How to Identify the Spiders of Indiana

How to Identify the Spiders of Indiana
Almost 400 species of spiders roam Indiana. Some are native, some have come over from nearby states and some are foreign transplants. Knowing how to identify a spider can lead toward better understanding of their behavior and their place in our ecosystem. Proper identification may affect first aid treatment for bites. For younger children and first time hikers and campers, even a little education can empower and alleviate worries over late-night visitors. Respect for the spider can replace fear and lead to better treatment of the creatures with which we share wild spaces.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Appearance

Step 1
Observe the color of the spider. Brilliant coloring often offers the simplest means of identification, but few spiders present such a feature. The goldenrod crab spider (flower spider) can camouflage itself, changing its color over a period of days to hide among flowers. They come in pale shades of white and yellow and use their coloring to hide and ambush prey.
Step 2
Verify whether the body and legs are a single, solid color or there is variation. The marbled spider has a large yellowish abdomen (common to several types of spider) but striking looking red legs with black and white stripes.
Step 3
Check for unusual markings. The only two Indiana spiders which can seriously injure a human are the brown recluse and the black widow. Each may be identified through vivid markings. The brown recluse (fiddleback) appears tan to reddish brown, but bears a darker brown shape of a violin on its head/back. The black widow is a deep black spider with a distinct red or yellow hourglass shape on its belly.

Behavior

Step 1
Take note of whether the spider is associated with a web. The features of the web and how the spider utilizes the web are all valuable clues to identification. For example, grass spiders build a sheet web with a funnel shaped opening. Their webs are often located around foundations or near the ground.
Step 2
Consider the location and size of the web and whether it bears any distinctive markings. Orb weavers are large spiders, often found sitting in the center of their web. The webs are wide, and frequently suspended over open areas, near fields. The spider's coloring ranges from orange to bright yellow to brown or black. The yellow garden spider has a yellow and black abdomen, but you may be more likely to notice its web; it features a zig zag design down the center.
Step 3
Note whether the spider exhibits any aggressive or remarkable activity in its habits. Most spiders tend to move away from humans, but some exhibit other behaviors. The European cave spider is found in Indiana--an introduced species. It lives and feeds in caves. While it is not aggressive, its young are attracted to light. The true daddy-long-legs spider (not to be confused with the harvestman, which is commonly called a daddy long legs but is not a spider at all) is a cellar spider, also introduced to Indiana and found in caves. It will aggressively shake its web when threatened or disturbed.

Article Written By Alice Moon

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.

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