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Baby wolf spider? Idk?? A cutie tho!! It has the same shapes and the same faint line down the back as well as the same position and length of legs and arms as a wolf spider. This one is just minuscule, so… a baby? Or am I mixing this guy up with another spidey?

Hello friend! Spiders can be really hard to identify because there are so many kinds, many of them look alike even if they are not closely related, and a single species can have so much variation in size, color, and shape that even experts will argue about them!

The key to figuring out what family a spider belongs to is eye arrangement. Here is a guide to spider families based on eye arrangement [link]. And by family, I mean taxonomy: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. Arachnid is the class, and Aranae is the order that includes all spiders.

Even though it’s hard to see the eyes with this spider’s dark face, I think this is a Sac Spider (family Clubionidae). Here is the bugguide page for Sac Spiders with lots of photos and more information [link]. I’ve seen lots of spiders like this, with and without their sacs 🙂 BUT! As I said, spider ID is really hard and I might be wrong!

About Wolf Spiders!

I have lots of wolf spider friends, though, and I’m pretty good at knowing when something is or isn’t a wolf spider (your spider friend is not a wolf). And about the size: adult wolf spiders come in all sorts of sizes!

Here is a very large Rabidosa rabida (Rabid Wolf Spider). I don’t like that name much, they are very sweet. I tend to put my finger in my photographs to give a sense of scale, and this lady is so big, my finger was “prey” size and I got a free hug! 😀

Here is a different species of wolf spider with the same finger (we’re holding hands)! I don’t know which species she is, though. And I know this is an adult because she has an egg sac. Wolf spiders carry their eggs in a sac under their abdomens, and they are the only kind of spiders who hold their eggs like this. A few other closely related spiders also carry their eggs, but I don’t remember which ones or how they hold them. :X

And the babies?

Mama Wolf gives piggyback rides to all her babies until they are large enough to fend for themselves!

Juvenile spiders tend to look mostly like their adult selves, especially in terms of body shape and proportion. So if you see a spider that looks like X spider but is too small, it could be a young one! Just get a good look at the eye arrangement!

July 4, 2018

Ahhh thanks for all the info! I love spiders they’re so neat and I’ve been becoming increasingly interested in them over the past few months. This guy is definitely a wolf spider, right? I looked at the guide and found wolf spiders and the eyes matched up to the best of my identification ability. 8 eyes, 4 in a row on the bottom, grouped by 2, and then one eye above each group of 2, and another eye above that and slightly off to the side. These guys live all over my kitchen.

And this lady is definitely a black widow. We don’t have red-back spiders in Virginia, which is basically the only mix up these ladies get.

Thank you for the guide! I’m ready to pop that out whenever I find a spidey.

(A much delayed response!)

Yes, your brown friend is a wolf spider! And indeed that is a black widow–but do you know there are three species of black widow spiders? [link to bugguide] The hourglass is a good way to identify them, if the individual you see has one. There is a lot of variation in color and pattern in these spiders, and some black widows have no hourglass at all. It looks like Virginia has both the Northern and the Southern Black Widow (but not the Western, for obvious reasons). There are also brown widows and red widows! I have only seen the Southern Black Widow and Brown Widow spiders. They are both large and beautiful 😀

Left: Brown Widow; Center: Southern Black Widow; Right: Brown Widow (her back this time)

Widows are a type of cobweb spider (Family Theridiidae), which can be identified by the relative lengths of the legs. In these spiders, the first pair of legs is the longest, and the third pair of legs is the shortest. You probably know what a “cobweb” is–it’s the disorganized webbing you can find in the corners of infrequently cleaned rooms. Unlike orbweaver spiders, who make the well-known circular-patterned webs, cobweb spiders make a messy tangle of web in corners and tucked-away areas. Lots of tiny house spiders are a type of cobweb spider, but just because they are distantly related to black widows doesn’t mean you need to be afraid of them! If you’ve never seen a black widow, you probably don’t realize how LARGE they are.

Left: A large messy web made by a Black Widow lady (seen in lower right) I rescued from the side of a friend’s swimming pool. I relocated her to my yard, where she lived happily until Hurricane Harvey 🙁 🙁 🙁 Top Right: The messy web of a Brown Widow, which caught her a Wolf Spider! Lower Right: My beautiful girl :’(

One interesting thing you may not know about widow spiders: The mothers stick around to protect their eggs and young! My work building had a Brown Widow who just kept laying egg sacs, and it was so interesting watching the egg sac darken right before the babies hatched (and then there were the cute little babies!)

Widow spiders are great and misunderstood and I love them! I wish more people appreciated them.

August 3, 2018