“What kinds of spiders can you find in Estonia?“
Many people are terrified of spiders and find them extremely creepy. This is unfortunate because not only are most spiders completely harmless, they are crucial to our environment by controlling the insect population. In fact, without spiders, our food supply would be in serious jeopardy.
Before we begin, I want you to know that the list below is just a fraction of the spider species found in Estonia. Because of the sheer number of these arachnids, it would be impossible to cover them all. For example, some estimates claim there are over 50,000 kinds of spiders on the planet (and the list is still growing)!
With that being said, I did my best to develop a list of spiders that are MOST often seen and easily identified.
Here are the 7 MOST common SPIDERS found in Estonia!
#1. Cross Orbweaver
- Araneus diadematus
Also known as the European Garden Spider, Cross Spider, Orangie, or Pumpkin Spider.
- Colors range from extremely light yellow to very dark grey.
- All individuals have white markings across the top of the abdomen, with four or more segments forming a cross (LOOK AT THE PICTURE ABOVE).
- Females range in length from 6.5 to 20 mm, while males range from 5.5 to 13 mm.
Cross Orbweavers are one of the most well-known spiders in Estonia.
These spiders are common in many habitats, including forest clearings, hedgerows, meadows, and gardens. They are also seen near humans, such as near buildings or lighted stairwells. Cross Orbweavers typically hang upside down at the center of their spiral webs.
Cross Orbweaver Range Map
Interestingly, when approached, they start shaking and vibrating their web in hopes of startling the perceived intruder. If this fails, then the spider will typically drop straight down out of sight. Luckily, Cross Orbweavers are not aggressive and typically only bite when accidentally grabbed. Bite symptoms include mild pain, redness, and swelling that lasts for a few days.
Believe it or not, these common spiders build a new web EVERY DAY. Yes, they eat the entire web every night and then begin construction on a new one. And lastly, if you are a male Cross Orbweaver, you must be careful with females, as you will often be eaten directly after mating!
#2. European Nursery Web Spider
- Pisaura mirabilis
- Slender abdomen with LONG legs (the fourth one is the longest).
- Colors range from light to reddish brown and from gray to black. A lighter stripe is visible down the middle of the back.
- The male is between 10 and 13 mm, while the female is 12 to 15 mm.
These spiders are commonly found in Estonia in tall grass, shrubs, or along the edges of woodlands.
Looking similar to wolf spiders, European Nursery Web Spiders get their name for how females protect their egg sacs. After carrying the egg sac in her mouth for a bit, she hides it under a leaf and spins a protective silk enclosure around the egg sac. From there, she sticks around to protect the babies until after their first molt. 🙂
European Nursery Web Spiders have a fascinating mating ritual! First, males find a gift, such as a dead insect, to offer to a prospective female. Then, after presenting the gift, the female will bite onto the gift if she is interested. From there, the male will move to deposit sperm with his pedipalps. WATCH THIS BEHAVIOR BELOW (and to see if the male survives)!
Interestingly, during copulation, the male almost ALWAYS keeps a leg on the gift, just in case the female decides to run away with it or attack him. If the female does change her mind about mating and starts to show aggression, the male typically will pretend to play dead until she calms down, at which point he may try mating again. The things spiders will do for love!
#3. Goldenrod Crab Spider
- Misumena vatia
Also called the Flower Spider or Crab Spider.
- Females can grow up to 10 mm (0.39 in) while males are quite small, reaching only up to 5 mm (0.20 in).
- They are usually yellow or white or a combination of these two colors. Shades of pale green and pink also exist.
- This species has a wide, flat body.
Crab spiders get their name from the unique way they can walk sideways, forwards, and backward, similar to a crab.
Goldenrod Crab Spiders primarily prey on insects much larger than themselves. To accomplish this feat, they rely on venom, which immobilizes their victims. But have no fear, as the venom is not dangerous to humans and their fangs are not powerful enough to penetrate our skin.
These spiders have the unique ability to change their color depending on the flower they are resting on, which helps them stay camouflaged as they hunt! Their color can also change depending on their diet, as colorful prey can show through their thin, transparent epidermis. For example, eating red-eyed fruit flies can make the abdomen turn pink. 🙂
#4. 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 primarily found in Estonia 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 corner 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 to hunt smaller spiders and other invertebrates. Once their victim is sighted, they move slowly towards 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!
Zebra Jumping Spider Range Map
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.
#5. Wasp Spider
- Argiope bruennichi
- Striking yellow and black markings across its body.
- The legs also have stripes.
- Females are around 17 mm. Males measure less than 5 mm.
This species is one of the most recognizable spiders in Estonia!
These spiders get their name from their unique coloration, which is meant to resemble a wasp. Predators tend to leave them alone since they think they will be messing with a fierce stinging insect. 🙂
Wasp Spiders make beautiful orb-shaped webs in the morning. Interestingly, they construct a distinctive zig-zag pattern in the center of the web, which is thought to help attract insects by reflecting UV light. Look for them in sunny, open fields or gardens.
Despite their bright coloring, Wasp Spiders are not dangerous to humans. They are not aggressive and will only bite if seriously provoked.
#6. Four-spot Orbweaver
- Araneus quadratus
- They ALWAYS have four white spots on their abdomen.
- They are variable in color, ranging from brown to bright orange or green.
- Females can reach 17 mm in size, with males reaching about half that length.
Four-spot Orbweavers are not normally found in gardens. Instead, they rely upon areas with vegetation that has enough strength and height to support their large orb web. In addition, the webs are typically constructed near the ground so they can catch hopping insects, like crickets and grasshoppers.
Females have an interesting feature that they add to their webs. They build a funnel-shaped retreat with thick silk off to the side where they can go to escape, such as during bad weather.
Press PLAY below to watch a Four-spot Orbweaver eat a crane fly! (Credit: Wikipedia)
As the name suggests, these spiders have four spots on their abdomen. Please note that the spots can be hard to see on lighter-colored spiders, so look closely!
#7. Raft Spider
- Dolomedes fimbriatus
- Adults are dark brown with a white, cream, or yellow stripe along both sides of their bodies.
To find this spider in Estonia, you will need to find freshwater!
Raft Spider Range Map
Raft Spiders are incredibly unique and are considered semi-aquatic. Therefore, the best places to find them will be hunting on the water’s surface of freshwater wetlands. To find prey, they detect small vibrations by using their stretched-out front legs. Their typical victims include water beetles, pond striders, and dragonfly larvae, but large individuals have even been known to eat small frogs!
Interestingly, Raft Spiders can fully submerge themselves underwater! To avoid getting eaten by a bird, they often dive underwater for several minutes until the danger has passed. They also hunt underwater! WATCH BELOW.
Lastly, females are one of the few spider species known to attack nearly ALL males that try to mate with her. Evolutionarily speaking, biologists are perplexed by their extreme aggression because it can be hard for successful copulation to take place. 🙂
Check out these other guides about animals found in Estonia!
Which of these spiders have you seen before in Estonia?
Leave a comment below!