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The Two Most Dangerous Spiders in Florida

Paul graduated from university in 1987. He has done a variety of jobs, including librarian and researcher. He currently lives in Florida.

There are two spiders that are potentially harmful if you live in or visit Florida, this article looks at them in detail.

There are two spiders that are potentially harmful if you live in or visit Florida, this article looks at them in detail.

There are various types of spider in Florida. Some of them, such as golden orb spiders, are mildly venomous and have painful bites, but their venom is too weak to be life-threatening to human beings (although in rare circumstances, it can cause allergic reactions).

What Are the Most Dangerous Spiders Found in Florida?

The most dangerous spiders in Florida belong to one of two types: a species of widow spider or a species of recluse spider. These are the only two types of spider found in Florida that have venom powerful enough to be dangerous to people.

You can minimize the chances of being bitten by being aware of the types of places where both types of spider might be found, and also by taking appropriate precautions, such as wearing gloves when reaching into recesses and places that you can’t see, where spiders might be hiding. Both types of spider can take up residence in old clothing that you haven’t worn for a long time.

Other places where you should exercise caution is reaching into storage boxes, onto shelves in sheds, or when grabbing bundles of firewood – essentially places where you can’t see where you are putting your hands.

A female southern black widow with its distinctive red hourglass marking.  Despite their reputation, bites from female widows are rarely fatal.  These spiders feed on a variety of insects, as well as woodlice and other spiders.

A female southern black widow with its distinctive red hourglass marking. Despite their reputation, bites from female widows are rarely fatal. These spiders feed on a variety of insects, as well as woodlice and other spiders.

Widow Spiders

There are four species of widow spider that you might find in Florida, three of them native and one of them introduced.

  1. Southern black widow (Latrodectus mactan)
  2. Northern black widow (Latrodectus various)
  3. Red widow (Latrodectus bishopi)
  4. Brown widow (Latrodectus geometricus).

Typically, a female widow spider has a glossy, jet black body and a bright red mark on the underside of her abdomen that is shaped like an hourglass. The males are usually gray or brown. The females are much bigger than the males, with the females measuring around 1.5 inches and the males being only a quarter of the size.

The female widow is the most poisonous of the two genders, as its venom sacs are much bigger. The bite of the male is not generally considered to be dangerous.

Widow spiders are nocturnal and build irregular, tangled, three dimensional webs, where they rest during the daytime. Widows will often hang upside down near the center of the web, until they detect an insect getting caught (usually by sensing vibration, rather than by sight), when they will run over and bite the insect, then cover it in silk.

Widow spiders are generally timid and try to escape from humans if they feel threatened. They usually only bite defensively, occasionally when a female is protecting eggs, but mainly when they are accidentally pressed or pinched. This can happen if, say, someone puts on an old glove or shoe and there is a widow spider inside it, or if they feel under an object where a widow is hiding. Reaching up to a high shelf, where visibility is limited, can also cause similar problems.

To lower your risk of bites, you should therefore shake out old clothing before you put them on, and wear gloves when working outdoors or in sheds and garages.

Symptoms of a Widow Bite

  • Symptoms generally start between one and three hours after the bite
  • They can include: intense pain, muscle cramps, nausea, sweating, and vomiting.
  • The venom initially just effects the area of the bite, but is spread by the lymphatic system and then the bloodstream around the body.
  • The symptoms can last from 3 to 5 days, but a bite is rarely fatal if treated.
A brown recluse beside an American penny, showing the size of the spider.  The brown recluse is small but packs a venomous bite that can land you in hospital.  Fortunately, they are not native to Florida and only occasionally found in the state.

A brown recluse beside an American penny, showing the size of the spider. The brown recluse is small but packs a venomous bite that can land you in hospital. Fortunately, they are not native to Florida and only occasionally found in the state.

Recluse Spiders

Recluse spiders are also known as brown spiders, violin spiders, fiddle-back spiders, or reapers. They are found in warmer places around the world, typically in tropical climates. They are normally between 6–12mm in size and are brownish in color, often with a darker, violin-shaped marking on its back.

The mark is what gives the spider its “violin” and “fiddle-back” names, but there are other types of spider with similar looking markings. This can cause confusion when it comes to identifying them, so the best way to tell if a spider is a recluse is by its eyes; most spiders have eight eyes arranged in two rows, but the recluse has six eyes arranged in pairs.

