What kinds of spiders can you find in Alaska?
Many people are terrified of spiders and find them extremely creepy. This is unfortunate because they are incredibly interesting creatures and crucial to our environment! Luckily, most spiders are harmless, and they control the insect population.
Today, you will learn about the most common spiders that live in Alaska.
Before we begin, note that the list below is just a fraction of the overall number of spiders found in Alaska. Because of the sheer number of these arachnids, it would be impossible to cover them all. With that being said, I did my best to develop a list of COMMON spiders that are often seen and easily identified.
10 Spiders in Alaska:
#1. Wolf spiders
Wolf spiders are one of the most recognizable spiders in Alaska!
They are found everywhere and in almost any habitat. I know that I see them often when flipping over rocks or logs. Unfortunately, there are so many individual species of wolf spiders that it would be impossible to list them here, especially since most look very similar.
Wolf Spider Range Map
Interestingly, wolf spiders do not make webs to catch their prey. Instead, they wait for an insect to walk by and then chase it down! Likewise, some species will make a burrow and then wait inside for dinner to walk by.
When it comes to arachnids, wolf spiders have incredible eyesight. They also have retroreflective tissue in their eyes, which produces a glow if you flash light at their faces.
Wolf spiders will bite if provoked, but their venom is not dangerous to humans. Bite symptoms are minimal and may cause itching, swelling, and mild pain.
#2. Cellar Spider
- Cephalothorax (head) and abdomen are different shades of brown.
- Less than a 1/2-inch (12.7 mm) body, 2-inch (51 mm) long legs, and the body is the shape of a peanut.
- Some species have 8 eyes, while others only have 6 eyes.
You know that spider that is always in the corners of your basement?
Well, it’s most likely a Cellar Spider! These long, thin, and delicate arachnids are commonly found in Alaska in homes and buildings. Whenever I clean my basement with a vacuum, a few of these spiders always seem to get sucked inside.
Cellar Spider Range Map
Cellar Spiders do something exciting when their web is disturbed by touch or has entangled large prey. They start vibrating rapidly, which has led to them sometimes being called “vibrating spiders.” They do this behavior to hide from predators or increase the chance of catching an insect that brushed up against their web.
Cellar Spiders are beneficial to have around because they have been known to hunt down and kill venomous spiders.
#3. Crab spiders
- On average, females measure 7–11 mm. Males are much smaller and range between lengths of 2–4 mm.
- Colors range widely based on the specific species. However, the most common colors are pink, yellow, white, green, or brown.
The best places to find crab spiders in Alaska are near flowers.
Crab spiders don’t use webs to catch their prey. Instead, they sit and wait inside flowers or other vegetation low to the ground for something to eat. Once a suitable victim comes by, they use their long forelegs to ambush it and make the kill. When insects are in short supply, such as during bad weather, they eat pollen and nectar to avoid starvation.
Lastly, many crab spiders have developed a mutualistic relationship with certain plant species since these spiders feed on and help deter harmful insects. Some plants even release an emission after being attacked that helps attract crab spiders in hopes they eat the intruder.
#4. American grass spiders
- Both sexes are shades of brownish-black with stripes running from front to back.
- The abdomen is oblong and has two white stripes broken into sections.
- The head has a lighter stripe running down the middle, dividing the two dark stripes.
Grass spiders are one of the fastest spiders in Alaska.
Grass spiders are funnel weavers, which means they weave a funnel on one edge of their web. Their webs are not sticky, like other spiders. But once the silk is triggered, they use their speed to run quickly to get their prey.
Fortunately, they are harmless to humans. And they typically stay in their webs unless disturbed.
*The genus Agelenopsis consists of 14 species of grass spiders that live in North America.
#5. Woodlouse Spider
- Dysdera crocata
Also known as the Woodlouse Hunter, Sowbug Hunter, Sowbug Killer, Pillbug Hunter, and Slater Spider.
- Both sexes have six eyes, an orange or dark-red head, with shiny, orange legs.
- The abdomen can be yellow-brown or dark grey.
- Females are larger than males.
Their diet primarily consists of woodlice (“potato bugs or pillbugs”). These isopods have thick exoskeletons, but the Woodlouse Spider can easily pierce them with their large fangs and inject their venom. They also eat earwigs, millipedes, silverfish, and crickets.
Look for these spiders in Alaska under rocks, decaying logs, leaf litter, or anywhere else damp and dark. As you can see, these are the same places where their favorite prey (woodlice) are found.
When Woodlouse Spiders mate, it is normally an aggressive event, and they risk getting injured because they have large fangs.
They’ve been known to bite humans but have never caused medical problems. The worse thing that can happen is the site of the bite may be itchy.
