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What Are Spiders?


Spiders are arachnids, a class of joint-legged invertebrates that also includes scorpions, ticks, and mites. These pests are a diverse group of creatures with thousands of species identified to date, inhabiting various environments across the world. Spiders are characterized by several distinctive features:

  • Body Structure: Spiders have two main body parts, the cephalothorax (consisting of the head and thorax) and the abdomen, which are connected by a narrow waist-like structure called the pedicel. Their bodies are covered in a tough exoskeleton.
  • Legs: Spiders typically have eight legs, which they use for a wide range of activities, including walking, capturing prey, and building webs.
  • Silk Production: Most spiders can produce silk from specialized glands in their abdomen. They use silk for various purposes, such as building webs, creating egg sacs, or making draglines for mobility and safety.
  • Venomous Fangs: Spiders possess specialized mouthparts called chelicerae, which often include venomous fangs. These fangs are used to inject venom into their prey, helping to immobilize or digest it.
  • Predatory Nature: Spiders are predominantly carnivorous and feed on a variety of small insects and other arthropods. They use a combination of stealth, silk, and venom to capture and subdue their prey.
  • Life Cycle: Most spiders reproduce sexually, and their life cycle includes stages such as egg, juvenile, and adult. Some species exhibit complex courtship and mating behaviors.
  • Diversity: There is an incredible diversity of spiders, with a wide range of sizes, colors, behaviors, and ecological roles. Some build intricate webs to trap prey, while others actively hunt or live in burrows.

Notable spider families include the orb-weavers, wolf spiders, jumping spiders, and tarantulas. While some spiders are venomous to humans, the vast majority are harmless and play crucial roles in controlling insect populations, making them valuable contributors to ecosystems. The study of spiders is known as arachnology, and researchers continue to discover new species and learn more about their fascinating behaviors and adaptations.

Types of Spiders

There are many types of spiders, with over 40,000 species identified worldwide. Here are some of the main types of spiders:

Banana Spiders

Banana spiders, also known as golden silk orb-weavers or Nephila spiders, are a group of large and striking arachnids belonging to the Nephilidae family. They are renowned for their impressive size, intricate webs, and distinctive golden silk, which gives them their common name.

Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spiders are venomous spiders known for their glossy black color and distinctive red hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen. They are typically small, with females being larger than males. Black widows spin irregular, tangled webs to capture their prey and are found in various regions around the world. Their venom can be potent, potentially causing severe symptoms in humans, although bites are relatively rare.

Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spiders are medium-sized venomous spiders known for their violin-shaped markings on the cephalothorax. They are light brown to dark brown and have long, slender legs. Brown recluse spiders are reclusive, hence their name, and tend to hide in dark, undisturbed places. Their venom can cause tissue necrosis, and bites may lead to serious medical issues in some cases. They are primarily found in the southern and central United States.

Brown Widow Spiders

Brown widow spiders are venomous arachnids characterized by their light to dark brown color and a series of orange, yellow, or white markings on their abdomen. They are medium-sized and have long, spindly legs. Brown widow spiders are less venomous than black widows but can still deliver painful bites. They are found in various parts of the world, including the southern United States, where they have become more common in recent years.

Cellar Spiders

Cellar spiders, also known as daddy longlegs, are arachnids with small bodies and exceptionally long, delicate legs. They are typically light brown or gray and have a small, round abdomen. Cellar spiders are known for their habit of hanging upside down in tangled, irregular webs in dark and damp areas, such as basements or caves. They are not venomous to humans and are often considered harmless household spiders.

Cobweb Spiders

Cobweb spiders, scientifically known as Theridiidae, are a diverse and widespread family of arachnids that belong to the order Araneae. This family is commonly referred to as "cobweb spiders" due to their characteristic three-dimensional, irregular, and tangled webs. These spiders are found on every continent except Antarctica, showcasing their adaptability to a wide range of environments and habitats.

Common House Spiders

Common house spiders are small, light brown to gray arachnids with a rounded abdomen and long legs. They weave irregular, messy webs in corners and crevices of homes to catch prey. These spiders are generally harmless to humans and are common household spiders found worldwide.

Crab Spiders

Crab spiders are small, often colorful spiders known for their sideways movement and their ability to resemble crabs. They have a flattened body and typically sit on flowers, waiting to ambush insect prey. Crab spiders do not build webs to catch prey; instead, they rely on camouflage and stealth.

Daddy Long Legs Spiders

Daddy long legs, also known as harvestmen, are arachnids with long, spindly legs and a small, rounded body. They are not true spiders but are related. Harvestmen do not produce silk or venom, and they are not venomous. They are found in various habitats worldwide and are known for their distinct appearance and unique foraging behaviors.

