Holmes Lawn & Pest Blog

The Huntsman Spider

what does a huntsman spider look like

Though these alarming critters are not overly common, the huntsman spider has been reported in parts of Utah. Since the 1970’s, there have been roughly 30 reports of huntsman spiders in Utah. Most species of huntsman spiders are believed to be native to Asia, but large populations of select huntsman spider species are common to and only found in Australia; however, reports of huntsman spiders come from all over the world. 


Neosparassus and Beregama are two common genuses of huntsman spiders and include what is known as the golden huntsman, which is a type of huntsman spider most often identified in Utah. Depending on the species, huntsman spiders typically have black to brown, or even goldish yellow, bodies, and they are excellent climbers. If you were to find a huntsman spider in your home, it will likely be climbing up your walls or across your ceiling. The bite of a huntsman spider is not known to be medically significant, but it can be painful and cause nausea or headaches, making them a spider worth remembering.

Appearance

The “golden huntsman” nickname could apply to several species of huntsman spiders, but it is generally agreed upon that those species belong to either the Neosparassus or Beregama genus. Another common nickname for this spider is the “giant crab spider” due to its physical attributes being similar to those of a giant crab. While some species of huntsman spiders found in Asia can grow up to a foot in length, the golden huntsman is much smaller. 

 

Huntsman spiders found in Utah typically have bodies that are about 1 inch in length, with legs spanning no longer than 5 or 6 inches. Both their bodies and legs are covered in small hairs, and they are colored anywhere from a sandy brown to a golden shade, typically with black or dark markings. The abdomen is typically smaller than the cephalothorax, though females do have larger abdomens than males, and the bodies of these spiders could be described as flat. 

 

At the front of the cephalothorax are two rows of eight eyes, which sit just above two moderately large fangs. On both sides of the fangs are two pedipalps that are slightly longer than the creature’s fangs and have dark, sock-like tips. These “socks” are also commonly found at the tips of the huntsman spider’s legs. Because of their large legs, large fangs, and hairy appearance, huntsman spiders are often incorrectly identified as tarantulas.

Mating And Life Cycle

When the male is searching for a mate, he produces a sound to attract a female. The sound emanates from the abdominal area of the spider and has been likened to the ticking of a clock. Once a mate is found, the courtship is a relatively long and peaceful process compared to many other species of spiders. The male is rarely attacked by the female, and it is not uncommon to find large colonies of huntsman spiders living peacefully. 

 

While the female huntsman spider usually stays calm during mating, she is known to be quite aggressive when it comes to defending her eggs. She creates an egg sac that holds up to 200 eggs, which she then buries or hides under rocks or tree debris. The mother is said to fiercely stand guard over her eggs for up to three weeks, even forgoing eating while she protects the sac. It is also not uncommon for some species of huntsman spider to carry their egg sacs underneath their bodies as they move.

 

Once hatched, the mother huntsman spider will stay with the spiderlings for a few weeks. After roughly a month, the young spiders will start to hunt on their own. Like all spiders, the huntsman spiderlings go through several stages of molting before reaching full maturity. Immature huntsman spiders are a pale color, and they get darker as they molt. The full lifespan of the huntsman spider is two to two-and-a-half years, which is a relatively long life compared to other spiders.

Habitat And Habits

Huntsman spiders do not build webs. The only silk they spin is used to create egg sacs. Instead of catching prey in a web, huntsman spiders stay true to their name and prefer to hunt and attack their victims. As exceptional climbers, most huntsman spiders live in trees between tree bark. Occasionally, these spiders can find their way inside homes and garages. If a huntsman spider were in your home, you would likely see it jumping and scurrying quickly along all surfaces of your home. 

 

The prey of huntsman spiders depends upon the climate and environment, but they typically hunt and eat insects and other invertebrates, such as crickets, wasps, beetles, and more. In many situations/climates, these spiders commonly prey upon saller frogs and lizards, even to the point of often being nicknamed “lizard-eating spiders.”

 

Through a combination of running and jumping, huntsman spiders have been recorded at speeds near 10 miles per hour. They prefer to be outdoors in warmer, arid conditions, and they often wait for prey between tree bark, under or on boulders, hidden beneath shrubbery, or any other area that enables them to attack suddenly and without warning. They inject venom into their victims, and their large and powerful fangs hold the prey still until the venom immobilizes them.

How Dangerous Are They?

As previously stated, huntsman spiders are not the most common type of spider in Utah, but reports of them in homes do exist and are much more common around the world. These spiders do find themselves indoors occasionally, especially in Australia, but they prefer to be out in nature. While it is believed that huntsman spiders do not like the presence of humans, they have been known to act aggressively when threatened. 

 

Reports of bites are low, but that is likely because these large spiders are difficult to miss in your home, and most people tend to flee the area when one is spotted. If a bite does occur, it will likely occur quite suddenly due to their speed and jumping ability. The venom they inject into their prey is not medically significant to humans; however, These bites will always be painful due to the large fangs of the creature, and reports do exist of bites leading to nausea and headaches. Aside from these symptoms, no severe reactions seem to occur in humans as a result of a huntsman spider bite.

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