What kinds of spiders can you find in California?
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 California.
Before we begin, note that the list below is just a fraction of the overall number of spiders found in California. 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.
25 Spiders in California:
#1. Wolf spiders
Wolf spiders are one of the most recognizable spiders in California!
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 California 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 California 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. Daring Jumping Spider
- Phidippus audax
Also called the Bold Jumping Spider.
- 4-14 millimeters long, black with white markings on the abdomen and legs.
- Eight eyes, but two are much bigger. Green metallic fangs.
- Sometimes they have orange marks on the abdomen when they are younger. As they get older, they turn white.
Daring Jumping Spiders can jump up to 50 times their body length.
But luckily, they are TINY spiders. Could you imagine if they were the size of a tarantula?
Daring Jumpers are hunting spiders that like open areas to stalk and chase down prey. They only make webs to protect their egg sac or to rest in at night. Interestingly, when they hunt, these spiders will spin one strand of webbing to use as a lifeline. They do this just in case their jump fails, as the strand of web acts like a bungee cord.
Daring Jumpers are common in fields and grassy areas. You will sometimes find them on fences or walls of outside structures because they like flat surfaces, and they point downward to make it easier on themselves to catch prey. Why work harder when you could work smarter?
#5. 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 California.
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.
#6. Black Widow
- Females are 6.35 mm to 9.5 mm long.
- Shiny black with a distinctive red hourglass-shaped mark. A row of red spots is sometimes visible above.
- Males are half the size of females but have longer legs.
Black Widows are the most venomous spiders in California!
In addition, they are probably the most popular and recognizable spiders in the world. Almost everyone knows the red-shaped hourglass mark that appears on females.
And even though they have highly toxic venom that is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake, they are not aggressive. The Black Widow only bites defensively if the web is disturbed, and they RARELY bite humans.
But, if you are one of the few unlucky people who are bitten each year, you should know that the venom affects your nervous system. Some people are only slightly affected by it, but many have a severe response. If you are bitten, the bite requires medical attention, and the neurotoxic venom can be fatal to small children if untreated.
#7. Black and Yellow Garden Spider
- Argiope aurantia
Also known as the Yellow Garden Spider.
- Both sexes have light-gray heads.
- Females are around 1 inch (25 mm) long. The abdomen has a wide black mark in the center and sides and is covered with yellow patches.
- The males are around .25 inches (6.3 mm) in length, not counting the legs.
- Legs start off orange or dark yellow close to their body and are mostly black toward the ends.
This species is one of the most recognizable spiders in California!
Black and Yellow Garden Spiders make beautiful webs with a distinct circular shape of up to 2 feet (.6 m) in diameter. They are almost always found in sunny, open fields or gardens, as the name suggests. They are among the few species that make their webs in the daytime.
Look for a thick zigzag of silk in the center of the web called the stabilimentum (seen below). Some scientists think the zigzag mark helps to deter larger predators from running into it and destroying it. But other researchers think the stabilimentum reflects sunlight, which helps attract insects to the web.
Black and Yellow Garden Spiders are able to shake their web vigorously while remaining in the center of it. They do this to warn larger creatures to stay away and not run into the web. It also helps entangle insects before they get loose and fall off.
Despite their large size, these spiders are not aggressive. But they will bite if grabbed or provoked. However, the bite is harmless to humans, and the worse it can do is feel like a bee sting.
#8. 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 California.
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.
#9. Common House Spider
- Parasteatoda tepidariorum
- Both sexes can appear anywhere from nearly black to a variety of colors.
- They sometimes have patterns of different colors on their body.
- Females are larger than males. Females also have a bulb-like abdomen that males lack.
These spiders are found in California NEAR PEOPLE!
I know that I always find them in my garage! It always surprises me how small Common House Spiders are, as they are generally only between 5 and 6 millimeters long.
Even though there are probably a few in your house right now, you shouldn’t hate Common House Spiders. They are actually helpful because they feed on small insects and pests in your house, like flies, ants, and mosquitos.
They are relatively docile spiders, but bites do occur mostly due to their proximity to humans. But have no fear; their venom is not dangerous in the least.
#10. Bowl and Doily Spider
- Frontinella pyramitela
- Small, with a large, round, and shiny abdomen that is dark brown or black along the top with thick white vertical lines on the sides.