Recluse spiders are not native to Florida, but individual spiders from three different species of recluse are occasionally found. Because there are so few of them, the likelihood of getting bitten by a recluse spider in Florida is very small.

The effects of a bite can vary greatly in intensity, from virtually no effect, all the way up to death (in extreme circumstances). As with widow spiders, a typical way to receive a recluse bite is for a person to put on an item of clothing that hasn’t been worn for a long time with a spider insider it, or to reach into a place where a spider is hiding.

Symptoms of a Recluse Spider Bite

Early symptoms of a recluse bite usually begin between two and six hours after the bite and include: blistering, intense pain, and swelling. In serious cases, the blistering can develop into an open sore, known as a “necrotic skin lesion”, or have systemic effects on vital organs.

A brown recluse close up.  Note that unlike most spiders, the recluse has three pairs of eyes.  The spider has a number of nicknames, including: fiddleback spider, brown fiddler, and the violin spider.  Small in size, the spider is highly venomous.

A brown recluse close up. Note that unlike most spiders, the recluse has three pairs of eyes. The spider has a number of nicknames, including: fiddleback spider, brown fiddler, and the violin spider. Small in size, the spider is highly venomous.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the spider most often found in the Florida home?

Answer: There are many types of spider that can be found indoors in Florida. Perhaps the most common three are the domestic house spider (Tegenaria domestica), the southern house spider (Kukulcania hibernalis), and the American house spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum). Jumping spiders (the Salticidae family), yellow sac spiders (Cheiracanthium genus), and daddy long legs (The Opiliones order) are also common. The two spiders to be wary of that you might find in a home are black widow spiders (The Latrodectus genus) and brown recluses (Loxosceles reclusa), which are both capable of delivering nasty venomous bites.

Question: Where do golden orb weavers locate their webs?

Answer: Generally, they locate them in dense foliage where insects are flying. They are sometimes found in urban environments, too.

© 2011 Paul Goodman

Comments

Echo Elaine on October 11, 2019:

This is not been helpful Searching for spiders that leave hair like stingers in the skin of their victim Anything else is not helpful

Dawn P on July 20, 2018:

Got little black and fluorescent red spiders on my deck. I live in NW FL. Are they widows, seem to skinny and long legs but are wicked looking. Took a pic

Alex Pechanch on March 27, 2018:

I expected these

BEN HAZARD on January 09, 2018:

I think anyone in sympathy with a truly venomous spider has in likelihood never been bitten by one. That being said , if you remove your shoes before entering your home , overturn them and shake vigorously and bang them together several times BEFORE putting them back on !

David on November 04, 2017:

I was bitten one day when I was foraging palmetto berries in Citrus County FL. I had 5 or 6 bites total that initially didn't cause much pain, however by the time the poison went to work I was in for over a week of featuring sores in areas where the sun doesn't often shine. I survived, however I would suggest you watch your butt in Florida wild spaces. I was worried about rattlesnakes which I've seen in the area, at least they give you a warning and stay in the real out of the way places.

Kip Little on September 16, 2017:

While putting up seldom used hurricane shutters I came in contact with as many as six "fiddle_

- back" spiders. Having a now deceased dog with a necrotic bite to a leg, i found the possible culprit. I live in Martin County, Florida which supposidly is not in their range. Be careful!

Heather on September 05, 2017:

I have lived in Florida all my life. A brown recluse can kill you! The poisin gets in your system and blood. If you do not go to doctor asap when you discover swelling and oozing of a small pimple like bite you can really get bad off. Skin rots away. I ended up in ER in St. Augustine from bite. My heart actually stopped. I was resuscitated. I just killed a black widow in the bottom of a tub in a RV. They are creepy . Don't play with spiders.

Dawn on August 22, 2017:

Yes.. I was in the hopital in Central Florida from a motorcycle accident and had world pool therapy and they brought a guy in that got bit by a ruclus and is whole wrist was like the flesh degrading from the inside out.. He hollowed and scream in exstream pain.. I was there 3 weeks and he was still there when i left.

Vee on June 22, 2017:

Oh yes and to add I just removed one from my bedroom the other day while cleaning my massive clothing pile which needed serious attention since having surgery. Big surprise when he came out from underneath that pile. Ugh and ugh true arachniphoboia (sp) here! All the way to fainting.

