Most Poisonous Spiders in Hawaii | Identification, and Risk

Hawaii, to many, is the perfect holiday destination. Famous for its rainbows and flowers, you may not immediately think about the spiders which also call the Aloha state home. However, spiders are actually an important part of the island’s ecosystem and luckily, there are many in Hawaii. Only a couple of these are of any real concern when it comes to posing a threat to humans and if you would like to know which spiders in Hawaii are poisonous and how to recognize them, we’ve put together a useful guide to help distinguish just which arachnid you may be dealing with! 

Most Venomous Spider in Hawaii

Hawaii has plenty of lush rainforests and phenomenal natural habitats so it is not much of a surprise to learn that it is also home to a variety of spiders who find that the warm, damp conditions suit their biology perfectly, ensuring also that there is a steady stream of insects on which to feed! Spiders have varying degrees of potential risk from absolutely none to a possible hospital visit, but which spider is the most venomous of all? You may have already heard about the southern black widow as it is often cited as the most dangerous spider in various regions. Well, Hawaii is no different! Read on to find out more about this fear-inducing Hawaii resident!

Southern Black Widow

Southern Black Widow
 A southern black widow spider
Author: Chuck Evans  CC-BY 3.0

Scientific name: Latrodectus mactans

A southern black widow can often be found around woodpiles and may enter homes when the wood is being carried into the home, garage, or shed. If you are concerned that you have southern black widow spiders in your home, the most likely places are eaves, boxes, rodent holes, basements, barns, unused blankets and shoes, and patio and deck crevices. 

Southern black widows do not like to venture very far from their webs so it is unlikely that you will suffer a bite, however, they are venomous and if the spider feels provoked, trapped, or distressed, it may bite which will be more dangerous if you are an elderly adult or a small child. It is always wise to seek medical attention. 

Brown Widow

Brown Widow
Credit: Faris Algosaibi by 2.0

Scientific name: Latrodectus geometricus

We’ve met the black widow now it’s time to meet her cousin, the brown widow!  You might find this orange and yellow spider in woody vegetation where there are a lot of branches which they will utilize in their web building. Also useful to them are empty containers such as buckets and pots, post boxes, porch corners, under eaves, basements,  closets, and garages.

There is one recent report of verified brown widow bites manifesting more severe symptoms that required hospitalization of the bite victim. There is some evidence that brown widows may be slowly replacing black widows which is good news for humans as brown widow bites are less toxic.

Barn Funnel Weaver 

Barn Funnel Weaver
A barn funnel weaver spider
Author: Judy Gallagher CC-BY-2.0

Scientific name: Tegenaria domestic

As the name suggests, Barn funnel weaver spiders like to hang around in barns and sheds. They are also very fond of cluttered spaces and cellars – anywhere they can be sure to hide safely whilst standing a good chance of catching some tasty insects. 

This particular type of spider is really not poisonous to humans, and being bitten by one would be a very rare occurrence. In the unusual event that they do, a bite from a barn funnel weaver is very unlikely to break the skin. That being said, scientists think that they do possess the ability to cause some pain, along with symptoms. These could include swelling and itching at the site of contact. But remember, they are generally thought to be shy and prefer to run away whenever threatened rather than get involved in a confrontation.

Red House Spider

Red House Spider
A red house spider
Author: Michel Vuijlsteke CC-BY-3.0

Scientific name: Nesticodes rufipes

Red house spiders like to hide in cupboards, kitchens, sheds, and outdoors. They also like to get right inside walls if they can! If you want to avoid them, it is recommended that you take care of any seal cracks in and around your home. They love to be able to conceal themselves in a ceiling crevice or wait inside a window sill until some unsuspecting prey comes along! Speaking of prey, this industrious spider has been known to mop up various insects often considered a pest to humans, such as mosquitoes, flies, and ants.

These fast movers can run at a speed of up to 30 cm per second so you may have your work cut out if you’re attempting to catch one! 

It is very unlikely that you will experience a bite but if you do, it will be no worse than a bee sting. If you happen to be allergic to bee stings the chances are you may have a reaction to a bite from this spider too, so it is definitely worth getting the injury assessed by a medical professional. Always wash the wound site with soap and water as soon as you can. 

Common Spiders Native to Hawaii

Hawaii is positioned in a most fortunate geographical position. Being adrift in the Pacific Ocean, it’s easy to imagine how these shores are a desirable destination for countless creatures who find the conditions most conducive to a thriving community! Many species are native to Hawaii and the lush vegetation helps them to live in balance with nature. Among such creatures is the common spider! The highly venomous or large and colorful spiders may be more likely to get press inches but which spiders are you most likely to see spinning their web in a Hawaiian beach poppy or attached to your washing line? 

Hawaiian Garden Spider

Hawaiian Garden Spider
 A Hawaiian garden spider
Author: Betacommandbot CC-BY-2.5

Scientific name: Argiope appensa

The Hawaiian garden spider lives on a variety of islands in the western Pacific Ocean. They can grow rather large and are highly effective bug killers so very helpful to have around your garden! Although extremely common, this spider was actually introduced to Hawaii, it is in fact indigenous to Taiwan. They are very communal spiders, known to have multiple generations living at close quarters and using the same anchor lines for their webs. It is sometimes called a honeypot spider because it builds webs close to honey pots and bee nests! They are really not dangerous and very unlikely to bite. If they feel very threatened or provoked, there is of course a chance it will bite but this will be similar to a mild bee sting. Worth noting – whilst not dangerous to humans or their pets, their webs are entwined with silk which is full of venom designed to entangle and kill the insects which are their prey.

Hawaiian Happy Face Spider

Hawaiian happy face spider
A Hawaiian happy-face spider
Author: Hawaiian volcanoes national park CC-BY-1.0

Scientific name: heridion grallator,

These spiders like to live in the forests of the Hawaiian Islands. They have been found on several islands in the Pacific and particularly feel at home on the underside of plant leaves, especially large slippery leaves. Interestingly, these spiders have been found in kipukas, which are areas that have been surrounded by lava flows. However, they are not found in the lava flows surrounding the area. They are named because they appear to have a smiling face on their abdomen. If this spider were poisonous, the face motif would be a rather sinister irony however, this happy spider is not poisonous to humans and neither does it bite! 

You may also like to read 15 Most Dangerous Animals in The Ocean

Symptoms of Envenomation

It is useful to know that a spider bite looks like many other bites that you may get from an insect, i.e a red, inflamed bump on the skin. Other bites are a little more serious. The symptoms to look out for are red marks with some swelling. In less than an hour, the pain may spread to your back, belly, and chest. Your stomach may also feel as if it has gone into a spasm and you may find you are sweating profusely. In more intense cases, you can have breathing problems, along with an increased heart rate, nausea, and vomiting. Keep an eye on the area around the wound as it may get increasingly redder and more irritated. 

The Center For Disease Control lists the following symptoms:

  • Itching or rash
  • Pain radiating from the site of the bite
  • Muscle pain or cramping
  • Reddish to purplish color or blister
  • Increased sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • High blood pressure

First Aid for Spider Bite Victims

Don’t panic if you have received a bite from a spider. The chances are it is innocuous, however, the sooner you act to minimize the harm, the fewer problems you’re likely to have. According to the Mayo Clinic if you or a family member has received a spider bite: Clean the wound site with mild soap and water. Then, if you have any antibiotic lotion, apply this three times a day. Use a cool compress over the bite for 15 minutes each hour. Use a clean cloth dampened with water or filled with ice. Some people think they are doing the right thing by administering a tourniquet but please do not do this! Simply follow the above steps and seek medical advice as soon as possible.