How to Identify Spiders of California

How to Identify Spiders of CaliforniaCalifornia is a big state, extending from the lush forests of the Pacific northwest to the Baja desert of the southwest. Within that expanse are a bewildering variety of habitats, and therefore a plethora of spider species. Some are even hazardous to humans. Making an identification in such a huge pool of potential candidates means examining a spider's characteristics. You would then need to use them in a process of elimination. (Pictured: Lynx Spider)


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Take a good look at the eyes if you can. Two species of spider have the characteristic of having one pair of eyes that are dramatically larger than all the others: the jumping spider and the wolf spider. This not only will narrow the field down to these two categories of spider, but it will also help you tell a wolf spider apart from a tarantula. Both are big and hairy, but only the wolf has that pair of big eyes.
Step 2
Look for any other unique or unusual characteristics. For example, the black widow female has its famous red hourglass marking on its belly. This can help avoid mistaking it for the false black widow, an invasive species common to California. If you see a spider that looks like a tarantula or wolf spider--yet it cannot climb walls--it is probably a calisoga spider.
Step 3
Observe the spider's web. This can be as much of a signature feature as anything found on the body. Black house spiders weave a distinct lattice-like mesh, for example. Some spiders do not spin webs at all, which can also be a helpful bit of information.
Step 4
Note the spider's colors. If you are in California and encounter a spider with yellow stripes along the body, it could be one of the numerous garden spider species (Argiope). However, generally this observation must be combined with another to confirm an identification, since spider colors can be so indistinct. If you see a green spider on the ground, it is probably California's green lynx spider.
Step 5
Remember what part of California you are in. For example, if you are in the redwood forests of the north, it is highly unlikely that you will see any tarantulas. Those spiders reside in arid habitats.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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