur each year to humans. Most bites occur at night, when the spider is active. The spider's bite is usually harmless, though painful, but some bites can turn into MRSA due to the spider's venom, which may be necrotic.

Distribution of Yellow Sac Spiders
Distribution of Yellow Sac Spiders
Bark Scorpion
Bark Scorpion

Watch a Bark Scorpion

# 5 Bark Scorpion

The Bark Scorpion is very small in size about 2 - 3 inches long. Often the tiny scorpion is stepped on which causes the scorpion to act aggressively and sting with the tip of its stinger. Most Bark Scorpions are usually brown or tan in color but their colors can vary.

The Bark Scorpion is a nocturnal hunter and usually comes out at night. They are very good climbers and can be found almost anywhere, under a rock, in a crevice, dark closets, trapped in sinks/bathtubs, trees, and rock walls. Bark Scorpions have been found in Arizona, California, and New Mexico.

The Bark Scorpion gives birth to live young, which it carries on their backs.

Bark Scorpion carrying 30 babies on its back.
Bark Scorpion carrying 30 babies on its back.

Watch A Tarantula Flicking its Hair


# 6 Tarantula

There have no medical fatalities reported from Tarantula bites, however, the bites can be very painful and similar to a wasp sting. However, it is not the Tarantula's bite that is its only line of defense it also has its urticating abdominal hairs, which are barbed and potentially very harmful.

The barbed hairs are not usually a big fear and may only cause a rash or an itching sensation. However, if one of the urticating abdominal hairs enters a human's eye or respiratory system it can cause permanent damage to the eye or problems breathing.

When a Tarantula uses its barbed hairs it turns its body and begins flicking the hairs towards what the spider considers a danger.

Tarantulas can vary in size, some as small as a fingernail, and others as big as 12 inches.

Distribution of Tarantulas in the USA
Distribution of Tarantulas in the USA


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    • profile image

      Jane W 

      22 months ago

      Wow! I seen these spiders somewhere before, alternating that I am a adult zookeeper, so I know how they look like.

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting & informative article on Spiders Susan Harris. I was actually unaware that the Brown Recluse spider was so prominent in North America. Thumbs up on your hub.


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