Fishing Spiders

Fishing spiders, also known as dock spiders or raft spiders, are large, aquatic arachnids known for their ability to hunt on the water's surface. They have long legs and are well adapted for capturing aquatic prey. Fishing spiders are found near ponds, streams, and other bodies of water and are known for their striking appearance and remarkable hunting skills.

Funnel Web Spiders

Funnel web spiders are medium to large-sized arachnids with a distinct funnel-shaped web. They often hide in the narrow entrance of the web and rush out to capture prey that ventures near. These spiders are known for their potent venom and are found in various parts of the world. In some regions, certain species of funnel web spiders can be medically significant due to their bites.

Grass Spiders

Grass spiders are small to medium-sized arachnids with long, thin legs and a cylindrical body. They build flat, funnel-shaped webs in grass and low-lying vegetation. These spiders are skilled hunters that wait at the mouth of their web tunnels to capture prey. Grass spiders are commonly found in grassy areas and gardens, and they are generally harmless to humans.

Hobo Spiders

Hobo spiders are medium-sized brown spiders with a distinctive pattern on their abdomen. They are known for building funnel-shaped webs and are often found in homes and gardens. While once considered medically significant, their venom's toxicity to humans is now debated, and hobo spider bites are not universally considered dangerous.

Huntsman Spiders

Huntsman spiders are large, fast-moving arachnids known for their long legs and flattened bodies. They are typically brown or gray and are commonly found in warm regions. These spiders are active hunters, using their speed and agility to capture prey. While their appearance can be intimidating, huntsman spiders are generally not harmful to humans.

Joro Spiders

Joro spiders, Joro spiders are large, striking arachnids with bright yellow bodies and distinct black patterns. They are orb-weaving spiders known for their impressive webs. Originally from Asia, they have become invasive in the southeastern United States. Their venom is not considered dangerous to humans.

Jumping Spiders

Jumping spiders are small, compact arachnids with large, forward-facing eyes. They are known for their agility and impressive leaping ability. These spiders are active hunters, often stalking and pouncing on prey. Jumping spiders come in a variety of colors and patterns and are considered harmless to humans.

Orb Weaver Spiders

Orb weaver spiders are arachnids known for building intricate, circular webs to capture flying insects. They have rounded abdomens and come in various colors and sizes. Orb-weavers are commonly found in gardens and wooded areas and are generally harmless to humans.


Tarantulas are large, hairy spiders known for their imposing size and appearance. They are found in various regions worldwide. While some species can have potent venom, they are generally docile and pose little threat to humans. Tarantulas are often kept as pets, and their large size and striking coloration make them intriguing arachnids.

Trapdoor Spiders

Trapdoor spiders are burrowing arachnids with a distinctive, camouflaged, hinged lid on their burrow entrance. They wait for prey to pass by and then ambush it from below. These spiders are generally reclusive and are found in underground burrows in various regions. They are not considered dangerous to humans.

Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are robust, fast-moving arachnids with excellent eyesight. They are known for their hunting behavior and do not build webs. These spiders actively stalk and pounce on their prey. Wolf spiders come in various colors and sizes and are often found in grassy and wooded areas. They are generally harmless to humans.

Woodlouse Spiders

Woodlouse spiders are small to medium-sized arachnids known for their distinctive orange or reddish-brown coloration and elongated legs. They are typically found in damp environments, such as under rocks and logs, and are known for their specialized diet, which includes woodlice and other small arthropods. Woodlouse spiders are not dangerous to humans and are often found in gardens and woodlands.

Yellow Sac Spiders

Yellow sac spiders are small, pale yellow to beige arachnids with long legs. They are known for building silken sacs as retreats and hunting from these shelters at night. Yellow sac spiders are found in various habitats and are generally considered harmless to humans.

What Do Spiders Look Like?

Spiders exhibit a wide range of appearances due to the vast diversity of species, but they share some common characteristics that help distinguish them from other arachnids and insects. Here's a description of what spiders generally look like:

