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A photo guide to my favorite spiders

From the time I was about 5, I would spend my summer vacations walking along the hedgerows in southern England looking for spiders. These days, I take expeditions looking for rare spiders in the most remote jungles on Earth.

In truth, I get the same buzz of excitement now as I did way back then. That’s why I do it!

And I do it for these guys, my favorite spiders:


Pink Toe TarantulaAvicularia Avicularia

Lives: Amazon rain forest, South America

Legspan: Up to 6 inches

Body length: Up to 2 1/2 inches

Dangerous to humans? No

A tree-living tarantula that makes silk tubes in leaves. It eats anything of suitable size, including large insects, frogs, even small bats and birds. When disturbed, pink toes throw themselves into the air and “parachute” to the ground on their long hairy legs. Then they simply climb up another tree and start over. If they land on water, they float and just paddle themselves to dry land. Pink toes are probably the most successful tarantula family on earth. They are docile, gentle spiders that I love to handle and watch.


Jumping SpiderSalticidae sp.

Lives: Worldwide

Legspan: 1 inch or smaller

Body length: 3/8 inch or smaller

Dangerous to humans? No

Fascinating little hunters that have the best eyesight (for their size) of any animal on Earth. Brightly colored with complex mating displays, jumping spiders hunt during the day and catch their prey by jumping on it from as far as 12 times their own body length away. Beautiful, intelligent little arachnids (spiders) that even arachnophobes (people afraid of said spiders) don’t freak-out too much at.


Chicken SpiderPamphobeteus sp.

Lives: Amazon River headwaters, Southeastern Peru

Legspan: 10 inches

Body length: 4 inches

Dangerous to humans? Bites likely to be painful but not fatal

One of the largest and heaviest in the world. Very unusual in that it lives in large groups of a mother and her young or “spiderlings.” (Most spiders live alone.) The chicken spider has also been known to share its burrow with a small frog. We think the frog eats parasites such as ticks and mites or insects such as ants that could bother the spider. In return, the frog gets protection from a spider with one-inch-long fangs! A spectacular species, from a spectacular forest.


Net-Casting SpiderPamphobeteus sp.

Lives: Tropics worldwide

Legspan: 4 inches

Body length: 2 inches

Dangerous to humans: No

Here is a spider that has given up just sitting on a web. This species builds one and uses it like a fishing net. It holds the web in its long legs and hangs upside-down over a branch or log waiting for an insect to walk past. It then throws its net over the insect, gathers it up and eats at its leisure. This extraordinary way of catching prey is unique to the net-caster and has to be seen to be believed!


Kutai Earth TigerLampropelma sp.

Lives: Kalimantan, Indonesia

Legspan: 7 inches

Body length: 3 inches

Dangerous to humans? Unknown

This spider will always hold a special place for me, as it is a new species, unknown to science when I found it in the dense jungle of Eastern Borneo. It is a large, black tarantula-type spider with a pattern of orange hairs on the carapace (back). It lives in deep burrows lined with silk. At night, it stands at the mouth of its burrow waiting for an insect or small lizard to come close. I still remember the rush of seeing this beast for the first time, at night, in the beam of my flashlight.


Goliath BirdeaterTheraphosa blondi

Lives: Northeastern South America

Legspan: 12 inches

Body length: 4 inches

Dangerous to humans? Bites very painful but not fatal

It is impossible to make a list of favorite spiders without mentioning the “daddy” of them all, goliath, the largest arachnid on the planet. It is plain, chestnut-brown in color and has a real nasty attitude — it hisses, it kicks irritating hairs at you and will bite if you provoke it. But when you see this monster up close there is only one word to describe it — awesome!


Bolas SpiderOrdgarius magnificus

Lives: Australia

Legspan: 10 inches

Body length: 4 inches

Dangerous to humans? No

Another spider that gave up just sitting on webs to go fishing. But this one is a hook-and-line sort of guy, not a net-man. The spider spins a line of silk and puts a drop of sticky glue on the end. Then, the clever part: It produces a chemical that male moths find irresistible.

It waits for them to fly close and swings its fishing line in circles. Eventually the line catches a moth with the sticky end, and the spider just reels in its catch. Truly, one of the wonders of the natural world.

14 Comments on A photo guide to my favorite spiders

  1. The bolas spider is by far the best. It is an interesting species and being a science geek I love all things strange. I used to have a pet scorpion and it was the most aggressive species in Australia (where I live). Still the Bolas spider is the best.

  2. The bolas spider has a ten inch leg span???????????? and a four inch body ?????

    surely not i think you have made a typo



  4. I have a T that i can’t ID. I’ve tried arachno boards and i’ve tried writing to Botar from and no one knows the common name for it. I came across the picture of the Chicken Spider and it looks to be identical. Can i send you some pics for comparison?

  5. future eagle scout // June 7, 2007 at 12:31 am // Reply

    I like the chicken spider could you show the biggest spider in the world or some that or dangerous to humans and bites are fatal

    • dualaretydoesminecraft // May 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm // Reply

      the biggest spider in the world is the goliath spider

    • coolawesomekid // August 19, 2015 at 5:02 pm // Reply

      the biggest spider in the world is the giant huntsman spider. Known to be found in caves their as big as a dinner plate, and they are dangerous. I saw this on a tv show, lol. :)

  6. hmmmmmmmmmmmm // June 4, 2007 at 1:42 pm // Reply

    Trap spider were the best

  7. Eagle Eye // May 30, 2007 at 5:19 am // Reply

    I have found a spider that there seems to be no info. or picture of anywhere. It has a whitish abdomen shaped like a smaller perfectly round stone, or oyster cracker if you will. The thorax is on top of abdomen but, cantileverd and brown. The spider is the size of a quarter and found just up from a lake in southern california. Little trap webs covering the cracked slate. Hides in the many crevices of dried river bed that is the slate. Could not see eye configuration. Spotted him running for cover and dug it out. ???????????? Please help. I will get pictures next time I am there. It is in the middle of no where.

  8. Black widow, please!

  9. i think the Pink Toe is the best. i only like turantulas.

  10. i really want to see a black witto!!!!!!!

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