- White markings on the bottom of the abdomen. But the color can differ between spiders – some are dark yellow, and some have no color.
- The head is reddish-brown, legs are lighter brown, thin, and long.
Have you ever seen unique webs in shrubbery or hanging low in the woods?
If so, it was probably the web from the Bowl and Doily Spider. They are best known for their horizontal sheet webs that resemble a bowl, which are found in weedy fields or shrubs in all habitats.
Bowl and Doily Spiders build their sheet web between twigs and are only a few inches in diameter. The spider sits on the bottom of the bowl and waits for prey on the underside. Being on the bottom provides safety but also allows a surprise attack! Incredibly, they can bite their prey directly through the web!
Males seldom build webs, but they are known to cohabitate with females for long periods in their webs. As a result, it is common for multiple males to mate with the female, which causes sperm competition.
#11. 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 California!
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!
#12. Spotted Orbweaver
- Neoscona crucifera
Also known as the Hentz Orbweaver, Spotted Orbweaver, and Barn Spider.
- Most often, these spiders are golden-orange or rusty-red.
- The legs have alternating dark brown and light brown bands.
- The abdomen is hairy.
These spiders are most often seen in California in late summer and early fall.
Look for their large, orb-shaped web near lights, often constructed on buildings or other man-made objects. During the day, there is often a silken retreat that they retreat to for safety.
If you bother a Spotted Orbweaver, it will bite you in self-defense. But the venom is not dangerous to humans.
#13. Banded Garden Spider
- Argiope trifasciata
Also known as the Banded Orb Weaving Spider.
- This species has an oval abdomen and bright body markings. The back of the abdomen is pale yellow with silvery hairs and lateral bands of black stripes. Males are usually paler, sometimes even white.
- Adult females are around 13 to 14.5 mm long.
- Males are considerably smaller, reaching only a third of the females’ length.
The Banded Garden Spider builds an enormous web, typically around 23.6 in (60 cm) in diameter. The web itself is sticky and strong, able to hold very large insects like wasps and grasshoppers. One interesting feature of their webs is the so-called “stabilimentum,” a vertical zigzag pattern made from dense silk. Researchers think this feature is a way to attract insects that the Banded Garden spider eats.
Females usually rest at the center of the web, facing downwards. They face their webs east-to-west to take advantage of the rising and setting sun and hang in the center with their dark underside facing south. All this allows them to gain as much warmth as possible, enabling them to stay active later in the year.
These spiders rarely bite humans in California and are not aggressive.
They may bite in self-defense if handled and bothered, but it’s unlikely that the bite would cause more discomfort than a bee sting.
#14. Zebra Jumping Spider
- Salticus scenicus
- Their anterior median eyes are large, which gives them excellent binocular vision.
- The coloration looks like a zebra; black with white stripes.
- Female spiders are 5–9 mm long, while males are 5–6 mm.
Zebra Jumping Spiders are found in California in open, vertical habitats.
Rock faces and tree trunks provide good habitat, but they are also found in close proximity to humans on the walls of buildings and garden fences. You should also check the corners of the windowsills in your house, as they are sometimes found there too. 🙂
Jumping spiders don’t use webs to capture prey but instead use their incredible eyesight for hunting smaller spiders and other invertebrates. Once their victim is sighted, they move slowly toward it until they are close enough to jump on and make the kill, similar to how a cat hunts. Then, just in case they miss the target, they attach a silk thread to a surface so they can climb back up and try again!
To try and impress a potential mate, male Zebra Jumping Spiders will conduct a courtship dance by waving their front legs and pedipalps while also moving their abdomen up and down. A better dance increases the likelihood that the females will want to mate with the male. Males must be VERY careful when approaching the female; if the dance isn’t good enough, they risk being eaten.
#15. 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.
#16. Northern Yellow Sac Spider
- Cheiracanthium mildei
- The body is typically tan or pale green. The mouthparts are darker brown.
- Adults are typically 7–10 mm (0.3–0.4 in) in size.
Northern Yellow Sac Spiders are NOT NATIVE to California.
They are originally from Europe and North Africa and were introduced long ago by English colonists. But since they have been here so long, these spiders are now common, especially INSIDE homes.
Unfortunately, Northern Yellow Sac Spiders will bite a human without hesitation. In fact, they have been observed crawling across the skin and biting for no particular reason. Luckily, bites from this species are relatively painless and medically insignificant. But bites from its cousin, the Yellow Sac Spider (Cheiracanthium inclusum), are MUCH more serious.
