Myth: All spider species live everywhere

Illustration: Henry C. McCook
Illustration: Henry C. McCook

Myth: Any spider species can be found anywhere.

Fact: Except for a few of the house-spider species, most spiders have strictly limited ranges; perhaps a large part of one continent (almost never an entire continent), perhaps only a few states or provinces, or even more restricted. Each locality has its own spider fauna, its own set of species to choose from in making an identification.

If you don't know the location, even a specimen in hand is fantastically difficult to identify, and a description or whole-body photo is quite impossible. Many people contact me with identity questions without giving me any clue to their location. I'm not psychic; I don't know without being told, whether an email originates from Maine, Madagascar, or my own neighborhood. Please give your location! And if you're thousands of miles away from me, you're better off finding a local specialist who will know your local fauna.

Also, never assume that some spider you just heard about lives in your own backyard!

Spider distributions

Spider distributions are all different, as the examples below show. No spider lives every place, and most don't live where you do. This fact must be stressed with notorious species like the brown recluse and the hobo spider; if you're not inside their area, you don't have them in your home!

Spider Myths

"Everything that 'everybody knows' about spiders is wrong!" —Rod Crawford sets the record straight with Spider Myths.

map of the u.s. with colors over the pacific northwest and upper midwest

Callobius wood spiders, 2 of the 30+ species.

map of the u.s. with color over the rockies region

Sisicottus microspiders, 2 of the 9 species.

map of the u.s. with color across the northern portion

A widespread species (1 of about 50) of Pardosa wolf spiders.

map of the u.s. with fragmented areas highlighted

Zelotes ground spiders, 4 of the 60+ species.

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close up of a spider

Spider Myth Resources

Explore even more! Additional spider resources and more myths (poor spiders can't catch a break!).

Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum
Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum