Kukulcania hibernalis, the southern house spider, is a large arachnid species found in many regions across America. It was formerly known as Filistata hibernalis and exhibited striking sexual dimorphism.
This remarkable creature dwells from the southeastern USA to Central American countries and islands in the Caribbean, all the way down south to Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.
Southern house spider: Description.
Male southern house spiders may be confused with brown recluses due to their similar physical traits. But compared to the latter, these arachnids are typically larger and lack the telltale violin-shaped cephalothorax of a brown recluse. Plus, they possess unusually elongated pedipalps for added distinction.
Females can range from dark brown to black and are typically small. Males grow up to two inches across with longer legs, while their counterparts tend to have more pronounced bodies that appear velvety light gray due to fine-textured hair on the abdomen.
Southern house spiders: Web.
Female southern house spiders are not usually seen, as they construct radial webs around tiny crevices – a phenomenon that has earned their family (Filistatidae) the unique moniker of ‘crevice weavers.’ Females rarely move unless to seize insects stuck in their webs. Conversely, males typically roam in search of bugs and mates without any particular area.
The southern house spider is an extraordinary cribellate spider, meaning its spinnerets do not spin adhesive webbing. Instead, it utilizes its legs to comb a fuzzy and tangled netting from the cribellum – a spiked plate close to the body’s spinnerets- to ensnare insect legs and capture prey. This velcro-like material catches their feet before they can break free!
Is the Southern house spider dangerous?
Male southern house spiders may seem aggressive but will not bite unless provoked. They are unable to puncture human skin due to their small mouth parts. However, these nearly blind arachnids have a habit of hurrying across any surface.
This behavior is not out of malice, simply as they cannot distinguish larger animals from other objects. These spiders will instantly play dead if ever threatened by predators – an effective defense strategy that usually works!
Because of their elongated bodies and compact legs, Southern house spiders can squeeze into cracks as narrow as 1/4 inch.
Southern house spider: Reproduction
Upon encountering a female Southern house spider’s web, the southern house spider’s mating ritual may begin with an intimidating standoff. However, it is soon followed by long hours of no significant movement from either participant in this elaborate process which can last over one hour.
After recouping, the male Southern house spider weaves a massive web around the female’s crevice and pulls on its strands to pull her out of her hole. This may take several minutes. After emerging from their respective holes, both spiders tap one another to grab each other by the forelegs, with the male suspended in his web creation.
Further recommended reading about spiders.
Spider pages: Learn how to identify and avoid these spiders.