Spiders in Virginia | Identification, and Risk

Although the mere mention of spiders can make you shudder, the majority of them won’t bother you unless they are disturbed, aggravated, or feel threatened. 

Bites from even the most toxic spiders generally only result in a moderate reaction but you should learn how to recognize spiders in Virginia if you reside there.

There are more than 3600 different species of spiders in North America, and Virginia is home to roughly 60 of them. Here, we go through the information you require regarding these ominous creatures and what to do if you find them in your home.

Most Venomous Spider in Virginia

The most venomous spider in Virginia is the notorious black widow. 

Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider
Black widow spider
Credit: Scott Camazine by CC 3.0

Scientific Name: Latrodectus

When fully developed, most female widow spiders are normally dark brown or shiny black in color with a red or orange hourglass on the ventral surface (underside) of the abdomen. 

In contrast, the dorsal surface of male widow spiders has different red and white patterns. 

The widow spider, like other members of the Theridiidae, spins a web of erratic, tangled, and sticky silken fibers. They prefer to build their webs in dark, undisturbed locations near the ground, frequently in tiny animal-made holes or close to building sites or woodpiles.

Indoor nests are found in quiet, dark areas like a basement or underneath desks or other pieces of furniture. 

Black widow spiders possess a powerful venom containing the neurotoxin latrotoxin. 

Common Spiders in Virginia Identification

Yellow Sac Spider

Yellow Sac Spider
A yellow sac spider 
Credit: Austin Campbell by CC 4.0

Scientific Name: Cheiracanthium inclusum

The yellow sac spider is a fairy small species. They are pale yellow in color and have black feet. They inhabit a variety of locations including among foliage, in ceiling corners, and behind or under furniture. Some species are even attracted to the volatiles in gasoline.

Yellow sac spiders are active hunters meaning they go out in search of food, rather than building webs and waiting for prey to come to them. They are a nocturnal species and weave silk sacs where they can rest during the day.

The venom these spiders possess is not potent enough to be fatal to humans.

Cellar Spider

Cellar Spider
Daddy-longlegs spider
Credit: David Short by CC 2.0

Scientific Name: Pholcidae

Commonly found in Virginia homes and buildings, these spiders actually vibrate when their web is disturbed. 

Interestingly, they are helpful to have around because whilst not venomous themselves (their jaws are not strong enough to penetrate human skin) they will hunt and kill spiders which are harmful to humans. 

Although fairly fragile looking, these spiders hunt flies, bees, and wasps and if a readily available snack is not on hand (or leg) they’ll visit another spider’s web, create vibrations that convince the unsuspecting resident that they have captured an insect, and then devour their prey!  

Spiders of this species spin loose and messy webs in damp, dark corners and crevices or even in abandoned animal burrows. domestic settings, undisturbed areas are where they are most likely to be found, such as garages, attics, and cellars, hence their name.

Confusingly, they are also sometimes referred to as ‘daddy long-legs spiders’ which is also the name of harvestmen which are not in fact spiders but are related to scorpions. They are also not to be confused with the UK ‘cranefly’ also known as a daddy-long-legs. 

Orb Weaver Spider

Orb Weaver Spider
Photographed a wild Araneidae (Orb-weaver Spider) at Singapore’s Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Credit: Tan Pek Nan by CC 4.0

Scientific Name: Araneidae

Araneidae is a family of spiders that includes orb-weavers. They are the most prevalent breeders of webs that resemble spiral wheels and are frequently seen in gardens, meadows, and forests. 

The English name of the group is derived from the word “orb,” which can also imply “circular”. Araneids lack stridulating organs and have eight identical eyes as well as spiny legs.

The family is widely distributed, and it includes some well-known huge or vividly colored garden spiders. The third-largest family of spiders, the Araneidae, with 3,067 species in 177 genera (behind the Salticidae and Linyphiidae). 

A framework of non-sticky silk is first built up in the traditional way for araneid webs, and then the spider adds a final spiral of silk encased in sticky droplets.

Nursery Web Spider

Nursery Web Spider
Credit: Tim Gage by CC 2.0

Scientific Name: Pisauridae

Common in grassland and scrub, the Nursery web spider can frequently be observed lounging among brambles and stinging nettles. 

The adults are energetic hunters and do not spin a web to collect prey; instead, they use a fast sprint to catch flies and other insects.

The female’s teeth are where she carries her huge, globular egg sac. She constructs a silk sheet tent among the foliage when the eggs are about to hatch to provide protection for the young until they are old enough to fly out on their own.

This species is well-distributed throughout the world except for extremely dry or cold environments.

A slender-bodied spider, its body is a light grey-brown color, and its stripes are dark brown and black.

Trapdoor Spider

Trapdoor Spider
Credit: Johan C.G. Fagerholm by CC 1.2

Scientific Name: Ctenizidae

Trapdoor Spiders are medium-sized mygalomorphs (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. The species is widespread throughout the southwest of the country. 

Trapdoor spiders are commonly kept as exotic pets, but only knowledgeable individuals should keep them as although non-aggressive if they feel threatened, they may present their large fangs. 

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. Their hues range from yellowish brown to dark brown.

Running Crab Spider

Running Crab Spider
Credit: Katja Schulz by CC 2.0

Scientific Name: Philodromidae

These sandy-colored 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. 

Running Crab Spiders 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 categorized as low-risk.

Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider
Credit: Lukas Jonaitis by CC 2.0

Scientific Name: Salticidae

The jumping spider belongs to the Salticidae family and is the largest species of spider with over 6,380 family members. 

Obviously, with so many relatives, they vary greatly in appearance but all share a remarkable common trait: their eyesight. 

They have four pairs of eyes including one forward-facing principal pair which makes them extremely distinctive. 

Although found across the globe, you are highly likely to spot one in the state of Virginia. They can be found hiding amongst vegetation and grasses or close to door and window frames where they can catch prey. 

These spiders do not sit and wait in webs for prey, but rather stalk their prey before ambushing. Despite their small size, they are capable of jumping up to 6.3 inches (160 mm), often spinning a tiny silk anchor to tether themselves before they leap. 

Furrow Spider

Furrow Spider
Credit: Bernard DUPONT by CC 2.0

Scientific Name: Larinioides cornutus

The furrow spider (Linyphia triangularis) is a species of spider found throughout North America, particularly in the western regions. It is known for its distinctive web-weaving behavior, constructing dense webs of interlacing silk from one side of a furrow to the other. Furrow spiders are small and pale, ranging in size from 1/8 to 1/4 inch. They have dark brown or black markings on their heads and legs and short dark hairs covering their bodies.

Furrow spiders can be found in fields, forested areas, gardens, grassy meadows, and along roadsides across North America. Like most spiders, they are nocturnal hunters that feed on other insects such as flies and mosquitoes. They build their webs close to the ground near tall grasses or between logs and stones where they will be least disturbed by predators or humans.

Notably, this species has been observed engaging in communal courtship dances known as Steepling – which involves males vibrating their abdomens while remaining upright on all eight legs until a female arrives to investigate the source of the vibrations. This behavior is unique among arachnids and attracts much attention from scientists studying animal behavior.

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Other Spiders Native to Virginia

  • 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