#17. Green Lynx Spider
- Peucetia viridans
- Females are 22 mm (0.87 in) long. Males are 12 mm (0.47 in) long.
- As their name suggests, they are mostly green but can change to yellow depending on the season.
- Look for black dots and spikes covering their glass-like legs.
Green Lynx Spiders in California are adept at camouflaging among plants.
Instead of spinning webs, they use their silk to make egg sacs. These sacs can contain up to 600 vividly orange eggs. Then, spiderlings burst from the sacs into the open after about a month. It’s quite a sight, to say the least!
You might see a mother Green Lynx hanging upside down from her egg sac, protective and alert. To defend themselves, females of this species have the astonishing ability to spray venom as far as 300 mm (12 in). That’s 25 times their own body length!
Despite being aggressive hunters, these spiders rarely bite humans. In addition, bites don’t cause serious damage, though they can be painful.
#18. Cat-faced Orbweaver
- Araneus gemmoides
Also known as the Jewel Spider and Cat-faced Spider.
- They are found in many different colors.
- Identified by the two horn-shaped growths found on the large abdomen.
The Cat-faced Orbweaver is a common spider in California.
Look for their webs near lights, closed spaces, and on the sides of buildings.
After laying a single egg sac filled with hundreds of babies, the female dies a few days later. As the spiderlings hatch from the egg sac, many of them will eat their siblings as their first meal!
The baby spiders that survive predation from their brothers and sisters have an interesting way of traveling to new locations. The spiderlings can float many miles away by riding strands of silk that are blown in the wind!
#19. Brown Widow
- Latrodectus geometricus
- The coloring is mottled tan and brown with black accent markings.
- This species has an hourglass similar to the Black Widow, but it’s orange and not the deep red of the Black Widow.
- The striped legs are usually dark brown or black with light yellow bands.
The Brown Widow employs a painful bite as its neurotoxic venom can cause pain, muscle rigidity, vomiting, and sweating. However, the bite from a Brown Widow is much less harmful than those of its famous cousin, the Black Widow. It is NOT considered dangerous to humans.
Females create webs in isolated, safe locations near houses and branch-heavy woods. Brown Widows frequently choose empty containers like buckets, planters, mailboxes, and entryway corners. So, checking these places thoroughly before disturbing them is a good idea!
One of the easiest ways to identify a Brown Widow is to look for its egg sacs. They have pointy protrusions and are frequently referred to as “fluffy” or “spiky” in appearance.
#20. False Black Widow
- Steatoda grossa
Also known as the False Widow, Cupboard Spider, or Dark Comb-footed Spider.
- Females measure 6-10.5 mm (0.23-0.41 in). Males are similar in size but thinner.
- They’re dark brown with a round, bulbous abdomen.
- The female abdomen is more rounded than the male’s.
As the name suggests, many people commonly confuse this spider in California with the venomous Black Widow. But luckily, this species is not dangerous, and it’s easy to differentiate because they don’t have the ominous red hourglass on the abdomen.
False Black Widows are considered cosmopolitan species, which means they are commonly found in and around homes. They prefer dark areas, such as under furniture or in basement corners. These spiders normally don’t bite unless they are accidentally pinched or squeezed. But if you are bitten, they may potentially cause you some harm, unlike most spiders. Common symptoms include blistering, muscle spasms, pain, fever, sweating, and discomfort lasting for several days.
Here are two facts about False Black Widows that I found fascinating!
- Females can live up to six years! Males live shorter but still up to 1.5 years.
- As long as they have access to water, they can live several MONTHS without food.
#21. Johnson’s Jumping Spider
- Phidippus johnsoni
Also known as the Red-backed Jumping Spider.
- Adults are about 10 mm long.
- Both males and females have a red abdomen. The rest of the body is mostly black.
- The chelicerae (mouthparts) are a bright teal color.
This species is one of the largest and most common jumping spiders in California! Johnson’s Jumping Spiders typically construct silken nests on the ground that are found underneath rocks and wood.
They prey on almost any insect that is smaller than them. But interestingly, other spiders make up a large part of their diet. Cannibalism is also common in females as they dine on smaller males.
