If you’re jetting across to see the design museums of Copenhagen, unravel the history of Viking raiders in Roskilde, to hike the woods of Funen, or bathe in the North Sea around Jutland, you might want to read this guide first. It’s a 101 on the spiders of Denmark.
The MO? To pick out five of the most intriguing eight-legged critters in the country and home in on what they look like, where you’ll find them, what makes them unique, and – crucially for arachnophobe readers – if they present a risk to travelers.
Of course, there’s a whole load more species to be found in the country, so this is by no means an exhaustive list of spiders in Denmark. Here, we’ve whittled them all down to a quintet of curious critters that live in urban areas, in woodlands out in the countryside, and even in dark, damp holes on the lonely Baltic Sea islands off the Danish coast. Let’s take a look…
European sac spider (Cheiracanthium)
Also called the black-footed yellow sac spider, this critter is a very common species that’s now managed to spread its web (no pun intended) across the whole of Europe. In fact, it’s been so successful that it is also now present in the United States, as far afield as the mountains of Japan, and in Africa and Canada. Talk about a spider that likes to travel.
It’s possible to tell a European sac spider apart from its compadres because of two things: An enlarged abdomen and a unique color scheme. The former is by far the biggest component of the body, capable of swelling to a couple of millimeters across with the small spinnerets jutting out of the back end. The latter is almost always the same in this species no matter where it’s found, Denmark or Washington DC – a light and pale brown-yellow hue.
Generally not considered dangerous to humans, these guys do actually posses a venom. It’s just that the effects are pretty mild, although some scientists do posit potential for local swelling, pain at the site of contact, and even flesh necrosis in the worst cases. Strangely, European sac spiders seemed to take a liking to a certain brand of Mazda car back in 2012, leading to issues with the fuel valves and even a product recall.
Purseweb spider (Atypus affinis)
If there was any spider on this list of the most interesting spiders in Denmark that would undoubtedly strike fear into the hearts of arachnophobes, this one’s surely it. Cue the purseweb spider. It’s actually a member of the Mygalomorphae genus, which is the same branch that counts tarantulas in its number. Eek!
But before you get all scared and start canceling your hotels on the Jutland coast, chill…The purse webs found in Denmark and northern Europe aren’t dangerous at all. They do have a venom but it’s actually a touch less potent than that of a normal bee or wasp. On top of that, they are super rare, preferring to live in dark tunnels for virtually the whole year and only emerging into the light of day in the fall months of September and October.
In Denmark, the main populations of purseweb spiders are to be found on the salt-washed island of Bornholm. If you’re willing to risk an encounter, you’re in for an amazing place, where rocky beaches and blustery coves give way to old windmills and mysterious churches. No wonder the isle has been a muse for artists and painters for centuries. The spiders probably not so much.
Leaf curling sac spiders (Clubiona phragmitis)
The clubiona phragmitis is a species of large sac spider that’s super common all over Europe. It loves semi wetland and wetland habitats, so often resides near rivers, bogs, streams, and moors. No wonder, then, that it’s particularly prevalent in the UK, where it’s frequently found in the lush counties south of Yorkshire all the way to the English Channel.
It’s also a regular sighting in Denmark, where it has noticeably high population counts in the wooded backcountry of idyllic Funen and the eastern coastal flats of Jutland. That said, there’s potential to see these guys virtually anywhere in the home of cinnamon pastries and fairy tales, even in the beating heart of Copenhagen city center.
Although they can grow to considerably larger than most house spiders and have a formidable duo of claws at the front, leaf curling sac spiders aren’t anything to worry about. They don’t have anything like a potent venom and prefer to stalk small prey around open water than go head-to-head with humans. This species should be more active in the early spring and late fall months.
Comb-footed spider (Parasteatoda)
The comb-footed spider is one of those species that’s managed to set up shop in Europe, although its origins are likely to be in the far east around Japan and China. It’s still much more common in those far-flung lands than in humble little Denmark but can be spotted here between the forests of the Ravnstrup So Fuglereservat and the dunes of the Skagen shoreline. You’ll probably just have to look harder. If you want to.
Parasteatoda are generally no more than two to seven millimeters in length at full growth. They can be noticed thanks to the stark mustard yellowish and ochre patch that dapples the back of the abdomen, which itself is unusually enlarged, looking like a small marble with patterns covering the end. They can also have alternating color patterns on all of the legs.
Because they are quite adaptable and like a range of habitats, it’s possible to encounter comb-footed spiders in a whole range of places across the country. That said, they do prefer wooded areas that are dry and usually reside a couple of meters above the forest floor. AKA – look up if you’re keen to spot one!
Woodlouse spiders (Dysdera crocata)
Given that Denmark is covered in patches of old-growth woodland, coastal pine forests, beech forests, and all manner of other arboreal areas, it’s hardly a surprise that you can find this critter, which really is all about life in the trees.
Yep, the Dysdera crocata is a great lover of the more sylvan parts of the world. That means it’s right at home here in the country that gave the world Hans Christian Andersen, but also common across the UK and northern Europe more generally.
As the name implies, woodlouse spiders eat mainly woodlice. They are formidably fantastic at hunting their creepy crawly prey, too. No need for webs. They have a powerful set of jaws and a keen ability to hunt at night, which helps them unearth unsuspecting meals in the darker hours. The female of the species is also known to be pretty scary when protecting its young or eggs, and even known to attack other passing spiders without warning.
Woodlouse spiders are colored a gingery brown and measure between 10-15mm (women) or 9-10mm (men) in total. They have a long abdomen that’s more egg-shaped than round, with those tough teeth pointing right out the front. There have been some attacks on humans given their aggressive nature, however none – so far – have led to any recorded medical complications.
Spiders in Denmark – a conclusion
There are thousands of species of spiders in Denmark. Thankfully, none of them are particularly dangerous to humans and we’re not looking at the beefy tarantulas or feared black widows that lurk elsewhere on the planet. Mainly, this country has small woodland and house spiders that are commonly encountered, more so in the warmer months of the year and at key breeding times. You’ll find them across the whole nation, from the salty bays of Bornholm to the dune landscapes of Jutland.
Are there any deadly spiders in Denmark?
There aren’t any deadly spiders in Denmark. That’s not to say that there are no dangerous spiders in the country. Some are thought to possess venom that could cause local swelling and even potential medical complications. However, there aren’t any species like the brown recluse or banana spider that can be routinely fatal to humans.
Where do spiders live in Denmark?
Spiders live all over Denmark. Some spider species prefer the backcountry, like the leaf curling sac spiders that tend to live near open water or bogs. Others prefer warm and damp spaces like underground cellars or attics in more built-up urban areas.