Florida Tarantulas and Other Spiders

By Lisa Atkinson
Tarantulas are not native to Florida.

Although Florida has countless spiders, not all of them are harmless. In fact, some of them are most likely to bite humans or are species that most people are typically afraid of and must identify for safety reasons. Many of these spiders live in gardens or in a pile of firewood, but occasionally some will make their way into homes. It is important to distinguish between these spiders in case one of them bites you.

Tarantulas

Tarantulas are not native to Florida and are actually rare in the state. Some people do keep them as pets, and tarantulas can make their way into Florida as stowaways in cargo boxes. Their bodies can grow to 2 1/2 inches long, and their legs can be up to 7 inches long. Tarantulas live in the brushy hillsides of the Florida terrain, or they will convert an abandoned rodent hole into a habitat. Although tarantulas are venomous, their bite is typically mild for humans, and the venom is not fatal. Many people are afraid of tarantulas, but such creatures are docile and rarely attack unless provoked.

Black Widows

There are two types of black widows in Florida: the northern black widow and the southern black widow. The southern black widow is the most common, with a shiny black body and a red hourglass pattern on its abdomen. It can be found anywhere in the state of Florida. The northern black widow is very similar, but the red hourglass marking looks more like two separate triangles, and it has red spots down its back. The northern black widow is only found in the Florida Panhandle. Both types are venomous, causing intense pain and muscle cramps.

Red and Brown Widows

Red widows are black with a single red triangle on the abdomen and a row of red spots on the back, with each red spot encircled by yellow. The head and legs can be red or orange. Red widows make their homes in the sand pine scrub habitats of Florida, usually from Marion County to Martin County. Brown widows can vary in color from white to black, with an orange hourglass on the abdomen. They can sometimes have red, yellow or white markings on the abdomen as well. Brown widows typically live along the coast of Daytona Beach. Like black widows, both red and brown widows are venomous.

Brown Recluse

The brown recluse is rare in Florida. This small spider is extremely venomous. The brown recluse is brown with a violin pattern on the abdomen. Brown recluses hide in abandoned areas of garages or basements, or even inside shoes and clothing that have been untouched for long periods of time. Although its bite may not cause severe pain right away, it can cause necrosis in the skin within 12 to 24 hours.

Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders in Florida and are sometimes mistaken for brown recluse spiders. They can grow over an inch long and have small brown hairs on their body. Wolf spiders live in burrows in the ground to wait for prey instead of spinning webs. Wolf spiders can be aggressive and even attack black widows. Wolf spiders are venomous and can give humans a very painful bite.

Jumping Spiders

Florida has two types of jumping spiders: the gray wall jumper and the pantropical jumper. Jumping spiders get their name because of their ability to jump from plant to plant to capture prey. Gray wall jumpers have black and white stripes. Pantropical jumpers are roughly the same size as gray wall jumpers and are similar in color, but have a distinct white stripe down their back. Jumping spiders can bite humans if handled roughly, but their bites are not fatal and will only cause minor pain and irritation.