Poisonous Garden Spiders

Updated July 19, 2017

All garden spiders use venom to subdue their prey, which usually consists of insects, but the toxins are not lethal to humans, "Spider venom does not exist to harm creatures, like humans, which are too large for spiders to eat, and in nearly all cases has little if any effect on humans," says arachnologist Rod Crawford of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Garden spider bites may result in swelling, redness and itchiness, comparable to the bites of insects such as mosquitoes or flies. The very few spiders whose venom can sicken humans generally are not indigenous to gardens.

Black and Yellow Argiope

This is a common orb web spider, meaning that it creates an often-spherical web consisting of several levels. The females grow up to 1 1/2 inches. Males reach about 3/4 inch. These spiders have a small cephalothorax, or upper body, with silver hairs and a large black and yellow abdomen. A bite from an Argiope results in swelling and itchiness.

European Garden Spider

The Araneus diadematus is one of the most common garden spiders, found throughout the northern U.S., Canada, and Europe. Females reach 3/4 inch in size and males between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. These spiders, generally brown with white markings, have large abdomens. They hang upside down in their orb webs--which can be up to 3 feet in diameter--waiting for the vibrations of trapped insects.

Wolf Spider

These garden spiders, which live in holes or under the terrain, do not create webs. Wolf spiders hunt for food and are quite fast. Their eyes are notable: one row of four small eyes below one row of two medium-sized eyes that point forward, below a pair of two large eyes that point backward. Wolf spiders are grey with various markings. Female wolf spiders carry egg sacks on their backs, where their offspring hatch and remain until they are nearly full-size. Wolf spider bites look worse than they are because of the spider's larger-than-usual fangs, but the venom is medically insignificant.

Nursery Web Spider

This large garden spider with long abdomen and spindly legs grows up to 2 inches, and is grey or brown with light yellow lines on its head. Nursery web spiders live near watery areas such as swamps and build small nests in grass or woody terrain. A female carries her large, white egg sack below her abdomen.

Crab Spider

Crab spiders are very small, ranging between 3 and 7 millimetres. Known for its long second set of legs, this spider frequently runs sideways, giving it the appearance of a crab. Crab spiders, which vary in colour, are well camouflaged and run very fast. They weave small webs in the shape of a thin net. Their small fangs cannot penetrate human skin.

Meshweb Spiders

These small, bulbous spiders range between 7 and 12 millimetres in size. They have large abdomens and short legs. Meshweb spiders spin overlapping nets of bluish web that create the appearance of a funnel. The function of the funnel is to ensnare insects that fall or crawl into the centre.

Jumping Spider

This small spider--readily recognisable because of its short legs, rectangular thorax, and large, distinctive eyes--is very fast and can leap up to a foot to capture prey or evade danger. Jumping spiders vary in colour and grow to between 1/4 inch and 1 1/2 inch long. They do not create webs. This spider's bite can be painful, causing swelling and itching. Rare side effects include muscle aches, headaches, and nausea.

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About the Author

With expertise in fine art and design, Stephen Johnson began writing in 2005. His work appears in several school publications as well as "Green River Writers" magazine and "Folio" magazine, where he serves as editor. Johnson has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Southern Connecticut State University.