Parasteatoda tepidariorum

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Geographic Range

These spiders can currently be found all over the world, although they are thought to be native to the neotropics (Milne and Milne 1980)

Habitat

The house spider builds large webs in the corners of rooms, under furniture, in angles between fences, and often between stones. They usualy take advantage of the space that is going to provide them with the most abundant amount of prey. They can be found during any season. (Emerton 1902)

Physical Description

The color varies from a dirty white to almost black. The cephalothorax is yellow brown and the legs are light yellow with brown or gray rings at the ends and middle of the joints. The abdomen is high in the front and narrow toward the spinnerets. In dark specimens the abdomen has six transverse black marks that curve upward and are thicker in the middle. The marks are connected by black spots at the ends and they are bordered by a silvery white line. The upper white mark often forms a white spot in the center of the abdomen. These marking are smaller and less defined in lighter species.

The females usually range from 5 to 6 mm long. Their first pair of legs are almost three times the length of the whole body. The legs are yellow with dusty annuli at the ends of each segment.

The males are smaller than the females and range from 3.8 to 4.7 mm in length. However, they have longer legs which are orange-brown and darker at the joints. (Emerton 1902; Kaston 1972) (Emerton, 1902; Kaston, 1972)

Reproduction

The male and female house spider often live together on the same web where they are able to reproduce. The female lays her eggs in a brownish, pear shaped cocoon that is 6 to 9 mm in diameter. Several cocoons can be made in one season and they simply hang in the web until they are ready to hatch. (Emerton 1902; Kaston 1972)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Behavior

The house spider has a few behavorial characteristics that are not common of all spiders. Many of these have to do with the structure of the web. One part of the spider's web is woven more closely than the rest of the web. This part is also covered with an extra layer of silk, adding stability. The house spider stands in this part of the web but does not construct a tent-like structure as many spiders do. When the web is constructed in open spaces the spider will often carry a small piece of leaf into the web under which it hides.

The house spider builds its web in the dark, taking advantage of every angle where insects might be caught. The webs of young spiders are much more regular than those of the adults. These irregular tangle webs are made of sticky strands that catch dust and prey. These webs are commonly found in houses and are usually referred to as cobwebs. (Foelix 1982; Milne and Milne 1980) (Foelix, 1982; Milne and Milne, 1980)

Food Habits

Parasteatoda tepidariorum eats insects, as do all spiders. It catches its prey by waiting in the web until a large insect, such as a Camel Cricket, gets caught in the sticky web. When this happens the spider proceeds to throw more silk onto its victim and then pulls it up into the web. Observation has shown that these spiders tend to change the sites of their webs if they are not catching enough prey. (Foelix 1982; Milne and Milne 1980)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The spider is beneficial to humans by catching and eating unwanted insects that are present in the house.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The household spider has no major negative effect on humans, it is simply an annoyance in that its webs tend to collect dust and are unclean.

Conservation Status

This species is extremely common and requires no special protection.

Other Comments

This species was originally assigned to the genus Theridion (Milne and Milne 1980). It was later transferred to Achaearanea, and has recently been moved again, to Parasteatoda.

Contributors

Ryan Fiedler (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

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Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

cosmopolitan

having a worldwide distribution. Found on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) and in all biogeographic provinces; or in all the major oceans (Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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References

Emerton, J. 1902. Common Spiders. Boston: Ginn & Company.

Foelix, R. 1982. Biology of Spiders. Cambridge, Massachusets: Harvard University Press.

Kaston, B. 1972. How To Know the Spiders. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers.

Milne, L., M. Milne. 1980. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.