Vee on June 22, 2017:

I can tell u I have lived in Florida for over 25 yrs working in hospital ER. And this article says how there are no to barely any recluse in Florida. Well then maybe you need to spend some time in Florida because there are major amounts of them here and bites happening here. My dear friend was bit here while on vacation in Orlando inside her condo. There were several of them inside her condo and even took one home by mistake it came out of the wooden jewelry box they had with them. She almost lost her life due to this nasty bite! She spent an entire year plus recovering from this. Her whole leg /back thigh opened up down to her bone dead flesh, on going therapy skin graphs and tissue removal pain beyond pain! On of the ugliest things I have witnessed to date and I again worked the ER for years. Please take care and be aware. Ever 6 feet or closer something is lurking with 8 legs and little eyes. Be aware and educate smartly. Do not tell people they are not in our state.

mark on June 15, 2017:

if you kill spiders you are an idiot. They kill the bugs that bother you, rarely is anybody actually bit by one

THatGUy on May 10, 2017:

Well... I live in Florida and I frequently see both in my yard. It's actually rare for me not to see one. Once i put up a pool and the brown recluse made tons of webs in the sides of it. Once we were swimming in it and my sister found one climbing up her shoulder. Close call! There a VERY SMALL but packed full of brush forest behind us, but we can tell services to control burn it because of how many animal and people live near it.

FWCarpenter on April 15, 2017:

I've got to take some issue with the article. Although there surely have been some recluse spiders (of various species), not a FL native, despite the fact that bites are routinely attributed to them.

nicholas quinby on October 08, 2016:

Man i have brown recluses in my bathroom and in my old hanging clothes. Brown/black widows in the back yard and a freaking python stuck up the fire place chimney. okay last part was a joke but i hope no one around here gets bit.

dophin on May 11, 2016:

my spiders on my Lani are kinda round and are white on top and black on bottom they made a heavey web and I hate running into the weds I keep killing them in 2 days there back any tips to help rid these pests?

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on July 15, 2014:

Lou is correct. The Daddy Long Legs venomous/small fangs is a fun story, but has no scientific basis.

Lou on July 15, 2014:

Daddy long legs being venomous is a myth

florida on March 27, 2014:

Actually, there is one more that most people don't even know about, so it doesn't surprise me it wasn't mentioned in the post.

The grand-daddy long leg is more deadly than both black widow & Brown recluse.

However, the fangs are to small to bite humans.

leo on June 13, 2012:

I have found out raging numbers of some of the worlds deadliest spiders and ime only a kid!

Melissa Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on May 06, 2012:

Oh spiders give me the heebee geebees. We have tons of the banana spiders out here in the sticks. We tend to leave them where they are, their webs are actually beautiful in the mornings, and I like their yellow color. (Not the spider, just the color lol)

Great hub. Voted up and icky.. oh wait there's not button for that lol

Codee on April 08, 2012:

I am super scared of any insect, and have now lived in FL for 6 months, i can say that spiders are here seems year round. The duct tape thing does actually work, i have caught several insects trying to crawl thru the bottom of my doors. no spiders have ever been caught but i have seen a few hairy nasty little spiders in my house. (yuuuuck)

jack trevally on March 19, 2012:

The best way to kill spiders is to use sticky traps. This has the added advantage of allowing you to see what kind of spiders you have and also gives you a chance to determine the severity of the problem. Heavy duty duct tape will also work, but is more unwieldy. Simply make a duct tape 'line of death' around your garage, in closets, etc. sticky side up.

jack trevally on March 19, 2012:

spiders are difficult to poison as they don't clean their feet (cockroaches do, however).

Judy on February 27, 2012:

My husband and have have just moved to Northern Central Florida.( Ocala)I am so scared of spiders. We are from northern Illinois, I never saw a dangerous spider. I have read information on what spiders to look out for that can cause harm and even death. What can I do to make sure that these dangerous spiders do not get into our home. Can I use a fogger or spray of some kind. I don' want my husband, myself or our small dog bit. Thank you so much, sincerely, Judy

kurby90249 on October 20, 2011:

Very intresting

Sondra from Neverland on October 10, 2011:

This is why I love Ohio - we don't really have any dangerous bugs or snakes...I dont think. Excellent hub!!

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on September 30, 2011:

Thanks for your comment, b.Malin, as I state in the hub, you are very unlikely to encounter a recluse spider. Widows are a little more common, but rarely found indoors, and you would be extremely unlucky to be bitten by one.

b. Malin on September 30, 2011:

Well Paul, being I will be going back to Florida again this year...I am going to Book Mark this Hub and Hope I never really need it...But just incase...Well written and oh so very useful and Informative my Friend