How to Identify Spiders in Ohio

How to Identify Spiders in Ohio
Ohio has plenty of beauty to offer the curious hiker, including a variety of beautiful spiders. Some are large and intimidating; others are barely noticeable. Most of the more than 580 species fit into one of seven families, some of which include jumping spiders, wolf spiders (picture left) and orb-weavers. Here is how to distinguish between Ohio's most common outdoor spiders.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to identify Ohio Spiders

Things You’ll Need:
  • Magnifying glass
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Camera
Step 1
Note the size of the spider. Ohio has only a few species of large spiders. One is the wolf spider, which has a body length of up to 1.5 inches. Another, the garden spider, can grow as large as an inch or more. Mainly, though, hikers will encounter smaller species, like the jumping or sheet web spiders, which are often smaller than 1/8 of an inch.
Step 2
Look for a web. Not all Ohio spiders spin webs, which can prove a valuable identification method. Wolf spiders and jumping spiders do not construct webs, but stalk and attack their prey. Orb-weavers like the garden spider can be recognized by the traditionally recognized "spider web" constructions. Funnel-web spiders weave a flat web with a central funnel. Both brown recluse and black widow spiders weave irregular webs.
funnel web
Step 3
Look for distinguishing colors. Some of Ohio's spiders are very colorful. The garden spider, or Argiope, has a brilliant yellow and black body. The deadly black widow (picture below) has an unmistakable shiny black body with a red or orange hourglass on the abdomen. Jumping spiders are often black or brown with red, orange or white spots on their backs. Finally, crab spiders can vary in color depending on where they live, the flower-dwelling varieties being red, orange or green.
Black Widow
Step 4
Watch for distinguishing actions. Crab spiders (picture below) have front legs that are longer than their back legs, and these are held out at an angle from the body. These spiders can move sideways and backwards like their namesakes. Jumping spiders are so fast they appear to "bound" from one place to another, and can jump up to twice their body length.
crab spider
Step 5
Note distinguishing marks or features. The infamous hourglass figure on the black widow and the fiddle-shape on the back of the brown recluse serves as a warning to humans that these spiders are dangerous. Funnel spiders have prominent spinnerets that protrude from the abdomen.
Step 6
Count the spider's eyes and note their position. Wolf spiders and nursery web spiders both have eight eyes, but where the wolf spider has two prominent eyes among the eight, the eyes of the nursery web spider (picture below) are all around the same size. Jumping spiders also have eight eyes, but with two large central eyes flanked by two smaller eyes on the bottom, then two pairs of eyes above. Brown recluse spiders have only six eyes, which are arranged in three pairs.
Nursery Web Spider

Tips & Warnings

If you cannot immediately identify a spider, jot an image and defining features down on a piece of paper, or take a picture. You may be able to locate information on its identity once you're home.
Spiders are not insects, but belong to a group of animals known as Arachnids, which also contains scorpions and ticks.
Don't ever try to pick up a spider. While most Ohio spiders are nonvenomous, they can still give a painful bite if provoked.
Double-check bags or anything else that you leave lying on the ground outside. Your belongings may look like paradise to a spider in search of a cool, dark place to hide.

Article Written By Jennifer Ratliff

Jennifer Ratliff has been writing Web content since 2004. Her previous clients include Elika Associates, Sam's Club and Microcap Review. She has also had work published through Odyssey and Seven Seas Magazine. Ratliff has taken courses through Ohio State University and Prestonsburg Community College. Her articles specialize in the natural sciences and mathematics.

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