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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.

18 Comments on A photo guide to my favorite spiders

  1. i found 4 or 5 black widows at my old house (3 of wich were dead already). one was eating another spider!
    i love spiders they are so cool!!!!

  2. I hate spiders

  3. If pigs could fly // February 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm // Reply

    BOB I’ve seen a black widow, well I put a bug on its web not knowing it was a black widow, and it came out and snached up the bug!!! It didn’t even wrap it up befor it ate the bug! It just, right off the bat injected the poision, and ate the little bug!
    I my self was a little shocked to see a black widow in my back yard, trust me you don’t want to see one.

  4. I definitely do not want to go near a black widow

  5. spider freak // October 15, 2009 at 9:05 am // Reply

    i luv spiders

    • goth chick // July 12, 2010 at 6:41 pm // Reply

      i love spiders and i know pretty much about them but, i saw this one spider that was about three or 2 in a half inces long,all brown,and a black spot in the middle.

      • i caught a wolf spider in my yard,im trying to make him as a pet with a nice little terrain,i put crickets in it and he wont eat its been 3days and still nothing

  6. Archeopteryx // June 26, 2009 at 6:34 am // Reply

    Jumping spiders are awesome
    I’ve actually seen them in real life when I lived in Oregon

  7. ousum i would love to have one of my one. even no thay might be poysenes

  8. i want to know more about this unknown spider

  9. I like the jumping spider

  10. are you crazy!!!!!i do not want to see a black wido.

    • Anonymous // May 5, 2014 at 12:24 am // Reply

      Hey do you know anything about the white widow spider I caught two one male and female that’s radical

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