Alaska is the northernmost and coldest U.S. State. With vast forested regions, grand mountain ranges, and miles and miles of coastline, it’s a truly spectacular destination to visit. Alaska is home to an abundance of wildlife: from brown bears to moose, wolves, and many creepy crawlies. There are over 600 species of spiders in Alaska.
Arachnophobes don’t stress: the vast majority of these species are totally harmless to humans. From large hairy wolf spiders to deep diving six spotted fishing spiders, spiders in Alaska come in all shapes and sizes.
So, what spiders in Alaska are worth knowing about? Join us as we breakdown 9 interesting species of spiders in Alaska.
Trapdoor Spider (Ctenizidae)
Alaska is home to a large population of trapdoor spiders. These spiders range from dark brownish-black to reddish-brown in color and grow up to 1.6 inches in length. Trapdoor spiders are found in tropical regions throughout the world. Some species are common in the southern and western United States, and a few are seen in southern Europe. They occupy a range of habitats from shady riverbanks to open desert, often preferring steep slopes and loose or sandy soil.
Unlike many of the other species of spiders in Alaska, trapdoor spiders don’t spin webs. Instead, they live in silk-lined underground burrows, which they tend to construct on the sides of forested ravines. They hide behind the doors of these burrows, waiting for prey to pass by. When they sense something coming, they ambush and kill their prey.
Trapdoor spiders eat a variety of insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, and even praying mantises. They have also been known to consume frogs, baby birds, baby snakes, mice, and even small fish. Trapdoor spiders are not dangerous to humans, though their bites can be painful and cause local swelling.
Hobo Spider (Eratigena agrestis)
Hobo spiders can also be found in Alaska. These spiders are 7–14 mm in body length, and brownish in color. They have chevron-like patterns on their abdomen and boxing glove-shaped palps in front of the body. Hobo spiders are known colloquially as funnel-web spiders. This is because they build funnel webs that open at both ends with one end expanding outward into a broad, slightly curved sheet.
Hobo spiders can be found in habitats containing holes, cracks, or crevices. They prefer dark, moist spots such as basements and window wells and are rarely found above ground level due to their poor climbing skills. While non-aggressive in nature, the hobo spider will bite in defense – male hobo spiders are responsible for more bites than female hobo spiders.
There is debate about the effects of hobo spider bites. It was previously thought that they are capable of producing a necrotic lesion similar to that caused by brown recluse spiders. However, there is little evidence that this is the case. The prevailing thought is that hobo spider bites cause only mild pain and redness.
Six Spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton)
The Six-spotted Fishing Spider, also called the dock spider, is a species of large semi-aquatic spider found in Alaska. The body is brown to brownish grey with a white to pale cream color stripe down their bodies and several light color spots in the abdomen. They are skilled hunters that are mostly seen close to the edges of pools and streams, amidst bushes, where they wait for their prey.
The six-spotted fishing spider is one of eight species of spider that eats fish. Angling from the water’s surface, it hunts and eats fish, tadpoles, and other invertebrates. It can dive up to 18 cm (7.1 in) down into the water to hunt its prey. They can also run along the surface of the water. Six-spotted fishing spiders can bite humans, but only when they feel threatened. However, they generally seek to avoid human contact. While they do carry venom, which they inject when they bite, this venom is very weak. Bites from six spotted fishing spiders are not more severe than the sting of a bee or wasp.
Common house spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum)
The common house spider is one of Alaska’s most prevalent spiders. This spider is found in people’s homes throughout the world. They have long thin legs and are usually dull brown in color with different shapes and splotches on their abdomens. As the name suggests, the Common House Spider likes to hang out in humans’ homes. They can be found in basements, attics, and crawl spaces as well as barns, privies, and stables.
While the common house spiders make their webs in and around human habitations, they are generally avoidant of humans. These spiders pose no harm whatsoever to humans.
Daring jumping spider (Phidippus audax)
The daring jumping spider is another species of spider found in Alaska and throughout the USA. Daring jumping spiders are black with three marks on the abdomen. When they are young, the three spots on the abdomen are of orange color. As they grow older, those markings will turn white. They grow to about 3/4 inch (19 mm), with short but powerful legs.
