Croatia is a historical and hedonistic superstar on the European holidaying scene. Whether you want an island-hopping adventure under the sail or a chilled week away on a pebbly beach by the Adriatic, it’s got you covered. And it’s got you covered when it comes to Roman history sights, gushing waterfalls, glistening lakes, fine food – the list goes on. What’s the catch? What about spiders in Croatia?
Well, actually…There are lots of spiders in Croatia, including infamous poisonous species like the black widow. While Croatia is widely considered a very safe place to visit, and you probably won’t meet any dangerous critters during your time here, it is still helpful to know which ones might pose a threat before you jet off to the home of truffle-topped pastas and sun-kissed islands.
This guide focuses on nine of the most notable spiders in Croatia. Some aren’t dangerous at all. Others are. Some are rare in this corner of the Balkans. Others are as commonplace as a postcard-perfect beach. All of them are worthy of note, so let’s get started…
European yellow sac spider (Cheiracanthium)
The European yellow sac spider is a 15-millimeter-long arachnid with – just as the name implies – a characteristic yellow color. The body ranges from a pale, almost translucent yellow to a deeper, sandy yellow, with the lighter hues usually occurring on the underside of the body.
There are lots of yellow sac spiders in Croatia, mostly in agricultural areas and in farm fields. In urban areas, they are mostly found in gardens and sheds, largely because they survive on a diet of insects and occasionally nectar from flowering plants.
Unfortunately, this is where humans tend to aggravate the yellow sac spider, as females build egg nests in grassy areas that green-fingered folk like to get stuck into. Luckily, the yellow sac spider isn’t considered overly dangerous. Its bite is compared to a wasp sting, and while you may experience localized swelling and lesions, it rarely leads to severe complications.
Pink crab spider (Thomisus onustus)
If you were expecting this list of spiders in Croatia to be full of terrifying, deadly eight-legged monsters, think again. The pink crab spider is certainly a disappointment on that front. Cute might be a stretch, but this spider can certainly be very pretty and startling.
This species is a distinct pastel pink in color, although other crab spiders can be found in yellow and purple colorings. Their unique shades help them to camouflage amid flowers, where they lie in wait to pounce on pollen-eating insects.
Female crab spiders are bigger than the males. Males range from 2-4mm and females from 7-10mm. As their small size might suggest, pink crab spiders are not aggressive. In fact, if threatened, they are most likely to curl up and play dead. Even if you get bitten, a bite is not toxic and will either produce a very mild, localized reaction, or none at all.
You can spot Crab Spider by its funny, crab-like movement, as the spiders tend to move sideways or backwards – not forwards.
Napoleon spider (Synema globosum)
A Napoleon spider is one of the most interestingly patterned spiders in Croatia. They sport a mark on the back that, some say, resembles a certain 18th-century French emperor wearing his trademark bicorne hat.
Napoleon spiders can have a yellow, white, or red body. When the spider has a red body, it looks remarkably like a black widow spider (more on those below), something that means they’re often feared unnecessarily, since these guys have a much less potent bite than their lookalikes – it’s generally only dangerous if you’re allergic or susceptible to anaphylactic shock.
As is common in spiders, female napoleon spiders are bigger than the males. Females grow up to 9mm while males grow up to 4mm. The spiders are just the right size for their preferred habitat, which is on vegetation, so that they can catch pollen-feeding insects near flowers.
Common eastern ray spider (Theridiosoma gemmosum)
The common eastern ray spider is another of the spiders you might well encounter day to day in Croatia. Don’t worry, though, it’s a 100% non-toxic arachnid. Plus, it’s tiny. The females – the larger of the two sexes – grow up to 3mm long, and males grow to just 2mm. The chances are that you won’t even spot one if it does cross your path!
That said, their body coloring is distinctive, with mottled light browns and silvery white patches up and down the main thorax, perfect for keeping it hidden in forests and on woodland floors. While it doesn’t have the same bold colors as other spiders in Croatia, it is still quite a pretty spider to spot if you can.
You’ll likely find these guys – if you look closely enough – in vegetation around streams or more prominently in gardens during the wetter months of December, January, and February. They’re known to spin strange, cone-shaped webs using cross-hatching strands of strong silk.
Black widow spider (Latrodectus)
The black widow spider is so well known that it has become somewhat of a fabled monster all around the globe. Most people could quickly identify the species due to the distinct red hourglass shape on its back.
