Not all of Indiana’s spiders should be scary


Let’s talk about some of my favorite spiders that live around here (and when I say favorite, I mean in comparison to either having a root canal or being sat on by an elephant).

While I’m not overly fond of spiders, I do find them interesting, just not up-close and personal. Since there are so many species in Indiana, we have a lot to choose from.

Black and Yellow Arglipe (Argiope avrantia): Around here it’s also called the Garden Spider (it needs to be noted that there is a spider called the Garden Spider, not the same one). These spiders have abdomens marked with yellow or orange on black and can be found in shrubbery and plants in meadows and gardens throughout the United States.

It eats small flying insects that end up in the web. Males run about one-fourth of an inch and the females about three-fourths of an inch in size.

The female spins a spiraling vertical web, while the male spins a web in the outlying part of the web. His web zigzags across the middle of her web. The female dies after attaching the egg sac to the web; the male goes sooner.

These were fairly common when I was growing up, but I hadn’t seen one in years. Then one morning I found one by my garage; I haven’t seen any for a couple of years now.

Daddy Long Legs (Phalangivm opilio): It’s also called “The Huntsman.”

Bring up this little fact when you get a chance: They are not spiders. Most people think they are, but they’re not.

They are really more closely related to the scorpion. They differ from spiders in that they have only one pair of eyes, they don’t make silk, and they have a fused body (no waist). On top of that they also have no fangs, no bite and no venom.

In size they are about one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch. There’s actually about 7,000 species of these described, so it is a large family. The rumor that it is highly poisonous came from Australia (where it seems nearly anything that walks, crawls or slithers is dangerous). It’s not the same spider, so you can relax.

Grass Spider (Agelenopsis): This one is also known as the Funnel Weaver. The web it builds is not sticky, and off to one side the spider will build a funnel.

Inside this funnel is where it lurks, waiting for something to wander close. When that something does, the spider runs out, grabs it and drags it back into the funnel.

Like other spiders, it has eight eyes. The male is five-eighths of an inch, and the female is three-fourths of an inch. The eggs overwinter, and the spiderlings disperse in the spring. There are 13 separate species of this spider.

Dark Fishing Spider (Delomedes tenebrosus): It is also called the Nursery Spider. While it is a spider, it does not spin a web except when the eggs are laid; then the female spins a short web to hang the sac. She then waits nearby to protect the sac.

The female is about 1 inch, and the male about half an inch in size. Either one can be found in the following colors: white, black, brown, tan or gray. Like other spiders, it has eight eyes.

While it is mostly forest-dwelling, it can be found on tree trunks, fence posts, walls or any vertical surface. It will wait there for prey to come by, or it will stalk the prey.

They generally come out only at night. This spider eats large insects or any small vertebrates that it can catch and overpower. There are some of these that live around the water and eat the minnows that come too close.

Wolf Spider: In this genus there are more than 100 species of spider, and it takes somebody who really, really enjoys spiders to tell the difference, so we will concentrate on the only one I’ve seen in one of our parks (for the Nervous Nellies out there, it was at Beckenholdt Family Park, near the large rock as you start the trail).

The Rabid Wolf Spider (Lycosa rabida) is brownish yellow with two dark stripes; in males, the first pair of legs are often black. The males are about half an inch with the females running about five-eighths to seven-eighths of an inch.

The female spins a cocoon around the egg mass and drags it around until it hatches; the spiderlings then ride on her back until ready to leave.

Joe Whitfield is a naturalist and gardener for the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department. Send comments to [email protected].