Spiders in Wisconsin are an integral part of the ecosystem, playing a vital role in controlling the populations of other insects. Wisconsin has diverse spider species, each with unique characteristics and habits.
The eight most common spiders in Wisconsin:
- Black Widow
- Wolf Spider
- Jumping Spider
- Yellow Sac Spider
- Crab Spider
- Orb Weaver Spider
- Funnel Weaver Spider
- American House Spider
Black Widows are a breed of spiders in Wisconsin that can be easily detected thanks to their unique coloring: jet-black bodies and contrasting red hourglass marks on the abdomen. These venomous spiders prefer dark, concealed locations like basements, woodpiles, or sheds for shelter. Interestingly enough, they won’t attack unless provoked – so if you spot one in your vicinity, it’s best to leave them alone.
Wolf Spiders are a sight to behold – sleek, swift, and with fascinating wolf-like features. You will find these spiders in Wisconsin, mostly in grassy areas, but they don’t need to spin webs for their prey, as they’re capable of chasing them down instead! Such is the resourcefulness of these critters that humans have nothing much to fear from them; wolves’ spines being non-venomous means there’s no reason for us not to admire and appreciate this dazzling species.
Jumping spiders in Wisconsin hunt like humans. Some salticid species hunt their prey like human archers hunt deer by taking a high, seated position and then stalking any prey they observe.
Other jumping spiders use the spider version of the “still hunting.” Still hunting is used by bear hunters who continually move, stop, scan, and move again.
Jumping spiders prefer to ambush their prey instead of running after them and chasing them down. To do this, jumping spiders are willing to take the less traveled road. They will take meandering routes climbing trees and branches and circling behind the vegetation, even to the point where they lose visual contact with their target.
Jumping spiders are not venomous and are generally not considered a threat to humans.
Yellow sac spiders in Wisconsin.
Yellow sac spiders in Wisconsin are aggressive, prey-chasing night hunters. They do not sit on a web and wait for something to fall into it, the pursue every meal. As befits true hunters, they are willing to take on prey larger than themselves, even other spiders like the hobo spider.
Outdoors, you’ll find the yellow sac spider in agricultural fields, gardens, and rockeries.
During daylong, the spiders will be tucked into retreats (woven silk sanctuaries) to rest. These retreats will be inside piles of organic debris, in curled-up leaves, and under outdoor furniture.
The crab spider in Wisconsin.
Crab spiders in Wisconsin come in many colors, including pink, yellow, blue, black, white, and green. The easiest way to identify a crab spoiler is by noting the front four legs that are longer and thicker than the four rear legs.
The crab spider has eight eyes mounted on a lump on the front of their cephalothorax. They have two forward-mounted claws, flat bodies, and crabwise legs.
The crab spider can change color slightly with each molt, allowing it to camouflage itself against its current background. Some researchers believe crab spiders can even assume the colorations of their prey.
Crab spiders do not make a web, instead using a single start of silk to support themselves. Females wait for prey while sitting patiently on a plant or flower. Male crab spiders hunt while wandering around.
Orb Weaver spider in Wisconsin.
Orb weaver spiders in Wisconsin come in many sizes and colors, but most are brightly hued and have conspicuously hairy or spiked legs. Orb weavers also have enormous abdomens that overlap (as seen in the photo above) the rear end of their cephalothorax.
The abdomens of orb weaver spiders also vary in texture (smooth or spiny), but most are irregularly shaped.
The color of an orb weaver spider indicates when it will be most active. Brighter-colored orb weavers hunt during the day. Earth-colored (brown and gray) orb weavers hunt primarily at night.
The webs of funnel weaver spiders in Wisconsin are frequently seen on mown lawns after an early morning dew. Indeed, the members of the Genus Agelenopsis are so numerous and familiar as to be called “Grass Spiders.”
While funnel weaver spiders are nocturnal, they can easily be observed by slowly approaching the web during the day and looking down the throat of the funnel. As long as you don’t let your shadow cross over the entrance, you should be able to spot the tiny brown spider with stripes running along its length.
Like the Hobo spider, funnel weaver spiders have conspicuous spinnerets protruding from their rear. In most spiders, these silk-spinning appendages are found on the bottom of the spider’s abdomen and are harder to spot.
Common house spiders in Wisconsin.
The common house spider in Wisconsin comes in many muted shades, such as gray, tan, brown, or yellow. It also has darker skin patches or stripes running through its primary body color. The abdomen of the common house spider is higher than it is long and round in shape. Most common house spiders have darker-colored legs with bands or rings of color on them.
In the United States, females have yellow legs, and males have orange legs.
The larger female common house spider ranges from 0.12 to 0.18 inches. Due to their poor vision, these spiders usually do not flee from or even notice the approach of humans. Such poor vision is common among all web-weaving spiders.
