Spiders in North Carolina | Identification and Risk

Almost every species of spider produces venom, but very few of those — particularly in North Carolina — are able to deliver a bite powerful enough to require medical attention. 

Young children, the elderly, and individuals with specific allergies are more likely to react to a bite. Spiders thrive across the U.S. though North Carolina’s mild climate and variety of terrain are ideal for many species. 

Spiders can be feared and hated for their spindly appearance and messy webs, but they generally only come into conflict with people when prey or cold weather drives them indoors.

Most Venomous Spider in North Carolina

There are a few spiders in NC that can bite but the most venomous is without doubt the famous Black Widow! 

Fortunately, bites are rare and seldom significant but it’s wise to know a little about how to recognise them and what precautions you need to take if you’re unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of their fangs. 

Black Widow

Scientific Name: Latrodectus mactans

Black Widow
Credit: Chuck Evans(mcevan) by CC 2.5

This is one spider which truly does have an extremely poisonous venom due to the neurotoxin latrotoxin. If you are unlucky enough to receive a bite, you can be assured that they are seldom serious but you should seek medical attention. In the rare case that the bite is severe, you may need a muscle relaxant. 

Black widows are frequently found in undisturbed corners, old boxes, under stairs and woodpiles. You can identify them by their striking black and red colour and spherical abdomen which looks almost like a colourful berry. 

Indigenous to the south-eastern United States, these spiders can be found throughout the state of North Carolina particularly in the Piedmont and mountains.  

Common spiders in North Carolina

North Carolina is home to many species of spider, most of which are harmless although you may not be particularly pleased with their messy webs or the way they appear to be studying you from the corner of the ceiling. 

There are far too many to list here but here are the most frequent visitors you’re likely to encounter in the mother of states!

Brown Recluse

Scientific Name: Loxosceles reclusa

Brown Recluse
Credit: Rosa Pineda by CC 3.0

The Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) is a species of spider native to North America and parts of Latin America. It measures approximately 1/4-3/4 of an inch in body length with a distinct, light brown violin-shaped marking on the upper section of its back. Brown Recluses are typically shy and rarely bite humans. They are most commonly found in dark, undisturbed areas such as garages, attics, closets, or basements. Outside they can be found under rocks, woodpiles, or even in gardens.

Brown Recluses are poisonous spiders with a venomous bite that can cause intense pain and necrosis – the breaking down of tissue cells leading to skin lesions and lumps around the wound area. While typically not life-threatening for healthy adults, those with weakened immune systems should seek medical attention immediately if bitten by a Brown Recluse.

False Widow Spider

Scientific Name: Steatoda

False Widow Spider
Credit: David Short by CC 2.0

Often mistaken for a black widow due to their similar appearance, a bite from a false widow is far less serious although you would still be wise to seek medical attention to avoid it becoming infected. 

Black or dark brown with thin legs and a large abdomen, one way to tell them apart from the black widow is they have markings which resemble the shape of a skull.

You will find them on walls, in basements, in woodpiles and in other dark corners. They make messy webs which are often wrongly assumed to be cobwebs. 

Some symptoms of a false widow bite may include: pain and swelling at the bite site, fever and chills, lethargy, nausea, headache and muscle aches.

Yellow Sac Spider

Scientific Name: Cheiracanthium inclusum

Yellow Sac Spider
Credit: Mad Max by CC 3.0

Also referred to as the ‘black-footed yellow sac’ this is a small, pale-yellow spider frequently found in foliage, under window sills, corners of walls and ceilings, behind appliances, near faucets, curtains, attics and basements. 

They are hunters and do not wait in a web for prey but go out and search for food. They are nocturnal so build little sacs or web nests so that they can rest during the day. 

Yellow sac spiders are somewhat venomous but that venom is not potent enough to be fatal to humans. Some of these species have been known to be attracted to the volatiles in gasoline.

Furrow Spider

Scientific Name: Larinioides cornutus

Furrow Spider
Credit: Bernard DUPONT by CC 2.0

The Furrow Spider (Lagenidium sp.) is a species of spider found in North America, Mexico, and Central America. It is a small to medium-sized spider measuring approximately 6 to 10 millimeters in length. Its body is typically brown or yellowish-brown and has two lines running down the top of its head, giving it its name.

Furrow spiders are usually found living inside burrows which can be up to eight inches deep with a wide opening at the entrance. They feed on small insects and use their webs as both protection from predators and to catch prey. They 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.

Furrow spiders build webs mostly at night, so you may find them active during twilight hours when temperatures are cooler. They are non-aggressive towards humans but may bite if provoked or handled roughly.

Cellar Spider

Scientific Name: Pholcidae

Cellar Spider
Credit: David Short by CC 2.0

One of the most common spiders in North Carolina and most likely to be found in homes and buildings, the cellar spider has a unique technique for protecting itself: its body will vibrate when its web is disturbed by an unwanted caller!

This vibrating works in another way, too: they will fool other spiders by reverberating on their webs, tricking the unsuspecting rival into thinking they’ve caught an insect. The cellar spider then moves in and swallows up the other spider! 

These spiders build their own webs in the well-hidden corners of caves, under rocks, loose bark, and in the abandoned furrows and burrows made by other animals. 

Closer to home,  you might find them in undisturbed areas of old buildings such as high corners, attics and cellars, hence the common name. 

Jumping Spider

Scientific Name: Salticidae

Jumping Spider
Credit: Thomas Shahan by CC 2.0

This is an incredibly diverse spider boasting around 70 different species in North Carolin alone. They have four pairs of eyes including one forward-facing principal pair which make them extremely distinctive and, of course, great hunters. In fact, their outstanding eyesight is probably their most remarkable feature. 

Jumping spiders are found all over the world and you are quite likely to run into one in the state of North Carolina where they like to live in grasslands, scrublands and closer to home, near windows or doors where they can wait for their prey!

These spiders do not use the web but rather stalk their victims before ambushing! Impressively for their size,  they can jump up to 6.3 inches (160 mm) using a very small silk tether to ground themselves before they leap. 

Running Crab Spider

Scientific Name: Philodromidae

Running Crab Spider
Credit: Judy Gallagher by CC 2.0

These sandy-coloured spiders have a crab-like appearance on account of their first two pairs of legs being sideways (laterigrade). They are prolific hunters and may be found on the stems of plants, leaves and other foliage where they employ their active predatory techniques. A plant they are particularly fond of is the conifer. 

They do not use webs to catch prey preferring an ambush technique and only spin their silk in order to make a sac for their eggs. They are extremely agile and can outrun predators as well as evade human capture! 

The bites of a running crab spider may result in some swelling and even a fast pulse and nausea. However, this is extremely rare and they are categorised as low risk. 

Trapdoor Spider

Scientific Name: Ctenizidae

Trapdoor Spider
Credit: Bernard DUPONT by CC 2.0

Frequently found in North Carolina, Trapdoor Spiders are medium-sized mygalomorph (a suborder of spider) which constructs burrows with cork-like trapdoors composed of earth, plant, and silk.

Many tropical spiders also build their nests in burrows and are given the name trapdoor spider, in fact, the family Ctenizidae of the order Araneae is made up of trapdoor spiders. 

Although non-aggressive, if they feel threatened, they will defend themselves and be warned that their fangs are extremely large or a spider!

This spider comes in a variety of shades ranging from a golden-yellow to deep brown. 

In general, a trapdoor spider is around 2.5 centimetres long, but they have been known to grow as long as 4 centimetres. The head is composed of 8 eyes with 3 on each side and a pair in the centre. 

Nursery Web Spider

Scientific Name: Pisauridae

Nursery Web Spider
Credit: Tim Gage by CC 2.0

The nursery web spider likes to inhabit wooded areas, intricate brambles, branches and nettles. 

The female is a conscientious mother and carries her egg sac in her teeth. She will lay down a silk sheet ready to hatch out the eggs and even then, the spiderlings will be carefully carried on her abdomen for several weeks. This is effectively where its name comes from as to all intents and purposes, she is building a ‘nursery’ for her offspring. 

The nursery web species likes to live all over the world and only shuns extremely cold or dry environments. 

This spider’s slender body is typically about a quarter of an inch to an inch in size and is a light grey-brown colour with dark brown and black stripes. 

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Other Spiders Native to North Carolina

  • Orchard Spider Scientific Name: Leucauge venusta
  • Black Lace Weaver Scientific Name: Amaurobius ferox
  • Striped Fishing Spider Scientific Name: Dolomedes scriptus
  • Southern House Spider Scientific Name: Kukulcania hibernalis
  • Magnolia Green Jumper Scientific Name: Lyssomanes viridis
  • Broad-faced Sac Spider Scientific Name: Trachelas tranquillus
  • Banded Garden Spider Scientific Name: Argiope trifasciata
  • Marbled Orb-weaver Scientific Name: Araneus marmoreus
  • Shamrock Orb-weaver Scientific Name: Araneus trifolium
  • Banded Garden Spider Scientific Name: Argiope trifasciata
  • Striped Fishing Spider Scientific Name: Dolomedes scriptus
  • Woodhouse Hunter Scientific Name: Dysdera crocata
  • Orchard Orb-weaver Scientific Name: Leucauge venusta