Wrong on the Internet: Bogus USA Spider Chart

BOGUS spider chart
THIS INFORMATION IS INCORRECT!

This poster created by a pest control company claims to show dangerous American spiders.  It is full of bad information. Half of the species on this chart don’t even occur in the USA. Please, don’t share it anymore!

Please don’t rely on this chart for meaningful information about American spiders. This chart is the result of a clever company re-purposing something they put together for Australia.  Seriously; the Australian spider chart is exactly the same!  And, frankly, the info isn’t all that accurate for Australians, either.

This post will address the parts of this poster that are wrong (pretty much all of it), and then suggest some resources for accurate information about American spiders.

Info that is completely wrong on the poster:

Info that is mostly wrong on the poster:

 Information that is slightly right on the poster:

  • Garden orb-weaving spiders do occur in the US, and are beneficial and harmless.
  • Huntsman spiders: the species in the photo does not occur in the US.  We have some huntsman spiders, but they are much more modestly sized than the Australian and tropical versions. Harmless unless provoked, and even then pretty harmless.
  • Trap Door spiders do occur in the US, although not the species pictured.  They are harmless and fascinating!
  • Black Widow Spiders do have a toxic bite, and do occur in the US, but that’s about as far as the correctness goes. There are 5 different Widow species in the US, and Black Widow bites are not lethal to humans. In fact, as of 2011, there are no known reported deaths from black widow bites in the US.  Black widow spider bites can cause muscle cramping and abdominal pain in some people; pregnant women and children are most at risk.

To sum up: This poster is unhelpful and mostly filled with bullshit with regards to US spiders. Don’t rely on it, and don’t share it.

How can you know what information online about spiders is good information? 

Easy! Go to your local Extension website. In the United States, every single state has an Extension service (or did until state budget cuts a few years ago, anyway).

“Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in communities of all sizes.”

The Extension Service is charged by the USDA and each state government with producing factual, well-researched information for consumer use.   You can tell you are on an Extension website because it will be affiliated with a land-grant university, and have a .edu web address.  So, for example,  searching for “Nebraska fact sheet spiders” gives me this information specific to that state (and also some tips about keeping a wolf spider as a pet!).

There are amazing, free resources available to you. Use them! And look for that .edu web address.  Don’t listen to stories of a friend who knows a friend who lost their Aunt Gertie to a giant toxic banana spider that was in a pack of underpants.  Seek out reliable information.

Some actual helpful, authoritative resources about American spiders:

A personal note:

I just finished a move across country. As part of this move, I had to clean out the space behind my washing machine.  I was hunkered over shelves, trying to wipe things off, and when I stood up I’m fairly sure that my entire head was covered in cobwebs.  I…may have let out a sound of a frequency last produced by Little Richard hitting one of his high notes.

I mention this to let you know that even bug people get the heebie jeebies around spiders sometimes. It’s ok to not like spiders as long as you remember the vast majority of spiders are your friends. You don’t have to kill them! They are valuable (and free!) pest control for your yard and garden.  Unless there is something seriously wrong with your personal hygiene, spiders have no interest in living on you or in you.  Try to live and let live.

16 thoughts on “Wrong on the Internet: Bogus USA Spider Chart

  1. Good post – and thanks for writing this – this kind of chart fuels Arachnophobia. I recognize that there are legitimate cases of Arachnophobia out there, but in many cases, misinformation and lack of education about spiders simply fuels a general fear of ‘wiggly’ creatures and can facilitate the creation of full-on hatred of spiders. Clear and accurate information is req’d – not these kinds of charts.

  2. And what does termite control have to do with spiders, anyway?

    BTW, when I share this link on G+, I’m glad that the image it’ll choose is the chart stamped “wrong”, so folks just looking at the pretty pictures will immediately know the chart is bogus.

  3. Thanks for this! I found this post so enlightening, I sought out your Facebook page so I could share it with my arachnophobic friends.

  4. This article was clearly written by a spider trying to get us to lower our guard. We won’t fall for your lies.

  5. I have a habit of naming the spiders I see on the wall “Fred.” I figure they are a nice low maintenance pet.

    Also, if you have a fear of spiders do not move the the Pacific Northwest. The mild maritime climate makes this a spider haven. Personally I would rather have a spider on the wall than the cockroaches that populated the house in Missouri. Though you do have to watch out for spider webs across the pathways. There are some mornings when we get a face full of web as we descend our front steps.

  6. Excellent job of exposing some of the deceptions and fear-mongering used by pest control companies!

    As an Australian, I would just like to make a couple of clarifications. I was a little confused when you elaborated on hobo spiders and made reference to “the Australian one”, but the associated link was to funnel web spiders. We do not call our funnel web spiders hobo spiders. It just threw me off a little bit. (And like you said, they are very different creatures.)

    As for mouse spiders, I would not want to be bitten by one. For one thing, they have massive chelicerae and a powerful bite. It would hurt. Also, if they do happen to inject venom, it is actually quite a nasty one. For anyone visiting Australia, I would recommend avoiding mouse spiders. But that does not mean that they deserve to be targeted for pest eradication! Besides which, they are hardly ever seen. To list them as a threat is ridiculous.

    As for me, I have had a redback spider (Latrodectus hasseltii) living in my kitchen for the last few months, and I am still alive and well! The spider has done a good job catching things. However, large huntsmen are moved outdoors, as they do roam about at night and it is not fun being woken up by one crawling over your face.

  7. That’s exactly the problem with common names, Axon! They are regional. The funnel-web is also called a hobo by some.

    I see this all the time with something called a “daddy long legs.” That can be, depending on where you are, a non-spider harvestman, an actual spider, or a crane fly insect.

    I’ll see if I can make that section a little clearer.

  8. Those common names! The number of times I have had to explain those ‘daddy long legs’ stories! I do know what you mean. Your blog goes to all places. This is a good thing. :)

  9. Axon: “However, large huntsmen are moved outdoors, as they do roam about at night and it is not fun being woken up by one crawling over your face.”

    When we lived in Texas my dad was awakened by a scorpion crawling on his face (it was about the size of a basic computer mouse). When he moved the scorpion scampered up the wall. I was glad when we moved from there to Arizona where the scorpions stay outside. And I was even more glad to move further north a few months later for college where it is too cold for scorpions.

    I much prefer our house spiders, even if they can get a bit large. They usually stay out of the way. Though during mating season you can see one scampering across the floor. Ours are a bit smaller than the one pictured here: http://mynorthwest.com/11/546774/Invasion-of-the-arachnids-Its-spider-season-inside-your-house

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  13. I am shocked by how many people don’t even realize that hobo spiders are not dangerous.

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