top of page

Every product we recommend is handpicked by our editors. When you buy something, we may earn a commission. Why trust us?

chanel bleu 2024.jpg
  • Writer's pictureCasey Wilson

This Guide Will Help You Identify The 10 Most Dangerous Spiders

Poisonous Spiders may be small, but they can be deadly. I wrote this quick guide to help hikers and hunters identify the most dangerous ones.

There are a lot of dangerous animals that American hikers and hunters need to worry about. We all know of the obvious threats like mountain lions and bears, and we prepare so we can be safe if we end up encountering them. You should keep in mind, however, that there are also other animals to be wary of. Yes, I'm talking about spiders. And believe it or not, there is actually a good amount of venomous spiders out in the wild.

Their bites can range from annoying to deadly, so you really need to keep an eye out for those creepy crawlies whenever you’re in nature. Here are the 10 most dangerous spiders that you should avoid at all costs.

The Black Widow

When it comes to poisonous spiders, the black widow is probably the most well-known and the most feared. Also known by the scientific name latrodectus, the black widow has a bite that can be a real problem to humans. Over 2000 people in America get bitten by black widows every year. Don’t be one of them.

Here’s how to identify a black widow spider. While their patterns can vary, the most common variant is very unique and easy to spot. They are all black with red markings on their abdomens. The red will usually present itself in an hourglass shape. If you see a spider like that, stay away. And if you do end up being bitten by one, drop everything and go seek medical attention.

The Southern Black Widow

There are a lot of species of black widow out there, and the southern black widow is among the deadliest. This spider is known to have venom more intense than a rattlesnake. It isn’t known whether any human has ever died from being bitten by a southern black widow, but it is generally thought that it is possible. There are also plenty of nasty side effects other than death that you will want to avoid, so keep away!

In general, the southern black widow looks a lot like the common black widow that is referred to above. With that in mind, you should treat it like any other black widow. Identify it quickly by the hourglass shape and stay away.

The Brown Recluse

Another infamous spider, the brown recluse is largely found throughout the southeastern and midwestern United States. They are typically around the size of a quarter and have long, skinny legs. As the name implies, they are most commonly brown, but they can also present in lighter colors (sometimes appearing nearly white). They are also known to have a violin-shaped pattern on their bodies, so keep an eye out for that.

Brown recluses generally prefer dark spaces, particularly piles of rotting wood. They don’t seek out humans, and will only really bite when their nesting spaces are messed with. Try to avoid spots where a brown recluse might be and you should be alright. Most bites aren’t too bad, but some can cause necrosis and even more severe symptoms. Death is uncommon, but it can happen.

The Hobo Spider

The hobo spider is known for hanging around humans, making it one that you should keep a careful eye out for both when you’re in the outdoors and when you’re in your home. With that being said, it has a relatively narrow range, mostly existing in the northwest of the United States as well as portions of the Great Basin. It's been frequently spotted on the tiny island of Peberholm, in the Danish part of the Øresund strait, having been carried there in all likelihood by foreign trains. The hobo spiders are a bit difficult to identify, but the chevron pattern on their back can help with that.

The actual result of their bite is something that is debated within the scientific community. It is largely thought that their bites can cause necrosis, similar to the brown recluse. However, some scientists now disagree with this. Either way, a bite from a hobo spider should still be avoided.

The Yellow Sac Spider

Here’s one that you may have never heard of before. The yellow sac spider is relatively obscure, although there are literally hundreds of species of them throughout the world. The main species of yellow sac spider that you need to worry about while hiking and hunting in America is cheiracanthium mildei, typically known as the northern yellow sac spider.

To identify this arachnid, look for its light green color. They are pretty small, with most fully grown individuals clocking in at less than half an inch long. Their bite isn’t known to be fatal, but it can still cause significant discomfort and pain. The effects of its bite are also still debated, meaning that the best thing you can do is just not get bitten by one. It can be found throughout the United States.

The Wolf Spider

Wolf spiders are found pretty much everywhere in the world, and that definitely includes America. Luckily for hunters, though, wolf spider bites aren’t known to be particularly dangerous. They are known to be extremely painful, however, due to the venom that they inject. You won’t die if you get bitten by one, but you won’t enjoy it much either.

Wolf spiders can vary in size and appearance, making them relatively hard to identify for those who aren’t well-versed in spider anatomy. One way that you can tell a wolf spider, however, is by shining a light at it. If its eyes reflect the light back at you, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a wolf spider. Their eye configuration is also helpful in identification. They have three rows of eyes, with a top row of two medium-sized eyes, a middle row of two large eyes, and a bottom row of four small eyes.

The Mouse Spider

Mouse spiders are slightly rarer than the other species that we have covered thus far, but they have still been found quite often in America. They are generally located in the western states. There are multiple species of the mouse spider, but they are generally all-black. The males have distinct red heads that are quite intimidating, so try to look for that.

The bite of the mouse spider is known for being quite painful. They have a reputation for being rather gentle, so you should just leave them be if you see them. Kids in particular have an adverse reaction to mouse spider bites, so try to keep your children away from them as much as you can. They are interesting looking spiders, but they should definitely be treated with the proper respect.

The Brown Widow

No, that’s not a typo. A close cousin to the black widow, the brown widow is another one of the widow spiders that can be found throughout the world. Unlike the black variation, however, the brown widow isn’t known to have a bite that is particularly deadly. That’s because the brown widow injects less venom with every bite than a black widow does, making each bite less potent and dangerous.

Should you still be wary of brown widows? Of course! They’re venomous spiders, and that means that their bites can still cause major problems. You can tell them apart from black widows by the fact that they’re, uh, brown. Yeah, you get the idea. They still retain that same signature hourglass pattern, though. The combination of that and their lighter color should be a dead giveaway.

The Red Widow

There’s one more widow spider that American hikers and hunters should be worried about, and that’s the red widow. Luckily enough, most Americans will never encounter one, as they pretty much only live in the sand dunes of Florida. If you’re a Floridian, though, it would be wise to memorize this spider’s appearance in order to avoid it.

The red widow has a unique crimson appearance with a black abdomen. The hourglass shape that we’ve come to know and fear is absent from the red widow’s body, however, and is instead replaced with a pattern of red dots. Because of the specific location and easy-to-spot color of this spider, it’s not likely that you are going to miss it. The spider is incredibly venomous and can be deadly, but getting bitten by one is extremely uncommon.

The False Tarantula

In general, tarantulas are creepier than they are dangerous. If you see one, you are probably more scared of it than you should be. False tarantulas, on the other hand, actually have a pretty painful bite. Calisoga longitarsus, as it is professionally known, is one spider that should be avoided not due to its venom but due to the sheer pain a bite from it can bring.

Distributed around California, the false tarantula is pretty easy to identify. Follow this flowchart. Does it look like a tarantula? Yes? Okay, does it have long hairs on its body? No? Okay, it’s probably a false tarantula. If that’s the case, keep your distance. It is aggressive and has big fans that can give you a serious bite. You won’t end up in the hospital, but it will hurt for days.


Planning your next camping adventure? Here are the best sleeping bags you can get on amazon right now.


bottom of page