There are over two hundred unique species of spiders can be found within Nebraska. These are the most common:
Cellar spiders, as picture at top of page, is a name that actually encompasses a collection of spider subspecies, tend to be common nationwide. They might even be the most prolific United States spider. Nebraska is no exception, and boasts a sizeable population.
The cellar spider is recognized both by its long, spindly legs and its preferred living location: basements. They enjoy dark and damp spaces indoors, where they comfortably live and breed year-round. Their natural life span ranges from two to three years, during which females may produce about three egg sacs.
They are harmless, and their bites – rare enough to begin with – have no effect on humans. In fact, their presence may be beneficial. Voracious hunters, they are not only capable of controlling insect populations inside a household, but can even eat other species of spiders. That being said, cellar spiders may be considered pests if their numbers grow exponential, due to their unique webbing traits. While the average spider will consume their old webs and before making a new one, cellar spiders continuously add to their webs over the course of their lifetime, resulting in large stretches of web that can be difficult to remove. There is also no pattern to their constructed webs, unlike some other webbing species – cellar spiders are content instead to create loose webs, in which caught prey will be shaken by the spider until they are fully entangled. The stereotypical image of an attic covered in wispy, weak cobwebs comes from this.
Cobweb Weaver Spider
Cobweb weavers, also an overarching name for many individual spider subspecies, have a diverse range of preferred habitats. Some live in woodpiles, others in dense vegetation, and many in homes. Their versatility makes them adaptable to a range of environments, though as with many species of spiders, they thrive best in a temperature-controlled climate. This makes them particularly prolific in households; in fact, the common household spider is actually a type of cobweb weaver. Other famous names under the cobweb weaver family are widows and the northern steatoda.
In Nebraska, the most commonly spotted cobweb weavers subspecies are common households and western black widows. While common households spiders are similar to the cellar spider in that they cause no harm to humans, the western black widow is worth watching out for. While they largely avoid areas highly trafficked by humans, their bites are venomous and often very painful. While death from a western black widow’s bite is uncommon, factors such as age, previous health, and allergies may affect the severity of the bite, making immediate medical treatment necessary.
Common traits of cobweb weavers are their short legs, the tips of which are covered in hairs. These hairs allow cobweb weavers to grab any pray stuck in their webs – which tend to lack pattern and are characterized by sticky threading – so that they may be further entangled in the spider’s silk. Body coloration ranges from each type of cobweb weaver. Western black widows are black with an hourglass-shaped red mark on their abdomens. Common household spiders are typically a brown or gray in color, and may have speckled abdomens.
Bowl and Doily Spiders
Part of the sheetweb spider family, bowl and doily spiders thrive during Nebraskan summers. They are named for their distinct webbing, which can be separated into two parts, which are referred to as the bowl and doily. The bowl is supported between weeds and shrubs, and the doily, a flat sheet of webbing, sits underneath. The spider spends most of its time suspended underneath the bowl, biting insects (largely gnats and flies) that fall into the doily. This provides a layer of protection from feistier prey, making their lethal injection of venom all the easier. Luckily, these bites are not harmful to humans.
Bowl and doily spiders are quite reliant on the sun. Unlike other spider species, they are capable of thermoregulation – the ability to keep body temperature in a certain range, regardless of environmental temperature – which is theorized to encourage their reproductive cycles.
Appearance-wise, a typical bowl and doily spider has a reddish-brown body broken up by whitish dots and yellow legs.
Flower Crab Spiders
One of Nebraska’s more unique spider species is the flower crab, also known as the misumena. Despite the fact that they are common across the United States, the flower crab is worth a mention thanks to its love of Nebraska’s native flowers. White and yellow flowers are preferred by the flower crab, which matches its body color and keeps it properly masked from its prey. In fact, flower crabs are capable of shifting their pigment to either color, matching their surroundings as needed. This process can take anywhere from ten to twenty-five days to complete. Green and brown flower crabs have also been spotted, but are less common.
As its name implies, the flower crab hunts and lives with flora. Without need of a web, the flower crab instead waits within vegetation or petal folds for an insect to approach, which it will grab, bite, and devour. Because of their reliance on vegetation, the flower crab is at its most active in the summer months. Juveniles live underground until the cold breaks, emerging as the flowers do.