To prevent spiders from entering the home, it is essential to seal any cracks or openings in the foundation and to eliminate other insects that spiders feed on. If a spider finds its way into the home, it is best to remove it safely using a vacuum or a broom and dustpan.
While it is natural to have some fear of spiders, it is essential to remember that they serve a valuable purpose in the ecosystem and should be respected. By learning more about these fascinating creatures and coexisting with them, we can better appreciate their role in the natural world.
A few other fascinating spiders to discover in Wisconsin.
Black Lace-weaver in Wisconsin: Identification.
This species of black lace-weaver is distinctive for its size, with females ranging from .4–.6 inches in body length and males slightly smaller at .3-.4 inches. Presenting a dark color palette including black, brown, dark red, and tan tones, the abdomen has light yellow markings that resemble an eerie skull mask or ghoulish pattern.
Habitat and distribution of the Black Lace-weaver
In springtime, adult males of the black lace-weaver species in Wisconsin are likely to be discovered indoors while searching for a mate. But, conversely, adult females can be found inside or outside year round! These creatures generally favor dark and humid places like underneath logs, in cellars, and in crevices tucked away beneath stones or worn-out walls.
The majestic Black lace-weaver spider is native to Europe and can be found throughout the continent. Yet, it has been specifically introduced into North America, New Zealand, and some Eastern European countries such as Turkey. Unfortunately, it cannot survive in Northern Europe due to its frigid temperatures.
Giant lichen orb weaver spiders in Wisconsin: Identification.
The Giant Lichen Orb weaver (Araneus bicentenarius) is a species of orb weaver in the family Araneidae. Its bite is not medically significant. The giant lichen orb weaver occurs in the Eastern part of the United States and Southeastern Canada.
Giant lichen orb weaver spiders in Wisconsin are gray, black, orange, or white with legs. All femora have uniquely marked dark and light-colored bands with an orange base. The alternating black and white stripes on each leg make the insect’s body visually striking.
Adult female Giant lichen orb weavers can be up to 1 inch long.
Giant lichen orb weaver spiders: Webs.
The webs of these spiders can be located up to 8 feet above the ground and be up to 8 feet in diameter.
Unlike most other orb weavers, Araneus bicentenarius is capable of weaving webs as large as 8 feet in circumference and often perched at the outside perimeter. This giant lichen spider has an alternative method to its contemporaries since they usually stay close to the center while awaiting their prey.
Giant lichen orb weavers in Wisconsin are spiders in the expansive Araneidae family, easily spotted for their wheel-shaped webs made of silken thread. Prey that gets stuck to these spiral silk strands will be stunned by a bite from the spider’s fangs and then enshrouded in webbing – like they’ve been mummified!
As twilight descends, the spider devours its existing web, takes a brief respite, and then rapidly creates a fresh one at nearly the same spot; this prevents debris from piling up.
Marbled orb weaver in Wisconsin: Description.
Marbled orb weavers are part of the genus Araneus which, with nearly 1,500 species worldwide, makes it the largest spider genus.
Author’s note: Before the internet, I visited the town library weekly to look things up. I always believed Marbled orb spiders were in the Thomisidae family (due to the oversized back reaching over the cephalothorax. And I apologize for the spiders that escaped my glass jars in that library.
Adult female Marbled orb weavers in Wisconsin, like the one pictured above, can get as large as .8 inches in body length. Marbled orb weavers have orange heads and orangish red bands on their legs. Their huge abdomens are yellow with black or dark purpled marbled markings.
Male marbled orb weavers are 1/2 the size of the females.
Shamrock orb weaver in Wisconsin: Identification.
The Shamrock orb weaver spider is easily recognizable due to its striking features, such as a beige or brown body with a high contrast of luminous green, yellowish-brown, or orange abdomen.
Additionally, this species boasts distinct black legs and white dots adorn the back – all qualities that help discern it from other types of orb-weavers.
Furthermore, Shamrock orb weavers in Wisconsin have large round abdomens, which may also vary in coloration, usually displaying shades of beige and brown but sometimes adding hints of green for an extra pop!
Female Shamrock orb weaver spiders are 0.9 inches, and males are typically smaller.
To the untrained eye, Araneus trifolium is often mistaken for its orange cousin–the pumpkin spider or Araneus marmoreus. However, distinguishing this shamrock spider from other orb weavers is not a difficult task. To identify it quickly and easily, simply look for several white dots adorning its back and brown or beige legs with white bands around its joints.
Striped fishing spiders in Wisconsin: Description.
Striped fishing spiders (Dolomedes scriptus) are often called “writing” signing spiders because of the marking on their backs.
The striped fishing spider in Wisconsin is among the eight species in the genus Dolomedes that inhabit North America, north of Mexico. This semiaquatic creature can be found on or near water and does not construct webs for itself like other spiders typically do. Its appearance can vary from brown to tan, grayish hues – sometimes with stripes, but often without them.
