Few things can strike as much fear into the hearts of so many people as spiders. These eight-legged critters come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be found in climates across the globe. Many spider species, including two that are poisonous, live throughout eastern Tennessee.
In Tennessee, the brown recluse spider is notorious for being one of only two poisonous spiders commonly found in the state. These medium-sized spiders are yellowish brown to dark red brown in color and have a distinctive violin-shaped marking on their thorax. Contrary to popular belief, these spiders are not aggressive, though they are quite poisonous. In fact, they will only bite a person when they feel threatened. The brown recluse hibernates in the winter and prefers dark, low-moisture settings. To keep your home free of these spiders, open and inspect storage areas in the home, especially between the months of May and October.
Golden Silk Spider
Golden silk spiders, commonly referred to as banana spiders, are common throughout temperate North America, including the east Tennessee region. These spiders are not poisonous. In fact, their bite, which is very rare, causes only brief localized pain and reddening. Their size, however, makes them intimidating to some. The females are some of the largest non-tarantula spiders around, ranging from 1.5 to 2 inches. During the late summer and through the fall, these spiders spin large, golden webs in trees and low shrubs. These webs often create obstacles for hikers and mountain bikers. Though they can be an inconvenience to some, they are generally helpful by preying on bees, wasps, flies, and other small to medium-sized flying insects.
In addition to the brown recluse, the black widow is the other poisonous spider found in Tennessee. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more common spiders in yards, under homes or in wood stacks outside. They can also be found in dry, dark areas of the home. These spiders are generally easy to identify with a rounded thorax, a black body and a red or yellow hourglass shape on its back. They grow about 1.5 inches long. A black widow bite can be extremely harmful, causing sweating, nausea, cramps, vomiting and muscle stiffness or spasms. Anyone who has been bitten should seek immediate medical help.
Grass spiders are particularly common in East Tennessee during the summer months, when they can be found building their telltale funnel webs. These spiders grow to about 1 inch in length and resemble the wolf spider, though wolf spiders do not construct webs. The grass spider makes its web in grass or low-lying foliage or in the crevices of buildings or fences. When prey enters these webs, the spider senses the vibration and lunges to devour its prey leisurely. These spiders are not dangerous, though they can bite if they are provoked.
Daddy Long Leg
Daddy long leg spiders are some of the most easy to identify thanks to their spindly limbs. Although their body only grows to between 1/10 and 1/2 inch, their total length including their legs can reach up to 2 inches. They are often seen hanging inverted among their web, which is a disorganized mess compared to the intricacies that some spiders display in their web work. Most commonly they will be found in dark storage areas, drain pipes, and under rocks and in the grass. They are not dangerous at all, though they can be considered a pest when in the home.