The black widow spider certainly has some violent habits. For one, females often eat their male partners immediately after breeding. Black widows live alone when not breeding and have a hostile, aggressive attitude towards other insects and us humans.
The Black Widow is a solid, coal-black, apart from that aforementioned hourglass red marking. The spiders are medium-sized and can grow up to 1.5 inches long, so you won’t have trouble spotting the Black Widow when it is out in the open.
The species possesses a famously toxic bite, backed with a venom that’s said to be 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake. Yep, a bite from one of these guys can lead to cramps, spasms, instant swelling, and severe pain. Any victim should be sure to seek medical attention immediately.
Cave spider (Meta menardi)
As their name might suggest, the cave spider loves dark, quiet, and often damp places. You are most likely to find them in caves, mines, sewers, and cellars, but also around the city streets of Croatia during the wetter, colder months of the year.
Cave spiders grow up to 15mm in length – quite a respectable size in comparison to other spiders in Croatia. They can be any color on a spectrum of satin black to light or reddish-brown. Typically, their coloring is mottled on their body and a different color on their legs.
Cave spiders eat mostly small insects like flies. However, they aren’t averse to trying a slug or two. Overall, they aren’t aggressive and will not bite a human unless extremely threatened. Even if they do bite you, it is not fatal unless you are allergic. You’ll likely experience some discomfort at the bite site and localized swelling.
Spotted wolf spider (Pardosa amentata)
Wolf spiders have a reputation for being pretty darn huge, and most of the species are. Except, that is, the spotted wolf spider. This one grows to around just 8mm in length, making it a moderately sized arachnid and generally smaller than its cousins.
These spiders are a light brown color with darker markings and unique patterns. Male spotted wolf spiders are usually darker and can even appear black on their body. Other distinct features include the hairs that protrude from the limbs and the lighter tan line that crosses the main body.
Will you feel a bite from a spotted wolf spider? Yes. But, will it kill you? Almost certainly not. Victims usually experience intense itching and swelling at the bite site, along with some redness and soreness. There are rarely full-body complications or symptoms.
Cross orbweaver (Araneus diadematus)
The cross orbweaver is a spider with more names than legs. Some call it the garden spider; others the pumpkin spider; others still use the grand title of diadem spider. Whatever moniker you pick, the fact remains that this is one of the most common arachnids in Croatia, and one of the most common in the whole of central-northern Europe besides.
Looks wise, these guys are usually no more than two centimeters across. They don an outer coat of small hairs known as trichobothria, which are most prevalent along the limbs. On the body, they showcase a pretty pattern of tan browns and light whites that meet in the middle, forming a clear cross shape – the spider’s most distinctive marking.
Orb weavers tend to live in forested areas and in coastal scrublands, which Croatia has in abundance along its hot shoreline. They’re known for weaving orb-shaped webs (hence the name) and do possess a venom for killing small insect prey, though it’s not strong enough to pose a threat to humans.
European nursery web spider (Pisaura mirabilis)
Last but most certainly not least on our list of the most notable spiders in Croatia comes the European nursery web. These guys are everywhere. Like, EVERYWHERE. From the heathlands of Yorkshire in the UK all the way to the farm fields of eastern Poland to the vineyard of Italy, they have a range that puts them all over the continent, with long, thin Croatia smack dab there in the middle.
Their success is largely down to their ability to inhabit a range of various climactic zones, from meadows to fields to woodlands. Thankfully, they aren’t dangerous to humans at all, though they do have a venom that can incapacitate much larger insects and even the smallest fish.
When it comes to appearance, these guys are noticeable for the elongated back legs, which are about a third longer than the other limbs to the front. They have a furry, brown top with a slender body profile, and black lines sometimes dashing down the sides.
Spiders in Croatia – summing up
There are hundreds of different species of spiders in Croatia. This guide has homed in on just nine of the most common or remarkable. The bad news here is that there are some dangerous spiders in this salt-washed Balkan nation beside the Adriatic. The worst of them is the black widow, which is arguably the most feared spider anywhere on the planet. However, spider bites are rare and deaths from spider bites are almost unheard of. What’s more, most of the spiders in Croatia – from the humble nursery spider to the curious pink crab spider – pose not threat to us whatsoever.