Spiders in Tennessee | Identification, and Risk

You may have observed them constructing webs around your home, hiding in dark corners, or being portrayed as agents of fear and trepidation in popular culture. 

We love to scare ourselves but does this fear have any grounding in reality? Spiders are prolific throughout the southeast of America and the smoky mountains of Tennessee are no exception. 

Very few species are actually hazardous, and they are actually one of the most effective and affordable methods of pest management, eating insects that spread disease, infest homes, and ruin crops. Learn to identify many kinds of spiders with information about silk, venom, and risk.

Most Venomous Spider in Tennessee

It would be impossible to name all the spiders in Tennessee so we will start with the most venomous – the black widow – popularised as a deadly predator but rarely as fatal as she sounds. Even so, forewarned is forearmed so it might be wise to learn a little more about this auspicious arachnoid so you are better placed to respond to an unexpected visit!

Black Widow

Scientific Name: Latrodectus mactans

Black Widow
Credit: Konrad Summers by CC 2.0

Probably the most famous spider of all! The term ‘black widow’ has been shudderingly portrayed in books and film but how deserving of its deadly reputation is she? 

Male black widows are about half the size of females and are considered harmless. Females can be 1 ½ inches including their legs and have eight eyes arranged in two rows of four. 

Where there is one there are probably closer by so be informed as to where they hide and how to treat bites. 

It is widely thought that females always eat the males after mating but researchers have found this to be untrue and that this will usually only happen when in a tank because the male cannot escape. 

Checkboxes in attics and basements, eaves, woodpiles, and other undisturbed areas if you want to rid your home of this ominous guest! 

Common Spiders in Tennessee Identification

Garden Ghost Spider

Scientific Name: Hibana gracilis

Garden Ghost Spider
Credit: Katja Schulz by CC 2.0

Common throughout Tennessee is the garden ghost spider, one of many kinds of sac spiders. It is about 4-8 mm in size, have eight eyes arranged in two rows, and resembles the wolf spider.

The garden ghost spider belongs to the family Anyphaenidae and also goes by the name buzzing spider because of the male’s habit of drumming its abdomen on a leaf to attract females, which makes a buzzing sound.

You might bump into one in a pile of firewood. Like most spiders in Tennessee, the garden ghost spider is generally harmless, though a bite might leave a temporary mark.

Brown Recluse

Scientific Name: Loxosceles reclusa

Brown Recluse
Credit: Rosa Pineda by CC 3.0

Brown recluse spiders are one of three spiders in North America with necrotic venom that can lead to requiring medical intervention. There is a high proportion of false positive bite reports due to misidentification with Funnel Weave Spiders and Wood Louse Hunters. The brown recluse is wary of humans, and if it feels under threat, will most likely flee to avoid confrontation.

They range from 6 and 20 millimeters in size but have been known to grow larger. Common places for the Recluse to build their asymmetrical webs include dark spaces such as sheds, garages, closets, and inside cardboard cartons

Also known as the brown fiddler, violin spider, and fiddle back spider due to the markings on the spider back, however, this is not a determining factor as other spiders do have very similar markings (cellar spiders and pirate spiders) 

Yellow Sac Spider

Scientific Name: Cheiracanthium inclusum

Yellow Sac Spider
Credit: Simon Poppy by CC 4.0

One of the most common spiders in north-eastern America, yellow sac spiders are also known as the ‘black-footed yellow sac spiders’ 

You will find this nocturnal hunter under window sills, corners of walls and ceilings, behind appliances, in foliage, near faucets, behind curtains, and in attics or basements. 

The Yellow sac does not sit and wait for prey to fall into its web, instead, they go hunting in search of food. As nocturnal spiders, they build little web nests where they rest during the daytime. 

Yellow sac spiders are somewhat venomous but their venom is not potent enough to prove fatal to humans. Strangely these spiders are highly attracted to volatile ingredients found in gasoline.

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Brown Widow Spider

Scientific Name: Latrodectus geometricus

Brown Widow Spider
Credit: Faris Algosaibi by 2.0

The brown widow spider’s body is typically 1-1.5 inches long and has a bulbous shape with long legs extending outwards from it.

