Spiders of the Everglades

spidersSpiders can be found anywhere on Earth, but most people prefer that these creepy crawlers be outside far away. In the Everglades, there are thousands upon thousands spread across the 1.5 million acres of wetlands. To be more exact, there are around 20,000 spiders per acre of land in the Everglades. Most of these spiders are so small, you cannot see them. Being such a warm climate, spiders enjoy and thrive in Southern Florida. While exploring the Everglades, people often get a glimpse of spiders on their webs.

Some of the Everglades spiders are native to Florida, while others have made their way to the state on ships, airplanes, and other animals. Some of these spiders make webs in the trees, while others hide and live under leaves and brush on the wetland floor. These eight-legged creatures might not be the most pleasant to look at, but they are essential to the Everglades’ ecosystem; they are both a prey and a predator. They eat a lot of insects, which in turn controls the population of that insect.

Below are some of the types of spiders you can spot while visiting the Everglades:

Banana Spider – This spider is an orb-weaving spider. They feed on mosquitoes, bees, butterflies, flies, small moths, and wasps. This spider is also known as a gold silk spider, because of the color of the silk of their webs. They love high humidity. The female banana spider is one of the largest orb weavers in America (around three inches long). The female has tufts of hair on each leg and can be yellow, white, orange and brown on its body. The males are dark brown in color. The female will spin a strong, three-foot-wide web. The banana spider is not aggressive and its bite is harmless to humans.

Red Widow Spider – The red widow spider gets its name from its reddish color of its head and legs; its abdomen is black. This is a venomous spider. According to the University of Missouri, no bites from this particular spider have ever been recorded. Very little is actually known about this spider’s venom. Female red widow spiders are a ½ inch in size and male spiders are about 1/3 of the size of the female. This spider can be found in the pine scrub habitat, which is found on sandy ridges in central and southeastern Florida. It builds its web on palmetto leaves. The primary prey of this spider is the scarab beetle.

Wolf Spider – Wolf spiders are large spiders ranging from ¼ of an inch to over an inch in size. They are usually brown, gray, black or tan, with dark markings and stripes on their bodies. Their coloring is a form of camouflage, because they do not catch their prey on a web, but they hunt their food. They have excellent night vision and are very fast; they hunt for insects at night. They mainly live on the ground. Wolf spiders don’t bite humans, unless threatened, and their venom isn’t harmful.

Brown Recluse Spider – This spider is one of the most poisonous spiders in the Everglades. These spiders are found across the world, but are most common in tropical climates. They are not native to Florida. This spider is considered a medium-sized spider and around the size of a quarter. Although they make webs, recluse spiders often wander to look for their food, such as cockroaches and other insects. A brown recluse spider will not bite a human unless it’s trapped up against the person’s skin (rolling onto a spider, or putting on clothes that the spider has crawled into). People react differently to a brown recluse bite, but the venom can cause necrosis, loss of limb, and death.

Crab Spider – A crab spider gets its name, because it holds their legs to its sides like a crab does; they also scuttle sideways like a crab. They can range in size from less than ½ inch to one inch. This spider does not spin a web, but lives on the ground. It prefers to ambush its prey, and its brown, black and gray colorings allow it to blend in with the environment. They bite their prey and suck it dry. Their bite isn’t harmful to humans.

Viewing the Spiders
Whether you find them beautiful or terrifying, spiders are a significant part of the Everglade’s ecosystem. Grab a ride on an airboat to try and catch a glimpse of one of these arachnids sitting on its web. To book an airboat tour, visit Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours here or call 239-695-3377.

Widows of the Everglades

A female black widow spider.

A female black widow spider.

The Florida Everglades is an area that is certainly not without its creepy crawlies, and one can never talk about the most fascinating, yet terrifying, creatures of the Everglades without mentioning some of the spiders that can be found there. Fortunately, of the hundreds, if not thousands, of species of spiders that can be found in the Everglades, only a very small number of them are venomous to humans.

The most commonly found venomous spider that can be found in the Everglades is the black widow, a species that is found throughout the southeastern United States and as far north as Ohio. They are quite distinctive in appearance, with females having large, black bodies with a red hourglass design in the center. There are other types of widow spiders, most notably the brown widow and the red widow, both of which can be found in southern Florida in addition to their more famous cousin. Both of these spiders are also considered poisonous, though less so than the black widow.

All species in the widow family get their names from a unique behavior performed by the females – after mating, they will occasionally kill the males. This may explain why female black widow spiders have a lifespan of up to three years, while males are lucky to live three days. This may also explain their great variation in size and appearance. Female black widows are shiny and black, reaching lengths of around 1.5 inches, and containing the famous red hourglass pattern – although in many individuals it will be more orange in color and not resemble an hourglass at all. Males, on the other hand, rarely exceed 0.25 inches in length and are more purple in color, lacking any red or orange pattern completely.

While the practice of black widow mating is creepy in itself, the practice of cannibalism within the species does not stop there. While a female black widow can lay more than 3,000 eggs during a single summer breeding season, it is estimated that only around thirty survive to the first molting. Why? Because of lack of shelter or food initially, but most creepily because of their tendency to turn to each other as sources of food during times of scarcity.

Fortunately, while black widow venom is toxic to humans, it is very seldom fatal. It is, however, along with their particularly strong webs, highly effective at catching and subduing their intended prey, which typically consists of small insects, centipedes, millipedes, and other spiders. Once their prey has become entangled in their webs, webs which are strong enough to even capture small rodents at times, the widow spider will bite its victim and inject it with its venom. Once the prey has succumbed to the venom, which usually takes about ten minutes, the widow will carry it back to its nest to feed on.

Spiders are definitely one of the most feared creatures in the animal kingdom, and black widows and their close cousins are absolutely among the creepiest of the bunch. It’s likely that you’d prefer not to see any on an Everglades swamp tour with your family, and chances are good that you won’t – these species are incredibly shy and non-aggressive, despite the bad rap that they’ve been given. Everglades airboat tours are, however, a great chance to see much of Florida’s wildlife up close, and are not to be missed when visiting Florida this season.