Woodlouse Spider: How to Identify and Avoid

The Woodlouse spider has a familiar and scientific name that tells you everything you need to know about it. The Woodlouse spider eat Woodlice. The scientific name (Dysdera crocata) suggests its color, saffron. 

Despite this, the Woodlouse spider has many other names like the slater spider, pillbug hunter, sow bug hunter, and sow bug killer. All these names relate directly to the prey it fancies most. So, let’s begin with a picture of the prey, and we will get to the spider later.

Woodlouse (Isopoda, Oniscidea)
Woodlouse (Isopoda, Oniscidea)

Woodlouse spider: Description.

The Woodlouse spider has only six eyes arranged in an oval pattern. They have an orangish-dark brown cephalothorax and a yellowish-brown abdomen. The jaws of Woodlouse spiders are conspicuously large for a spider its size, slanted forward, and quite thick.

Female Woodlouse spiders can reach body lengths of .6 inches, with males usually under .5 inches. 

All Woodlouse spiders have gleaming bodies.

The woodlouse spider is often mistaken for the brown recluse spider

Now, let’s take a peek at the Woodlouse spider.

woodlouse spider, Dysdera crocata
woodlouse spider, Dysdera crocata

Woodlouse spider: Habitat.

The first Woodlouse spiders came from the Mediterranean but were introduced to the United States, Asia, Chile, South Africa, and Australia. In the United States, they can be found from Georgia to Massachusetts and parts of western California.

Woodlouse spiders are typically found wherever woodlice are found under logs, plants, leaf litter, piles, bricks, and rocks. During the day, they will retreat to a silken hideaway woven into decayed wood or attached to the bottom of larger stones. They will take up residence in your home, as well.

Woodlouse spider’s diet.

Woodlouse spiders hunt at night and do not rely on webs to catch their prey. They have much better vision than any web using a spider and use this to track and chase their victims.

Woodlouse spiders eat mostly woodlice. Woodlice have very tough exoskeletons, but Woodlouse spiders have even larger and tougher fangs and jaws. To kill a sow bug, the woodlouse spider pierces its armor beneath its belly to avoid the bug’s defensive chemical and injects venom to aid digestion.

Other common victims of the Woodlouse spider are other spiders, arthropods, crickets, beetles, silverfish, earwigs, and millipedes. However, some researchers insist that the Woodlouse spider has no preference for woodlice and will take prey found within its habitat without prejudice.

Woodlouse spiders: Reproduction and mating.

As with all spiders, the males must be cautious when approaching and mating. The large fangs on the female Woodlouse spider are hazardous to the male, and he risks being injured, killed, or even eaten if his strength is weak or his timing is off.

Woodlouse spiders mate in April. After fertilizing her eggs, the female will lay five dozen eggs and store them in an egg sac. This egg sac is then suspended from the female’s retreat by several strands of silk. 

Unlike the Orb weaver spider, which dies during the first frost and never sees here spiderlings emerge, the woodlouse spider overwinters and can lay more eggs next April. 

Are woodlouse spiders dangerous?

According to Verified bites by the woodlouse spider, Dysdera crocata: No.

”Bites by the woodlouse spider, Dysdera crocata, are virtually innocuous. The main symptom is minor pain, typically lasting less than 1 h, probably due mostly to mechanical puncture of the skin. However, because the spider has a strong proclivity to bite, has large fangs which it bares when threatened and is commonly mistaken for the medically important brown recluse spider in the United States, documentation of the mild effects of its bites may prevent excessive, unwarranted and possibly harmful treatment.”

How to avoid Woodlouse spider bites.

Gardeners and those working outdoors in potential Woodlouse habitat should wear gloves.

To prevent them getting inside:

  1. Use a dehumidifier in your basement. Woodlouse spiders need higher humidity levels. A dry basement in no place for a sowbug or sowbug hunter.
  2. Use a pest-blocking foam to seal up any cracks or holes in your foundation, and repair or replace your door sweeps if needed. You might also consider a spider-controlling product to treat your home and yard.
  3. Keep rotting wood and vegetation well away from your home and garden.

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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 ThePredatorHunter.com.

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