By Sam Wasson
Updated Oct 28, 2022
Seen across the world, skittering along floorboards, and looming within the corners of rooms, house spiders are ominous pests. However, if you’ve ever looked into these creepy crawlies, you’ll realize there is no single “American house spider.” This conundrum presents several questions, like, just what is a house spider? What spider are you dealing with? Is it dangerous? This article will answer those questions by analyzing the most common household spiders you can come across.
The name “house spider” is confusing and, ultimately, quite unhelpful. As you might have guessed, the term “house spider” is a common name that refers to multiple species of arachnids (not all of them even spiders). Furthermore, some spiders commonly found in homes don’t carry the name “house spider.” In other words, many species of spider carry the common name “house spider,” while some actual house spiders don’t, even though they’re commonly considered house spiders. To avoid this confusion, for this article, we’re considering every species of spider commonly found in homes and listing them by their scientific names first, with their common names second.
Named from the small, sack-like structures they build, these spiders are commonly found in garages or gardens. These spiders belong to the Cheiracanthium family and are found throughout the United States. They have pale, tan-colored bodies, dark-colored mouthparts, and yellow, milky-white, or green-tinted abdomens. Like wolf spiders, these invasive nuisance pests are aggressive hunters, searching for their prey on foot and not building webs. As such, you’re most likely to encounter these spiders in the evening while on the prowl or during the day when they hide in their sacks.
The bite of the yellow sac spider is often confused with the brown recluse, as it functions similarly but much less severely. If bitten, you’ll experience a sharp stinging pain like a wasp sting, after which a large boil develops. These boils are not typically severe and heal after a few weeks, but in some cases can result in infections.
Found throughout the world and all over the United States, this pest is probably the creator of the numerous spiderwebs around your house. Known as cobweb spiders or cobweb weavers, these spiders like to construct numerous webs in rapid succession, leaving a trail of sticky filament in their wake. They like to construct these webs in ceiling corners or behind furniture, with a preference for dark, damp locations.
These spiders have dark, yellowish bodies with large dirty-white or brown-colored abdomens. Their most distinguishing characteristic is their long, stick-like legs, with yellow and brown stripes. They don’t often bite, and when they do, it’s not known to be medically significant.
Commonly confused for the black widow, Steatoda grossa is known as the cupboard spider, common brown house spider, and false widow. It’s found across Europe, Australia, Asia, and the United States, especially on the East Coast. As its name suggests, it greatly resembles the black widow. It’s the same general size (6 to 10 millimeters) and possesses a large, brown-black abdomen with long, dark legs. However, it does not possess the widow’s bright red hourglass marking, making it distinguishable upon closer inspection.
The bite of the false widow is similar to that of true widows but much less severe. If bitten, you’ll experience immediate, sharp pain, followed later by a deep ache and blister at the location of the bite. Reactions to bites from the false widow can vary, but mild to severe nausea, headaches, and lethargy, have been reported and may last for multiple days.
Also known as the barn spider or domestic house spider, this creepy-crawly can be found throughout Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, and, most recently, North America. Transported to the U.S. through shipping containers, it has since spread from coast to coast. It’s most commonly seen in barns, backyards, and inside basements and attics during the fall months.
This spider has a long, flat body with thin, hairy legs. It’s one of the smaller spider species on this list, ranging from 6 to 11 millimeters (just under half an inch). Its abdomen comes in various colors, from pale to dark brown, peach, and greenish-brown, typically with dark splotches or speckles.
These spiders are extremely fast, skittish, and highly unlikely to bite. As such, there are no officially documented cases of bites.
With one of the most accurate common names of any spider on this list, the giant house spider is indeed massive, commonly growing to over 5 inches. Found across Europe and Canada, this member of the wolf spider family is only found in three U.S. states: Michigan, Washington, and Wisconsin. It’s a funnel weaver, preferring dark, damp areas to weave its entrapping webs. It can commonly be found in flowerpots, woodpiles, and mulch, as well as in darker areas of the home, like crawl spaces and basements.
While intimidating due to its size and fearsome mandibles, this spider is highly skittish, preferring to run and hide instead of bite. As a result, bites are extremely uncommon and are not known to be medically significant.
Many species of spider can find their way inside a home, but these incidents happen by accident, and most spiders don’t intend to invade. However, some spider species seek human dwellings as a source of food and shelter, especially during fall and winter. Below are some of the most common spider species that are found in homes but are not typically known as “house spiders.”
These spiders are small, fast, aggressive hunters that don’t spin webs. They have small, dark brown, striped bodies. They grow up to 1 inch long and are covered in hair. They’re often found under furniture, in garages, or along baseboards. They’re also famous for carrying spiderlings on their backs, which scatter if the adult is smashed.
One of the most infamous spiders out there, the black widow, is known for its shiny black body, lethal bite, and bright red hourglass marking. It hides in cluttered, secluded places, like garages or sheds. It has a potent, painful bite that has made it the poster child for venomous spiders. While fatalities are rare, widow bites affect the nervous system, and some people may have severe reactions.
Common to the Northwestern portions of the United States, the hobo spider is a nasty arachnid to encounter. It’s a type of funnel-web spider that seeks out locations with soil, rocks, and dirt to build webs. It has a yellowish-brown coloration, with two vertical stripes down the center of its body. It possesses a mottled, brown, yellow, or gray abdomen. The potency of the hobo spider’s venom is a contentious subject, with some stating its effects resemble that of a brown recluse. Conversely, some experts argue that the bite is not overtly harmful, only highly painful. We recommend approaching these spiders with caution, as they’re known to bite defensively.
The most common house spider on this list, cellar spiders (also known as daddy longlegs), have long legs and either small dot-like or tear-dropped-shaped bodies. Most commonly found in cellars, attics, closets, and other dark, secluded locations, accompanied by small egg sacs. These spiders, while pervasive, are completely harmless.
This spider has one of the nastiest bites on this list. It possesses a milky white abdomen, a central body with a fiddle-like marking, and long, thin legs. Its bite contains a dermonecrotic venom, which causes cell death resulting in painful lesions. While not aggressive, these spiders will bite when pressed against the body, and any bite should be seen by a medical professional immediately.
While finding a spider in your house can be a frightening experience, the vast majority are harmless. However, spider infestations can happen, typically in fall and winter, when they search out locations with warmth and food. In these cases, the number of spiders can become too much to handle alone and may require the help of a pest control company.
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