Like most Nebraskan, spiders, they rarely bite unless directly handled. A bite from the flower crab causes no significant injury to humans other than minor, bite-localized pain.
The lawns and fields of Nebraska are home to the lynx spider, similar to the flower crab in that it forgoes webs and instead hunt its prey on plants. Its unique name is a reference to their “stalker” behavior, meaning that they will slowly follow and ambush spotted prey rather than allowing them to simply fall into their (metaphorical) laps. Their hunting behavior is characterized by their tendency to quickly through grass and pounce onto unsuspecting prey, much like a cat.
Lynx spiders are still capable of making webbing, but they dedicate their silk-making both to the protection of their eggs and for attaching more easily to plants. Egg sacs are suspended on vegetation in a swath of silk and protected by the mother, ensuring that the sac does not become a tasty treat for roving predators.
The lynx spider can be recognized for the small, sharp hairs lining its legs, which take on the appearance of black thorns. Nebraskan lynx spiders tend to be striped in whites, light grays, and blacks.
Many Nebraskan spiders fall under the category of “jumping spider”, a spider family containing such a diversity of members that identifying them from one another can prove incredibly difficult. Not only does the jumping spider family make up about 13% of all spider species, but some jumping spiders can be so small that they can’t be seen without the aid of magnification. Larger species more frequently recognized by the average Nebraskan, then, include the bold jumping spider and the peppered jumping spider – but their much smaller cousins still roam the Nebraskan vegetation, near naked to the human eye.
As the name implies, jumping spiders “jump” onto their prey instead of hunting them through nests, much like the aforementioned lynx spider. Their unique body shape tends towards a rounded abdomen, defined jaws, a fuzzy coat, and noticeable eyes, the latter of which often makes jumping spiders revered as the “cutest” of spider species among even the most arachnophobic of people.
Of course, given their great numbers and lack of a proper system to sort them under, these physical differences are subject to change from jumper to jumper. Many tend to live in yards and thick vegetation, though they are also known to make their homes in household nooks.
Fortunately, despite the density of their numbers, no Nebraskan jumping spider has a bite that is dangerous to human beings.
Brown Recluse Spiders
Unfortunately, the black widow is not the only mildly dangerous spider that lives in Nebraska. Brown recluses can also be found, almost entirely concentrated within residental and commericial buildings. While it is not native to Nebraska, brown recluses often come from surrounding states via accidental transport by human beings,.
From there, recluses often travel through the walls and flooring of the infected building, making them difficult to spot. Uniquely, it does not tend to live outdoors in Nebraska, whereas brown recluses in other states can be found both inside and outside.
While brown reclues prefer to keep to themselves, the brown recluse poses danger to humans due to the fact that its venom kills living tissue. While this usually doesn’t prove fatal (in fact, there are no verified deaths linked to a brown recluse’s bite recorded), it can be extremely painful and lead to severe illness in an affected person.
The brown recluse is most noticeable by its long, arched legs. Despite the name, a brown recluse’s colors can range from white, gray, black, and brown. A black stripe runs through their back, and is often referred to as a “violin pattern” and earning them the nickname of the “violin spider”. Uniquely, the brown recluse has three pairs of eyes – in comparison to the more common pattern of eight that most spiders tend to have.
Most characteristic of the brown recluse, besides its venomous properties, is its resourcefulness. It is one of the hardier spider species, able to survive up to six months of drought and lack of food. They gather food not through a web, which they construct only as a place to rest, but by actively hunting. This makes them one of the few spiders that leaves its nest in pursuit of food.
Where in Nebraska do spiders live?
Nebraskan spiders are similar to other species of spiders from out-of-state in that they tend to live in places where there is high insect activity. From there, each species of spider has adapted to live under unique conditions – some are able to withstand water and make their home by riverbanks to grab water-dwelling pray, while others may be found adopting tree trunks and rocks as natural protection for their webs. Spiders’ choice of habitat is often reflective of how they catch and kill their prey.
Nebraska is home to an incredibly diverse population of spiders, all of which occupy very unique niches in the state’s ecosystem. All of the aforementioned spiders are critical to controlling insect populations, and may even act as links in the food chain to other animals themselves.