  • Body Structure: Spiders have two main body parts: the cephalothorax (head and thorax combined) and the abdomen. Their bodies are covered with a hard exoskeleton. Most species have a distinct, narrow waist called the pedicel that separates the cephalothorax from the abdomen.
  • Legs: Spiders typically have eight long, jointed legs attached to the cephalothorax. These legs are often covered in fine hairs and may vary in length among different species.
    Eyes: Spiders can have multiple eyes, often arranged in various patterns depending on the species. Some spiders have excellent vision, while others rely more on other senses like touch and vibrations.
  • Mouthparts: Spiders have specialized mouthparts called chelicerae, which may include venomous fangs used for hunting and defense.
  • Silk-Producing Structures: Most spiders possess silk-producing glands located in their abdomen. They use silk for building webs, creating egg sacs, and other purposes.
  • Coloration: Spider colors vary widely and can include shades of brown, black, gray, and various patterns such as stripes, spots, or vibrant colors, depending on the species.
  • Size: Spider sizes can range from a few millimeters to several inches, with some of the largest spiders, like tarantulas, being quite substantial.
  • Variation in Adaptations: Spiders exhibit an array of adaptations based on their lifestyles. For example, orb-weaving spiders are known for their circular, intricate webs, while wolf spiders are typically robust and well-camouflaged ground hunters. Jumping spiders are often characterized by their compact bodies and impressive leaping abilities.

Not all spiders look the same, and their appearances can be highly specialized to suit their ecological roles. Some spiders are masters of camouflage, while others may display warning colors to deter predators. Understanding the specific characteristics of a spider can often be essential for identifying its species and behavior accurately.

Learn more: How To Identify And Get Rid Of Dangerous Spiders In Your Home

Where Are Spiders Found?

Spiders can be found in a wide range of habitats across the world, and their presence is particularly common in terrestrial environments. Here are some of the common places where you might encounter spiders:


  • Gardens and Yards: Spiders often inhabit gardens and outdoor green spaces, where they can be found on plants, in bushes, and among debris.
  • Forests and Woodlands: Spiders are abundant in forested areas, where they occupy various niches, including on tree bark, in leaf litter, and under rocks.
  • Fields and Grasslands: Spiders can be found in fields and grassy areas, both on the ground and in low vegetation.
  • Wetlands: Some spiders are adapted to wetland environments, including marshes, swamps, and the banks of ponds and streams.
  • Deserts: Even arid deserts host spider species that have adapted to the harsh conditions.


  • Homes: Spiders can occasionally make their way indoors, often seeking shelter or prey. Common indoor spider species include house spiders and cellar spiders.
  • Sheds and Garages: These structures provide suitable hiding places and insect prey for spiders.
  • Barns and Outbuildings: Spiders may be present in agricultural or storage structures.

Natural Habitats:

  • Caves and Crevices: Some spiders are adapted to dark and hidden environments, including caves and crevices in rocks.
  • Nests and Burrows: Certain spider species construct nests or burrows in the ground or within plant stems.

Webs and Silk Structures:

  • Look for spider webs, which can be constructed in a variety of locations, such as between plants, on the sides of buildings, and in other structures.

Water Bodies:

  • Water-dwelling spiders, known as aquatic spiders, can be found in ponds, streams, and other freshwater habitats. They often live on the water's surface or dive to catch prey underwater.

Specific Microhabitats:

  • Some spiders have very specialized habitats. For instance, trapdoor spiders construct burrows with hinged lids, while tree-dwelling spiders build intricate silk retreats in leaves.

Spiders are a crucial part of ecosystems and play a valuable role in controlling insect populations. While some species are venomous and may pose a slight risk to humans, the vast majority of spiders are harmless and beneficial. If you encounter a spider and are unsure of its species or potential danger, it's best to observe from a safe distance or seek advice from a local expert or entomologist.

Learn more: A Few Spiders In My Home Is No Big Deal, Right?

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Frequently Asked Questions About Spiders

What do spider eggs look like?

Spider eggs typically appear as small, translucent to opaque, often spherical structures encased in silk sacs, with colors ranging from pale to dark, depending on the species.

Learn more: What Do Spider Eggs Look Like?

What attracts spiders?

Spiders are attracted to areas with a stable food supply, hiding spots, and environmental conditions suitable for their survival. In particular, they are drawn to places with an abundance of insects, as that is their primary food source. Cluttered spaces, dimly lit areas, and outdoor vegetation can provide suitable hiding spots for spiders. Additionally, moisture and warmth can attract some spider species, so maintaining a dry and well-ventilated environment can help reduce spider activity.

Learn more: What Attracts Spiders Into Your Home?

Learn more: Why Do I Have A Spider Problem In My Home?

How to keep spiders away?

To keep spiders away, maintain a clean environment by reducing clutter, sealing cracks and gaps in doors and windows, and regularly cleaning up webs and egg sacs. Use natural repellents like peppermint or citrus oils and keep outdoor vegetation trimmed. If you have a significant spider problem, consider professional pest control assistance.

Learn more: The Key To Keeping Spiders Out Of Your Home

Learn more: The Ultimate Spider Prevention Guide For Homeowners

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