Red-Legged Purseweb Spider: How to Identify

Red-legged purseweb spiders (Sphodros rufipes) typically construct their webs on hardwood trees, yet they are also encountered in grassy vegetation and urban structures. These arachnids inhabit temperate forests and other heavily populated areas alike.

Red-legged purseweb spider
Red-legged purseweb spider (Sphodros rufipes). Males such as this one wander around in search of mates while the females remain inside their purse-like webs, waiting for prey. Photo credit: Bishop

Red-legged purseweb spiders: Identification

Red-legged purseweb spiders are easily recognizable due to their robust body and short, strong legs that lay close to the ground. Characteristically, they have two segments: a black-colored cephalothorax at the front and an abdomen behind it.

The hind of the cephalothorax is flat while its anterior slopes upward towards its twelve appendages – one pair of chelicerae, one pair of pedipalps, and four pairs of legs – all connected to the arachnid’s cephalothorax.

The top section of the cephalothorax is known as the carapace, while its ventral side is dubbed the sternum. Attached to this section’s front is a pair of chelicerae consisting of a basal segment and an agile fang.

In this species, these structures are notably large (taking up approximately ½ length of the carapace) and serve multiple purposes – capture prey, protect against danger, and grip items for holding.

The red-legged purseweb spiders are equipped with two sets of venomous glands in their cephalothorax which they use to bite and poison prey. Their coal-black eyes sit close together on the front end of their carapace, along with three pairs of abdominal spinnerets that help them create tubes for nesting purposes. This species is well-outfitted to thrive!

Identifying male Red-legged spiders from females.

Males can be identified by their crimson red legs, while the carapace of both sexes is reddish brown to black and dotted with yellow spots. The chelicerae are notable for being almost three times as long as they are wide, broad at the base, and covered in curved hairs and spines.

The abdomen of males will appear dull black with an oval shape decorated with a copious amount of small hairs. Their overall size may reach up to .6 inches.

Female Red-legged purseweb spiders can reach up to one inch in length, making them the largest subspecies. Their chelicerae, which are broadest at their base and twice as long as they are wide, mirror those found on males.

The carapace takes a reddish-brown hue, while the legs bear the same coloration with an abdomen that is black or dark brown in shade.

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Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for

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