Female black widow spiders (picture above) sport a distinctive yellow-to-red hourglass and have a potentially deadly bite. The spiders do not attack, but will bite when touched by a person reaching into woodpile, behind a stack of boxes or into just about any dark, cool indoor or outdoor space that usually goes undisturbed. The spiders live throughout North Carolina. People bitten by a black widow can experience sharp pain and muscle paralysis, so immediate medical care should be sought for a bite.
Found almost exclusively in the far Southwestern part of the state, brown recluse spiders can also poison people. Like the black widow, the brown recluse lives both indoors and outdoors. Unlike black widows, male brown recluses are the larger and more deadly sex. All brown recluse spiders have a marking of their backs that resemble a fiddle. Brown recluses tend to hide and rest during daylight hours and only bite people when trapped or touched. The spider's venom can destroy skin in a circle around the bite but rarely proves fatal by itself.
Common Household Spiders
Every home probably houses at least one spider. The one found most commonly in North Carolina homes is the American house spider. The one which causes the most consternation is the harmless southern house spider, which closely resembles a brown recluse but cannot harm people. The least common of the frequently found spiders is the giant species---18 mm long and clocked as moving more than 1.5 feet per second---which appears only along the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Exterminators often identify brown house, black house and domestic house spiders when called in to treat an infested building.
Common Outdoor Spiders
The North Carolina State University Department of Entomology website lists 10 spiders besides black widows as common to gardens, woods and waterways in the state. None present much risk to people, but the site cautions against handling any of them. The wolf spider and goldensilk spider will bite, but no serious problems have been reported when this has happened. The other spiders to look for outdoors in the Tar Heel State are the crab spider, jumping spider, fishing spider, black and yellow garden spider, white or arrow-shape Micrathena spider, funnel web spider, grass spider and trap door spider.
This arthropod, also known as a harvestman, is not a spider. While the daddy longlegs does have eight legs, it lacks venom and fangs. Handling these nonspiders is safe for humans but can leave the daddy longlegs worse for wear.