Daring jumping spiders get their name from their tendency to jump high in the air; they are capable of jumping up to 50 times their own body length. While this can be an unnerving sight, daring jumping spiders pose little risk to humans. They are not aggressive towards humans, preferring to run (or jump) and hide rather than attack. However, there are rare cases where their bites have caused pain and significant swelling.
Rabbit Hutch Spider (Steatoda bipunctata)
The Rabbit Hutch Spider is a species of extremely common spider found throughout the US. It has a glossy chestnut brown or black abdomen, usually with a thin pale band stretching across the front that incorporates a central white ‘V’ just behind the head. Females grow up to 7mm and males to about 5 mm. They are usually found indoors, often in garages, sheds and animal pens.
The rabbit hutch spider comes from the same family as the feared black widow and the two species are commonly confused for one another. The Rabbit Hutch Spider is also known as the False Widow because it is nearly the same size and has a similar body shape. When they are black, they are often confused with Black Widow spiders, but it’s easy to tell them apart by observing their lack of a red hourglass marking on the bottom of their abdomen. Unlike their dangerous doppelgangers, rabbit hutch spiders are completely harmless to humans.
Cat-faced spider (Araneus gemmoides)
The cat-faced spider is a species of unusual-looking spider found in Alaska. They have large, bulbous abdomens that look like the face of a cat when viewed from the front. Some say that this shape looks less like a cat and more like a diamond, leading to the spider’s other colloquial name: the jewel spider. The spider comes in various colors ranging from almost completely white to bright orange and dark brown. The cat-faced spider usually grows between 0.2 and 1 inch long (5-25 mm), with short legs and a comparably large abdomen.
Cat-faced spiders are orb-weavers – a type of spider that is completely harmless to humans. They are extremely timid in nature and will always try to get away rather than fight. Even if they do bite, their venom will do nothing more than cause a small blemish that will fade.
Wolf spider (Lycosidae)
Alaska is home to a large population of wolf spiders – they are found everywhere and in almost any habitat. These sizable spiders can grow to more than four inches in length (not including the legs). They tend to be brown and hairy. Wolf spiders don’t spin webs. Rather, they hunt in search of prey. Wolf spiders eat insects and other invertebrates, and really large females might eat very small vertebrates, like amphibians and reptiles, if they find them.
While wolf spiders have a dangerous reputation, in reality, they don’t pose too much harm to humans. They are non-aggressive in nature and they don’t tend to confront humans. This being said, their bites can cause some pain, redness, and swelling that can last for up to 10 days. Occasionally the skin area near the bite can turn black.
Running crab spider (Philodromidae)
Running crab spiders are a fast-moving species of spider found in Alaska. Running crab spiders have flat-looking bodies and are usually brown or grey in color. Their front legs appear longer than their back legs, but they are actually the same size. They can be found in pastures or forests by a water source, as well as some residential areas.
Running crab spiders only build webs for their egg sac. Like wolf spiders, the running crab spider doesn’t spin webs to catch prey. Instead, they chase their prey down, inject them with venom and then eat them. Their camouflage coloring works to their advantage, helping them to blend into leaves and branches and then ambush their prey. As close relatives, it can be easy to mistake a Running Crab Spider for a Crab Spider, but true Crab Spiders have much longer front legs than back legs. Running crab spiders do carry a venomous bite, but it’s not terribly harmful to humans. Symptoms usually include redness and swelling.
Are spiders common in Alaska?
Spiders are common in Alaska. These eight-legged creatures can be found wherever you go, whether you’re walking in the woods, by the coast, or in your house. There are over 600 species of spiders in Alaska. Thankfully, however, the vast majority of spiders in Alaska are completely harmless.
Are there poisonous spiders in Alaska?
In the United States, the only truly dangerous species of spiders are black widows and brown recluse spiders. Fortunately, brown recluse spiders and black widows do not occur in Alaska – so there are no dangerous spiders in Alaska. However, a number of spiders found in Alaska are capable of delivering a nasty bite – including trapdoor spiders and wolf spiders.
What is the largest spider in Alaska?
There are several big spiders in Alaska. The biggest spiders in Alaska are the six-spotted fishing spiders, with a leg span of over 3 inches (8mm). Some wolf spiders (Lycosidae) can also reach a similar size.