Critter Highlight

The Dark Fishing Spider

Does the bright sun make you feel like hiding in the shade? Then you're in good company! Our Critter Highlight for July is the Dark Fishing Spider!

Dark Fishing Spiders are larger than many other common spiders in Maryland, and are all the more noticeable for it. An adult female may be up to 3.5 inches wide (including their legs) and is larger than males, a common occurrence in spiders. They are not tarantulas, although they are often mistaken for them, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell apart from wolf spiders as well.

While you might think that 'fishing' spiders would only be found near water, Dark Fishing Spiders may live in a variety of locations through the forests, and other damp and dark locations in homes, sheds, and garages. They are more likely found on trees than other fishing spiders, and their diet reflects the difference between them and their cousins.

Fishing spiders' preference for habitat is indeed near water, where they are known to walk over the surface of the water to catch aquatic prey. Meanwhile, Dark Fishing Spiders are ambush predators that wait for insects to pass them, and utilize their coloration as camouflage to this effect. Dark Fishing Spiders cover a wide range over North America, being found as far north as Canada, and as far south as the southern extremities of Texas and Florida, and their location on the continent dictates their primary prey.

Photo by Kara Jones

This time of year, many females have formed egg sacs, which they will carry with them. The mothers will build a 'nursery web' to house their hundreds of babies shortly before they hatch. After this, the mothers will guard and care for their numerous offspring until they venture out on their own.

While the Dark Fishing Spider can bite humans, they are much more likely to run from the perceived threat posed by us. If one is bit by a Dark Fishing Spider, the bite is often no worse than a bee or wasp sting, except in individuals sensitive to spider venom.

So as the hottest days of summer approach, let's make like a Dark Fishing Spider, and find a cool spot to relax in the shade of the trees!