Kentucky is home to many species of spider, only three of which are venomous. Even the venomous keep to themselves and only pose a threat when provoked or surprised. Spiders can seem a little creepy, but they are crucial in controlling the insect population in Kentucky. This article highlights some of the most common spiders in the state.
10 Common spiders in Kentucky
1. Southern and Northern Black Widow
Scientific Name: Latrodectus mactans & Latrodectus variolus
Kentucky is home to two different species of black widow spiders. Both species’ shiny, black females often kill and eat the males after mating. This habit is how these spiders earned their name, “widow.”
Southern black widows are also known for the orange or red hourglass-shaped marking on the underside of their abdomen. Northern black widows have the same red markings on the bottom of the abdomen, but instead of being connected, the two parts of the hourglass are separated.
The males of both species lack this marking, but they still have red or white markings on the tops of their abdomens. In Kentucky, you can find Southern and Northern black widows in the quiet corners of barns, sheds, and garages.
They have also been known to inhabit sewer drains and other damp, dark places. The female’s bite is venomous to humans, can be painful, and cause serious medical issues.
2. Brown Recluse
Scientific Name: Loxosceles reclusa
These dark grayish or yellowish brown spiders are another venomous spider species in Kentucky. Their bite can cause nerve and tissue damage in the most severe cases.
Luckily, brown recluses are shy and not typically aggressive. They can be found in undisturbed areas like closets and cabinets and are most active at night.
3. Yellow Garden Spider
Scientific Name: Argiope aurantia
This large arachnid is commonly found in sunny areas with plants and backyard gardens in Kentucky. The females can grow up to a little over an inch in length and are black with bright yellow patterns. The brown males are smaller with more muted yellow markings.
4. Bold Jumping Spider
Scientific Name: Phidippus audax
The bold jumping spider is a tiny arachnid most commonly found outdoors in Kentucky. The bold jumping spider is black with white markings on its abdomen and legs. Jumping spiders do not use webs to catch their prey.
Instead, as the name suggests, the bold jumping spider pounces on its prey to catch it. They can jump across distances of up to six inches and move very erratically.
5. Tan Jumping Spider
Scientific Name: Platycryptus undatus
The tan jumping spider is a tiny, furry arachnid with large eyes that wrap around its head, allowing excellent peripheral vision. They typically range from tan to brown to help them camouflage in their outdoor environments. Like other jumping spiders, this species doesn’t build webs.
They use their jumping skills to catch unsuspecting prey. Though more commonly found outdoors, these spiders can wander into homes in Kentucky. They are harmless creatures and will only bite if provoked.
6. Spotted Orb Weaver
Scientific Name: Neoscona crucifera
Like all orb weavers, the spotted orb weaver builds large circular orb-shaped webs. The spotted orb weaver ranges from tan to brown and has red and white bands running down each of its eight legs.
An adult female spotted orb weaver can grow up to ¾ of an inch in length and is covered in tiny, light-colored hairs. This nocturnal spider is commonly found in wooded areas and the eaves of Kentucky’s barns and houses.
7. Orchard Orb Weaver
Scientific Name: Leucauge venusta
This colorful orb weaver features yellow, green, silver, red, blue, and darker shades across the head and abdomen. They hang out in the center of orb-shaped webs, waiting for prey to get trapped. This species can grow up to ¼ of an inch, not including the legs.
If you see an orchard orb weaver in a web in Kentucky, chances are you are looking at a female. The males are smaller and very rarely seen unless courting a female on her web.
8. Dark Fishing Spider
Scientific Name: Dolomedes tenebrosus
The dark fishing spider can grow up to one inch in length with a leg span of up to three inches. They are light brown mixed with light and dark gray. This spider is most commonly found in Kentucky near the water.
Their diet consists of insects and small fish, and they prefer to hunt at night. This spider species is unique because it can walk across the water’s surface to hunt its prey.
9. Arrow-Shaped Micrathena
Scientific Name: Micrathena sagittata
The arrow-shaped micrathena is aptly named due to its arrow-shaped abdomen with an arrow-shaped marking on the top. Most spiders have round or oval abdomens, but this species has a unique triangle or arrow-shaped abdomen. The females are bright red with bright yellow markings and have pointy spines protruding from their abdomens.
The males are black and white and lack pointed spines. These spiders belong to the orb weaver family, so they build circular webs to catch their prey.
10. White Banded Crab Spider
Scientific Name: Misumenoides formosipes
The white banded crab spider slightly resembles a crab in appearance due to its broad abdomen and long legs that angle forward. They are typically light yellow or brownish yellow and can be found hanging out in flower blooms in fields and gardens in Kentucky.
This unique spider can change color over a few days to match the color of the flower it is currently living on. Instead of building webs, these spiders camouflage themselves with flower petals and wait to catch and eat an insect searching for nectar.