Missouri is known as the ‘show me’ state so you may want to avoid crossing through here if you have a fear of spiders!
There are certain conditions that are more attractive to a spider looking to set up a home; a large variety of insect prey, warmer conditions, and good areas to hide.
There is a lot of variation in the appearance of spiders, even within the same species! (Juvenile, adult, male, female, etc.) and Missouri is home to so many that we may not touch on them all here but this is a good start for getting to know (or for how to avoid) these ominous eight-legged visitors!
Most Venomous Spider in Missouri
There are many spiders native to Missouri, but of these, only one is considered truly venomous. Read on to learn how this spider earned its dramatic name and what you should do if you encounter one in your home or garden.
Scientific Name: Latrodectus mactans
The black widow is one of the most renowned spiders in Missouri. These glossy black spiders have an extremely poisonous venom that contains the neurotoxin latrotoxin.
Males are about half the size of females and are considered harmless. Females can be 1 ½ inches long including their legs and have eight eyes arranged in two rows of four.
If you see one on your property, be assured that there are most likely close by. Left undisturbed, they seldom bite but they can move extremely quickly if they feel trapped.
Reactions to bites are seldom serious but you should seek medical attention because if the bite is severe, you may need a muscle relaxant. Symptoms usually begin after around 30 minutes.
You may find them in boxes, eaves, woodpiles, and other dark corners and neglected spaces.
It is in fact a myth that the female always consumes the male after mating: this is only likely when kept in a cage where he is unable to escape.
Remember, there are no known fatalities resulting from a black widow bite in the US and globally, only three were from species not native to Missouri.
Common Spiders in Missouri Identification
You’ve probably already met many of these spiders as they are a well-integrated part of human society, frequenting our gardens and inhabiting our basements and garages.
There are so many different species in Missouri that we couldn’t possibly list all of them here but whether you’re hoping to discover or avoid our eight-legged cohabiters, this is a good start for identifying their benefits and risks!
Scientific Name: Pholcidae
Commonly found in Missouri homes and buildings, cellar spiders vibrate if their web is touched or otherwise disturbed.
This species will hunt other spiders and so they help to control some of the more dangerous visitors to your home!
Cellar spiders’ delicate appearance is deceptive: as well as hunting other spiders, they are known to predate upon bees and wasps!
The webs of cellar spiders are usually created in damp and dark corners of caves, under rocks, loose bark, and in abandoned mammal burrows.
Domestically, you might find them in undisturbed areas of buildings such as high corners, attics, and cellars, hence the common name “cellar spider”.
They are often confused with the British ‘crane fly’ also known as the ‘daddy long-legs’ but they could hardly be more different!
Scientific Name: Lycosidae
Despite being one of the most familiar spiders in Missouri, these spiders live up to their lone wolf status and are solitary creatures, thriving by themselves. They have incredible eyesight and most remarkably, do not even spin webs!
The female wolf spider carries her eggs in a sac attached to spinnerets at the end of the abdomen but her motherly instincts don’t end there! Even after the eggs have hatched, the baby spiderlings cling to the mother’s abdomen where she carefully nurtures them until they are ready to leave.
Wolf spiders may inject venom if stressed or provoked; however, their threat is minimal and most injuries can be dealt with using an ice pack.
Look for this solitary soldier in gardens, grasslands, sand dunes, and herb fields or if you want to avoid them, make sure your home is free of clutter and have some peppermint oil and boric acid on hand.
Scientific Name: Salticidae
This spider will bite in defense but this is not poisonous. It has a huge family with species members varying in appearance quite vastly but all of them share a very useful and common trait: their eyesight.
With four pairs of powerful eyes including one forward-facing principal pair, they are great and self-sufficient hunters.
Although found all over the world, you are quite likely to run into one in the state of Missouri where they live in grasslands, scrublands or close to windows or doors where they can catch prey.
Wolf spiders do not use a web, preferring to stalk their prey before ambushing. Despite being fairly small, they can jump up to 6.3 inches (160 mm), often spinning a tiny silk anchor to tether themselves before they leap.
Domestic House Spider
Scientific Name: Tegenaria domestic
The domestic house spider is a member of the funnel-web family Agelenidae and is widely distributed throughout the world and Missouri certainly has its fair share!
They have extended bodies with a rather flat abdomen and are characteristically dark orange to brown with striped legs.
This familiar funnel family member is not markedly aggressive and will seek sanctuary if confronted. On the rare occasions when they bite, it will be in self-defense and the bite is extremely unlikely to break the skin.
Scientific Name: Larinioides cornutus
The Furrow Orbweaver Spider (Larinioides cornutus) is a species of spider found in North America. It is a medium-sized orbweaver spider that can reach up to 15 millimeters in length. Its body is typically dark brown or black with yellow markings on its back and a distinct “ribbed” pattern along the sides of its abdomen that gives it its name.
Furrow Orbweavers build large webs between trees, plants, rocks, and buildings. They are nocturnal hunters, sitting motionless in their webs during the night while they wait for prey to become ensnared in their webbing. They feed mainly on insects such as flies and moths but also occasionally eat smaller spiders.
These spiders are considered beneficial as they help control insect populations around homes and gardens by preying on nuisance bugs such as aphids, ants, flies and mites. They have not been known to bite humans but may do so if handled roughly or disturbed.
Six-spotted Fishing Spider
Scientific Name: Dolomedes triton
The six-spotted fishing spider is frequently found in the wetlands of North America and if you happen to be in Missouri, you might spot them scurrying across the surface of ponds and other bodies of water looking for insects and small fish.
The ‘triton’ part of their scientific name has its origin in the mythical Greek god Triton who is the offspring of Poseidon, God of the sea. They have the most remarkable ability to use surface tension to maintain balance and buoyancy.
This is a large spider (the female being much larger than the male) with six dark spots on the underside of its cephalothorax (the fused head and throat) but these are rarely seen of course, especially as they are such fast runners!
Scientific Name: Ctenizidae
Trapdoor Spiders are medium-sized mygalomorph (a suborder of spiders) that build burrows with cork-like trapdoors composed of earth, plant, and silk.
There are, in fact, a number of huge, hairy, harmless tropical spiders that lay their eggs underground and are known as trapdoor spiders.
The family Ctenizidae of the order Araneae is made up of trapdoor spiders.
Widespread throughout the southwest of the country, trapdoor spiders are becoming fashionable as exotic pets but should really only be kept by experts who will understand their needs and behavior.
Trapdoor spiders vary from a yellowish brown to red-gold and even very dark brownish-black.
On average, a trapdoor spider is around 2.5 centimeters long, but it can grow as long as 4 centimeters. 8 eyes make up the trapdoor spider’s head, with 3 on each side and a pair in the center.
Scientific Name: Trichonephila clavipes
The banana spider lives in the woods and forests of Missouri. As if their striking yellow and black markings were not enough, they are also merchants of a very exotic silk; it has the potential for use in surgeries to help damaged nervous systems as it is so very strong.
The female banana spider is much larger than her male counterpart but they are gentle giants and do not consume the male.
It is true that a bite from a banana spider is not particularly pleasant but it is no more significant than a bee sting and carries no more medical implications.
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Other Spiders Native to Missouri
- American grass spider Scientific Name: Agelenopsis
- Red-spotted ant mimic spider Scientific Name: Castianeira descripta
- American nursery web spider Scientific Name: Pisaurina Mira
- Spitting spider Scientific Name: Scytodidae
- Broad-faced sac spider Scientific Name: Trachelas Transquillus
- Bowl and Doily spider Scientific Name: Frontinella Pyramitela