#6. Fishing spiders
They’re also known as Fishing Spiders, Raft Spiders, Dock Spiders, or Wharf Spiders.
- Both sexes can vary in color; some are brown, black, or cream-colored brown.
- Many species have a striking pale stripe down each side of the body; others have dots down the side of their body.
Fishing spiders are some of the largest spiders in Alaska.
Several different species are found here, and they are all large nocturnal spiders that find their prey around water. You’ll often see them on the docks by a lake during the day.
These arachnids have special short velvet-like hairs that don’t get wet, allowing them to stand or run on the water. They wait for prey to make a ripple, then race across the water to grab it. Most fishing spiders eat insects, but some species can catch small fish.
They can also hunt underwater because of their specialized lungs, which help them breathe while submerged. However, the air in their lungs makes them float, so they need to hold onto a rock or plant, or they will rise to the surface.
#7. American Nursery Web Spider
- Pisaurina mira
- They vary in color; some are shades of brown, and others are black.
- The brown ones can have a light tan body with a wide brown stripe down the middle.
- The black ones can have thick cream markings down the length of their body on both sides.
The Nursery Web Spider is best known for its odd mating behavior. Many female spiders are known to eat males after mating. To prevent this, the male ties up the female’s legs with his silk to avoid being eaten by the female.
These spiders typically live in Alaska in low shrubbery and high weeds. They prefer this environment because they like to stay hidden. These ambush predators sit and wait for prey to come within reach and then attack with their chelicerae (claw-like pincers).
#8. Harvestmen (Daddy Longlegs)
- Colors vary; most are dull brown or dull gray, but some may be yellowish, greenish-brown, or reddish.
- Look for a dark blackish streak down the middle and sides.
- Single body region, only two eyes that do not see well.
“Daddy Longlegs” might be the most recognizable spider in Alaska!
We often see them in our yard, typically hiding underneath my kid’s playground or on rocks or logs. They are also very social, so you will often find them in large groups.
But even though Harvestmen look just like spiders, these arachnids are technically NOT spiders!
They are in the Order Opiliones, have no venom, lack fangs, and do not bite. In addition, Harvestman can swallow solid food, which allows them to eat small insects, fungi, dead organisms, bird dung, and other fecal matter. This differs from spiders that only eat their prey after turning them into a liquid.
As you might guess by their nickname, their legs play a vital part in their life. They use their legs for breathing, walking, smelling, and capturing prey. Males have longer legs than females, which they groom by licking. Seriously, you can watch this behavior in the video above!
#9. Marbled Orbweaver
- Araneus marmoreus
- A large orange abdomen with brown or black marbling, although they range in color (from yellow, white, black, brown, or red).
- Females grow up to 18 mm, with males being half that size.
- The legs are red with black and white banding beginning on the tibia.
Due to the large, orange abdomen, Marbled Orbweavers are often called “Pumpkin Spiders” and are fairly easy to identify. Look for these spiders in Alaska from mid-summer until the weather turns cold. The best places to find them are in moist, wooded areas along the banks of streams.
Their webs are oriented vertically, and Marbled Orbweavers attach a signal thread to the middle, which alerts them when prey has been captured. Unlike many garden spiders that sit at the center of their web, this species hides in a silken retreat constructed to the web’s side. They often hide under leaves or other debris they have stuck together with webbing, waiting patiently for a meal to get stuck.
#10. European Garden Spider
- Araneus diadematus
Also known as the Cross Spider, Diadem Spider, Orangie, Pumpkin Spider, and Crowned Orb Weaver.
- Colors vary from light yellow to dark gray; the head has thick long hair and looks furry.
- Tiny hairs cover its large abdomen, and spiky hairs cover its legs. The female abdomen is more bulbous shaped than the male’s.
- White markings on the abdomen with four or more segments form a cross. (Can you see it in the picture above?)
Interestingly, the first web the European Garden Spider ever makes is perfectly created. But here is the weird thing…
As time goes on and they build more and more webs, they begin to have more flaws and get sloppy. I guess practice doesn’t always make perfect!
Once they build their web, they sit right in the middle with their head pointing down to the ground waiting for prey. If they should leave their web, they attach themselves to a single trigger line to feel the vibrations of prey that gets attached. It’s like a security system and a dinner bell all in one.
Learn more about animals found in Alaska!
The 7 Types of Woodpeckers Found in Alaska (ID Guide)
18 Common Bird Species Found in Alaska! (With Photos)
Do you need more help identifying a spider you found in Alaska?
Try this field guide!
Which of these spiders have you seen in Alaska?
Leave a comment below!