They tend to prefer warm, dry habitats and are often found hiding in dark corners, crevices, and under objects such as rocks, logs, or outdoor furniture. Despite their preference for dry environments, they are also known to inhabit urban settings such as gardens and parks.

While brown widows are venomous, they are not considered to be highly dangerous to humans. Their bites usually cause mild symptoms such as swelling, redness, and localized pain but these symptoms generally resolve within a few days without medical intervention.

Cellar Spider

Scientific Name: Pholcidae

Cellar Spider
Credit: David Short by 2.0

Commonly found in Tennessee homes and buildings, you’ll be happy to know these spiders have jaws that are not quite strong enough to do any real damage to humans. 

This common spider does like to hide and you may have to look for their webs in damp and dark corners of caves, under rocks, loose bark, and in abandoned mammal burrows. 

Because the cellar spider does not have an adhesive web, it waits for prey to approach and quickly envelops it in a silky case before inflicting a deadly bite.

Wolf Spider

Scientific Name: Lycosidae

Wolf Spider
Credit: Bidgee by CC 3.0

Wolf spiders live and hunt alone and are very successful at it, in fact, they are so active and self-sufficient, they do not even have time to spin a web!

A female wolf spider carries its eggs in a sac that is attached to the spinnerets at the end of her abdomen. She will make sure that her little spiderlings are protected even after they have hatched as she continues to carry them until they’re big and robust enough to survive on their own.

Wolf spiders will not hesitate to inject venom if they are antagonized or threatened but this will seldom result in a medically significant injury. 

The wolf spider lives amongst foliage, shrubs, grasslands, and even in sand dunes, and herb fields. It’s possible you may encounter them in your home as they can access it via outside vents so if you want to make sure they stay out, keep well-stocked with peppermint oil and diatomaceous earth and clear that clutter!

Orb Weaver Spider

Scientific Name: Araneidae

Orb Weaver Spider
Credit: Tan Pek Nan by CC 4.0

Orb-weavers belong to the Araneidae family of spiders and as their name suggests, they weave the most wonderful spirling wheel-shaped webs!

This supernatural-looking garden spider can also be found in meadows and forests and anywhere that it can spin its web between branches or walls.

The family is widely distributed, and it includes some well-known huge or vividly colored garden spiders which you may have encountered at home. 

Orb-weavers are the third-largest family of spiders, the Araneidae, with 3,067 species in 177 genera (behind the Salticidae and Linyphiidae).

The logistics behind their incredible webs involve a scaffold of non-sticky silk and then the spider adds a final spiral of silk encased in adhesive droplets. 

Nursery Web Spider

Scientific Name: Pisauridae

Nursery Web Spider
Credit: Bryce McQuillan by CC 2.0

Fairly common in Tennessee, the nursery web spider ranges in color from grey to orange and dark brown. It can be found in grassland and loves to be among brambles and stinging nettles in open fields and shrubland. 

The adults love to hunt but shun the traditional methods! Instead, they sprint after the intended prey and ambush them directly! 

Continuing with this spider’s unconventional methods, the female carries her huge, globular egg sac in her teeth! She finds a safe and soft foliage-covered spot and builds a tent from silk. 

This species is found the world over and only shuns extremely arid or cold environments.

Zebra Spider

Scientific Name: Salticus scenicus

Zebra Spider
Credit:  B. Schoenmakers by CC 3.0

The Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus) is a species of spider found in North America. It is a small jumping spider measuring between 3-5mm in length, and has distinct black and white stripes on its body and legs, giving it its name.

Zebra spiders are mainly found on walls and fences near buildings, but can also be found in low foliage or even inside houses. They feed mostly on other insects such as aphids and mites. The zebra spider hunts by waiting motionless until prey comes close enough to be pounced upon. Its agility and vision allow it to jump up to 25x its own body length.

Zebra spiders have unique mating behavior. Males will perform an elaborate courtship dance that includes waving his pedipalps (leg-like appendages) around the female before mating occurs. After mating, the female will lay her eggs in anchor webs which she attaches to surfaces using strong glue-like strands of silk.

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Other Spiders Native to Tennessee

  • 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
  • Woodlouse Hunter Scientific Name: Dysdera crocata
  • Orchard Orb-weaver Scientific Name: Leucauge venusta