How to Identify Spiders of the Southwest Desert

How to Identify Spiders of the Southwest DesertHikers in the desert Southwest are going to encounter spiders at some point. While most of these spiders are harmless, some are venomous. Being able to identify spiders is important. By remembering the information below a hiker can have a better understanding of any spiders she comes across. (Pictured: Desert Tarantula at night)


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

What to do:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Field guide to spiders
Step 1
Look for an hourglass-shaped pattern to identify a black widow spider. These spiders have a sleek, black, round abdomen. The reddish pattern is on the female's underbelly. The female is the venomous sex. Avoid places such as rock piles, wood piles, ledges, and old abandoned buildings; black widows build their webs in these areas. This spider's bite is extremely toxic and may require medical attention.
Step 2
Become familiar with the fiddle-shaped pattern on the brown recluse spider. This brown spider has long thin legs. Look for a violin-type marking on the spider's head and upper back. It lives in much the same places as the black widow does. It is able to deliver a painful bite that can result in severe complications and may require medical attention.
Step 3
Identify a tarantula by its larger size compared to most spiders. These spiders can have a body 3 inches wide and can be 3 inches high. They have stocky hairy legs and a painful bite.
Step 4
Distinguish the wolf spider from others by its speed. The wolf spider is nearly as big as a tarantula and is also hairy. It varies from brown to gray. It lives on the ground in an abandoned animal burrow or digs it own. It can move quickly and will bite if it feels threatened.
Step 5
Identify the giant crab spider by how it moves. It is a brown species with legs that can reach 2 inches in length. Observe its movements as it walks sideways like a crab. It is an excellent climber.
Step 6
Know the funnel-web spider by the web it weaves. Look in the grass for a web resembling a sheet with an obvious funnel shape to it. This spider will have a spot in the web it can hide in when threatened. Watch for a spider one-quarter inch long that looks like a miniature wolf spider.

Tips & Warnings

Having a field guide to spider species can help you identify many of the spiders that you may see while hiking.
If you think you have been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider and seek medical attention for the bite, try to collect the spider and take it with you for identification. This will help in the diagnosis.

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