Those with a bold white or tanned stripe running down either side of the body are pretty noticeable, and it’s no different for striped fishing spiders. An intricate pattern can be seen on their abdomens, with dark W-shaped marks separated by white “Ws” between them. Atop the carapace (head) lies a clean line that runs all along its center – making these creatures awe-inspiring to behold!
Striped fishing spiders: Habitat.
The striped fishing spider is commonly found near any water body, especially in fast-flowing streams. It typically rests on the stream’s edge with its feet spread across the surface. Its specially adapted hairy legs allow it to move swiftly over land and water – so much so that it can quickly traverse a creek bank or sprint among rocks at a gravel bar.
Striped fishing spiders in Wisconsin are savvy predators, controlling many small aquatic animals and insects. Unfortunately for them, they are also easy prey to larger creatures such as fish, frogs, dragonfly nymphs, and birds – particularly their young ones. Thus these spiders must be ever-vigilant to survive!
Six-Spotted fishing spiders in Wisconsin: Description.
The six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) is an aquatic arachnid in the Pisauridae family. Living primarily throughout North America, these critters thrive in wetland habitats such as ponds and lakes. They are often called dock spiders because they can quickly scurry away into boat docks’ crevices when disturbed or threatened.
Easily distinguished by its noticeable features, the spider has impressive size and distinctive markings. With a grey-to-brown body, eight eyes for optimal vision, and a white-to-cream-colored stripe along each side of the cephalothorax – this species is unmistakable.
Furthermore, many small light spots embellish the abdomen alongside delicate lines that trail down either side. When viewed from below, six dark spots are visible on the bottom of said cephalothorax – hence its popular name. Like most arachnids today, this specific type exhibits sexual dimorphism characteristics as well.
The female Six-spotted fishing spider in Wisconsin is considerably more significant than the male, measuring around 2.5 inches in length, including legs; her body alone spans 0.6-0.8 inches, while the males only reach a maximum of 0.50 inches long when fully grown. Young spiders look similar to adults but are much smaller – they undergo several molts throughout their lifetime, which helps them grow and eventually become full-sized adults!
The Six-spotted fishing spider is remarkable in its variety of distinct features and behavior – male specimens, for instance, can be identified by the rounded tibial apophysis, which extends past their tibia apex.
Meanwhile, females are distinguishable due to a specific pattern consisting of three pairs of dark sternal spots and several light spots on the abdominal dorsum; additionally, an anterior half within their epigynous area houses loose fertilization tubes alongside the seminal valve part of their copulatory apparatus.
The Six-spotted fishing spider: Distribution and habitat
Six-spotted fishing spiders are native to the North and South American continents, usually thriving in the Eastern parts of the US from Maine to Florida and south down through Texas. Additionally, they have been spotted up north into Ontario, Canada, and Alaska’s southern panhandle area. Despite this broad range, reports on them coming out of most southwestern states remain rare.
Semi-aquatic in nature, Six-spotted fishing spiders in Wisconsin make their home among wetlands—ranging from lake shores and ponds to slow-moving streams. They can be found amongst emergent plants, rocks, or other structures near the body of water, such as docks or jetties.
Their domain extends further into the coastal zones of both lakes and ponds, along with pools at a more sluggish pace lying at the edge zone of rivers & creeks.
Dark Fishing spiders in Wisconsin: Description.
The Dark Fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) is in the Family Pisauridae (nursery and fishing spiders) and the order Araneae, but it isn’t always found near water.
The dark fishing spider’s larger leg span (sometimes as much as 3.5 inches) and coloration often make it mistaken for a tarantula or a world spider. However, the bite of a dark fishing spider is not medically significant to humans.
The dark fishing spider in Wisconsin is typically brown with three visible black W-shaped marks, each ending in a lighter brown mark and strips on its legs. Females’ bodies are .6 to .9 inches long, and their leg span ranges from 2 to 3.5 inches.
Brown and black rings band on the third segment of the legs, and reddish-brown and black bands are on the fifth.
Unlike most spiders, dark fishing spiders in Wisconsin hold their legs straight out. Dark fishing spiders have eight eyes arranged in two rows of four each, but the wolf spiders are often mistaken for their set in three rows, with the largest eyes in the middle row.
The Dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) can be told apart from the Striped fishing spider (Dolomites scriptus) by the Striped fishing spiders’ unbroken white borders around their W-shaped markings.
Dark Fishing spiders in Wisconsin: Habitat.
Dark fishing spiders occur from southern Florida to southern Canada and the Dakota east to Texas and Florida. Although they are in the Dolomedes family, this species does not spend much time around water. Instead, the dark fishing spider prefers to hunt and shelter in vegetation, shrubs, and rocks near the water.
Dark fishing spiders in Wisconsin actively hunt at night and spend the day sheltering in dark cracks and corners, in stumps, or under logs.
When dark fishing spiders are near the water, they can pursue prey by running on top of the surface of the water and even take temporary refuge from a threat by diving under it.
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