Common Spiders in Massachusetts

By Erik Devaney
The house spider is one of the most common species of spider in Massachusetts.
closeup of a house spider - archnida image by Jeffrey Banke from Fotolia.com

Spiders are eight-legged organisms of the order araneae and the class arachnida. They are well known for spinning webs and using venom (injected from fangs) to kill prey. Spiders will also occasionally bite humans in self-defense. In Massachusetts, some of the most common spiders include house spiders, daddy long legs, wolf spiders and black widows. Of these, people really only need to worry about black widow bites, as their venom is especially potent (and can even be deadly).

House Spider

The house spider, or common house spider (parasteatoda tepidariorum), is characterized by having striped legs that are alternating tan and dark brown in color. The main torso is generally a dark brown and is usually adorned with lighter-colored designs. As the name implies, house spiders are often found inside homes, especially in attics, basements and on ceilings. According to suttonmass.org, they are part of the theridiidae family of spiders, which are well known for making compact, fluffy webs in the corners of rooms and other structures.

Daddly Long Legs

While house spiders are one of the most abundant types of indoor spiders in Massachusetts, outdoors the daddy long legs is king. According to suttonmass.org, "daddy long legs" is a general term that is applied to various long-legged species of cellar spiders, which are of the family pholcidae. They are known to live in tree trunks and other organic materials, but can commonly be observed scurrying across lawns and through gardens. In addition to being long, the legs of the daddy long legs are incredibly thin and delicate.

Wolf Spider

Wolf spiders are in the lycosidae family of spiders, and are well known for being larger, hairier and---to many---scarier than any other type of spider in Massachusetts. According to ento.okstate.edu, they can vary in color from gray to brown, but are always adorned with stripes and other designs. You can often find wolf spiders in or around windows, doors and houseplants, or outside in gardens and under rocks.

Black Widow

According to e-bug.net, black widow spiders (latrodectus mactans) inhabit almost every state in the United States, and Massachusetts is no exception. Female black widows are the easiest to recognize, as their abdomens are bulbous and feature a distinctive hourglass marking that is red in color. Males have more elongated abdomens, and---instead of an hourglass---have red and white designs on their sides. You can commonly find black widows in basements, woodpiles and under other man-made structures. The severity of a black widow's bite depends on the physical condition of the individual who is bit. Children and elderly individuals are more likely to succumb to more serious symptoms, such as chest pain, fainting, elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure and respiratory complications.