Can you identify this spider?
August 8, 2007 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Can you identify this spider? It is currently in the basement of a house in upstate NY (Rochester area).

There's some concern among the homeowners (friends of mine) that it's a black widow.
posted by chr1sb0y to Science & Nature (22 answers total)
How big is it? It looks like it's an American House Spider which would be completely harmless.
posted by cardboard at 6:59 AM on August 8, 2007

The positive identification for a black widow would be a red, hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of the abdomen, but I assume nobody wants to get close enough to look. How big is the spider? Can you photograph it with a coin or common object for a sense of scale?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:00 AM on August 8, 2007

Unless something's up with your camera (or my eyes), I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's not a black widow, as the spider is red. A black widow spider looks like this.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:01 AM on August 8, 2007

Black widows are .. .. black, with a red hourglass on the underside of the abdomen.
posted by SpecialK at 7:01 AM on August 8, 2007

Well...It might be a male Black Widow...
Quoting Wikipedia:
    Male black widow spiders are half the size of the female or smaller. They have longer legs and a smaller abdomen in relation to their body size. They are also usually dark brown with varying colors of stripes/dots, with no hourglass mark.

posted by Thorzdad at 7:09 AM on August 8, 2007

Male Black Widows (and cobweb weavers in general) don't have a fat abdomen like the spider in the picture.
posted by cardboard at 7:12 AM on August 8, 2007

It doesn't seem to have a match on the handy dangerous spider chart.
posted by mikepop at 7:30 AM on August 8, 2007

Male Black Widows (and cobweb weavers in general) don't have a fat abdomen like the spider in the picture.
And yet, the spider in the photo has both a fat abdomen and is on a web...

Could it be a "False Widow" (Steatoda grossa)?
posted by solotoro at 7:34 AM on August 8, 2007

Can you describe the web? It didn't come through very well on the photos. Is it circular and geometric, haphazard, etc.? In the third it looks a bit octagonal and geometric. I believe that eliminates Black Widows since they create webs with no pattern. Same thing for Steatoada.
posted by jwells at 7:39 AM on August 8, 2007

My bad, cardboard, on re-reading I realize you could well have meant male cobweb weavers, in general, don't have fat abdomens; apologies.
(PS - I don't know anything about spiders. I'm surprised how much I've enjoyed the two recent ID questions about them considering how little I like them in person.)
posted by solotoro at 7:46 AM on August 8, 2007

Man, I know this isn't necessarily the right thing to say, but the only identification I'd be doing on that spider would be with a shoe. A big ass shoe. Or a plank of wood. Or a book. I would identify it post-act as "Dead brain-eating spider".
posted by fredoliveira at 7:53 AM on August 8, 2007 [4 favorites]

Actually, black widows aren't always dark and black. I found one in California (LA) that was mainly brown, complete with red hourglass. (bloody thing fell out of my TV guide, on the sofa!).

I feel sorry for spiders. They get killed for no better reason than being creepy.
posted by Goofyy at 8:11 AM on August 8, 2007

Looks like a Brown Widow to me. Do a Google image search for "Brown Widow."
posted by HotPatatta at 8:19 AM on August 8, 2007

This is somewhat off-topic, but... why, on that dangerous spider chart, does the picture of the huntsman spider wiggle every five seconds or so? Is it just to freak out the spider-phobic? Is it some kind of issue with the gif, or with my browser (Firefox Is it just an imagining of my fevered subconscious? Or do huntsman spiders periodically wiggle in real life, whereas all other species stand stock still with all their legs spread out for easy identification?
posted by Drexen at 8:35 AM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

It should be noted that there is a whole family of 'widow spiders' beyond the dreaded black widow. It did kind of look like it had an hourglass on its underside and besides the colour it reminds me a lot of a black widow. I say let it outside or kill it and be done with it, and don't unnecessarily freak out unless you see more.
posted by dino terror at 8:44 AM on August 8, 2007

I second the brown widow proposal. I also second the shoe first, identification later proposal.
posted by littlegreenlights at 8:48 AM on August 8, 2007

Good on you for not getting crazy and killing it offhand, still my best guess is that is a black widow. The nesting habit is right... close to the ground on a hard man-made material. And the shape, gloss and markings are right. The only thing off is the color and I suspect the occasional black widow might end up that way.

I was bitten on the forearm by a black widow a couple of years ago, and all a got was a golf-ball sized purple lump that took a couple of weeks to disappear. Granted, I may not have been fully envenomated but it didn’t hurt and I suffered no other ill effects.

Just the same, I would kill it and destroy any egg sacks it had.
posted by Huplescat at 9:22 AM on August 8, 2007

The spider is of the Therid family- same as the Black Widow. It probably is on a tangle web- the typical web woven by spiders in this family. It is not a male- males are smaller and have structures called palps on the fifth set of appendages near the mouth.

It is no danger to you- these spiders do not wander- they stay in dark spaces and corners and they stay on their webs- the globular abdomen is awkward and not conducive to wandering around on floors, walls, etc....
posted by ohdeanna at 10:06 AM on August 8, 2007

I would suggest submitting it to What's that Bug? They're the best bug (and spider) identification site on the net.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:43 AM on August 8, 2007

Ok, I'm as positive as you can get looking at a picture over the internet that this is Steatoda grossa, the false black widow. See pictures here and here (1/4 of the way down) and especially here. Apparently the purplish-brown color is a dead giveaway.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:24 AM on August 8, 2007

Drexen, that's an animated .gif, not just your imagination. I think they're just being assholes.
posted by fidelity at 12:20 PM on August 8, 2007

It's Steatoda. They're often called "false black widows." The "red hourglass" on a black widow, by the way, may be orange or yellow and may not resemble an hourglass.
posted by Eothele at 3:39 PM on August 15, 2007

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