And the most interesting fact about Johnson’s Jumping Spiders is that one was sent to space in 2012! Nicknamed “Spidernaut,” the spider traveled to space for 100 days to see if jumping spiders could adapt to the microgravity in space and then transition back to Earth. Read all about the experiment here. 🙂
#22. Desert Tarantula
- Aphonopelma iodius
Also known as the Great Basin Blonde, Fresno County Blonde, Salt Lake City Brown, or Northern Blonde.
If you see this HUGE spider in California, you will not forget it! Adults are large and can grow up to 5.5 inches.
But it’s rare to see a Desert Tarantula because they live in underground webbed burrows. And often, they have blocked the entrance with silk and dirt to protect themselves from predators and heat.
The best time to spot one is every fall when mature males leave their burrows searching for receptive females. During this time, they are even seen during broad daylight!
Like almost all tarantulas, their venom is not medically significant for humans. If you were bitten, it would feel like a bee sting.
#23. Gray Wall Jumping Spider
- Menemerus bivittatus
- This species has a flattened torso and short, thick, grayish-white hair. Tufts of dark brown hair grow close to the eyes.
- The male has a brownish-white stripe on each side of the abdomen and a black dorsal stripe.
- The female has a larger abdomen and is typically lighter brown. In addition, her abdomen is rimmed with broad black stripes that come together at the end.
The Gray Wall Jumping Spider is native to Africa but has spread worldwide. It frequently appears on the exterior of buildings or on tree trunks.
Instead of weaving a web around their prey, the Gray Wall Jumping spider stalks the prey before springing on it to attack. Their wide eyes and visual acuity allow them to focus easily on objects and distinguish between different colors. And, using their exceptional jumping ability, they can seize their prey in the blink of an eye.
Interestingly, male Gray Wall Jumping Spiders can produce sounds as part of courtship behavior. The hairs on their femurs and the teeth on the chelicerae (small claws on the front of the mouth) make clicking noises that attract females. These sounds are too low and quiet for humans to hear, but it isn’t hard to imagine the creepy noise!
#24. Western Spotted Orbweaver
- Neoscona oaxacensis
Also known as Zigzag Spider, Western Garden Orbweaver.
- Females reach 9-18 mm (0.35-0.7 in) in body length. Males are usually 6-13 mm (0.24-0.5 in) long.
- They have black and white wavy markings over their bulbous abdomens, and their legs are hairy with dark bands.
These orb-weaving spiders in California inhabit a wide range of habitats.
Look for them anywhere with trees, including orchards, wooded fields, and backyards. Western Spotted Orbweavers are most active during the summer and fall and generally prefer to hunt at night.
If you stumble upon an empty web, don’t assume it’s abandoned. A Western Spotted Orbweaver may be hiding at the edge, tucked away safely under a leaf. Here, they wait patiently for unlucky beetles, flies, lice, mites, and moths to get trapped.
Western Spotted Orbweavers lay their eggs inside curled leaves to safeguard them from predators. Once the spiderlings hatch, they live for six months to a year. Like all orb weavers, they are harmless to humans.
#25. Noble False Widow
- Steatoda nobilis
- Their brown bulbous abdomen has cream-colored markings that resemble the shape of a skull.
- Females are 9.5 mm (0.37-0.55 in) long, while males measure 7-11 mm (0.27-0.43 in).
- Individuals vary considerably in color and size.
This spider is an invasive species in California, as it originates from Madeira and the Canary Islands.
Unfortunately, its population is still spreading, and it is considered one of the most invasive spiders in the world. Look for them both in and around your house. When the weather turns cold, these long-lived spiders (up to five years) retreat to the warm climate your home provides.
Noble False Widows get their name because of their resemblance to Black Widows and other venomous spiders. While they are not as dangerous to humans as Black Widows, their bite can be problematic. First, while the bite is painless, the release of venom into you causes intense pain and has been compared to receiving a bee sting, along with subsequent symptoms.
Second, these spiders carry pathogenic bacteria, which can cause an infection resistant to antibiotics. General symptoms from a bite include fever, general discomfort, and swelling. But luckily, bites are incredibly rare!
Learn more about animals found in California!
28 Common SNAKES That Live in California! (ID Guide)
39 Common Bird Species Found in California! (With Photos)
Do you need more help identifying a spider you found in California?
Try this field guide!
Which of these spiders have you seen in California?
Leave a comment below!