Possibly the creepiest and crawliest of all Iowa’s critters, spiders are an often misunderstood and undervalued part of nature in Iowa. A few things you may not know about Iowa’s spiders:
They’re not out to get you.
Spiders are minding their own business there in the corner or in the yard – they have no interest in people and for the most part, they have no reason to bite unless threatened.
Spiders specialize in pest control.
While you may consider the spider a pest, that one spider in your yard eats around 2,000 insects a year, so consider what your yard would be like without them!
Not all of our spiders are actually spiders.
One of the most well-known Iowa spiders actually isn’t a spider. Daddy long legs are arachnids – they have eight legs, after all – but not all arachnids are spiders. The arachnid family includes spiders, ticks, mites and even scorpions. Daddy long legs are actually Harvestmen – they can’t make webs and have no fangs to bite with. The worst thing a daddy long legs can do to people is give off a foul smell as a defense mechanism. Some cellar spiders are also called Daddy long legs.
Not all spiders use a web to catch prey.
The wolf spider is a hunter, actively stalking its prey at night without the aid of a web. Its large size, speed and hairiness can cause some fear in people, but if you see one, it’s most likely trying to run away from you. Being bitten by a wolf spider is rare, unless you were trying to pick it up, and even if it did bite, its venom is not lethal to people. Because of its size and furriness, the wolf spider is sometimes confused with a tarantula, but those are much larger and hairier, and not found in the wild in Iowa.
Venomous spiders are rare in Iowa.
Yes, the brown recluse spider’s range goes as far north as southern Iowa, but as its name implies, brown recluses are rarely seen. These spiders are also not aggressive. They can be identified by a violin-shaped mark on their back and by their eye arrangement. If you believe you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse, see a medical professional, but also know that many skin issues can be misdiagnosed as a brown recluse bite. Even the black widow, rare in Iowa, is nonaggressive and bites only in self-defense. While anyone bitten by a black widow should seek immediate medical attention, the bite is rarely fatal when treated.
Spiders aren’t untouchable.
Spiders make tasty snacks for all kinds of critters, including birds, lizards, snakes, wasps and even other spiders.
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