What kinds of spiders can you find in Iraq?
Before we begin, I want you to know that the list below is just a fraction of the spider species in Iraq. 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.
9 COMMON SPIDERS found in Iraq!
#1. Red-bellied Jumping Spider
- Philaeus chrysops
- Males are very colorful with an abdomen that is bright orange-red that has a black stripe down the middle.
- Females are pale brown or orangish-brown. Look for two whitish stripes on the back of her abdomen.
Unusual for spiders in Iraq, males are often bigger than females!
Like other jumping spiders, this species does not make webs to catch prey. Instead, they actively hunt, using their excellent vision to locate their next meal, then jump on them to finish the job. Red-bellied Jumping Spiders ONLY hunt during the warmest parts of the day, so if you observe closely, you may be able to watch them in action!
Look for Red-belled Jumping Spiders in dry, open, warm areas with low vegetation. They are most often seen during the warm spring and summer months.
#2. Camel Spiders
- Order – Solifugae
Camel Spiders, also known as Wind Scorpions, Sun Spiders, or Solifuges, are arachnids, but they are not considered true spiders or scorpions. In fact, the 1,000 or so worldwide species of Camel Spiders are grouped in a separate order – Solifugae. In Iraq, Camel Spiders are found in arid, desert habitats.
These arachnids are feared by many people and are the subjects of many urban legends. One reason for their reputation is that they are incredibly fast, with their top speed coming in at 10 mph (16 km/h). Combine their speed with their spider-like appearance, and you can see how almost anyone can be startled!
Luckily, Camel Spiders are NOT venomous, as they do not have a way to deliver venom like the fangs of a spider. But, their chelicerae (appendages at the front of the mouth) are strong and can penetrate human skin, so bites are reported to be very painful.
Camel Spiders are aggressive hunters and opportunistic eaters. In addition to many types of insects, they have been observed eating birds, rodents, snakes, and lizards. They use their powerful chelicerae to cut larger prey into pieces, which are then liquefied before being consumed.
#3. 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 (0.51-0.57 in) long.
- Males are considerably smaller, reaching only one-third of the females’ length.
The Banded Garden Spider builds an enormous web, typically around 60 cm (23.6″) 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.
The female can usually be found resting 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 Iraq and are not aggressive. They may bite in defense if handled and bothered, but it’s unlikely that the bite would cause more discomfort than a bee sting.
#4. 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 Iraq are near flowers.
Crab spiders don’t use webs to catch their prey. Instead, they sit and wait inside flowers or other vegetation that is 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.
#5. Lobed Argiope
- Argiope lobata
- The female’s abdomen has black and white stripes and appears jagged or, as many say, “lobed.”
- Males have the same coloration but don’t have the lobes on the abdomen.
- Females are large and grow up to 25 mm long. Males are much smaller and only measure around 6 mm.
It’s hard to miss a female Lobed Argiope if you come across one. In addition to being incredibly large, they have a unique body shape and coloration that make them stand out. Look for them in bushes in warm rocky areas that are dry and sunny.
Make sure to look at the center of their web, as you should see a zigzag stabilimenta, which is a silk-shaped web decoration. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what the purpose is of having a stabilimenta, but the dominant theory is that it helps attract insects to the web by reflecting UV light. Interestingly, it is said that after E. B. White observed a stabilimenta in a spider’s web, he was inspired to write the book Charlotte’s Web.
Despite its intense appearance, the venom from a Lobed Argiope bite is NOT dangerous to humans.
#6. Pantropical Jumping Spider
- Plexippus paykulli
- Adult females range from 9 to 12 millimeters long, while adult males range from 9 to 11 millimeters long.
- Females are brownish gray and darker on their back and head, especially around the eyes, and have a broad tan stripe that extends onto the abdomen.
- Males are black with a broad white central stripe and two white spots near the rear of the abdomen.
Pantropical Jumping Spiders are often found near buildings or other areas inhabited by humans. They cleverly spend time around light sources that attract insect prey.
Unlike many other spiders in Iraq, Pantropical Jumping Spiders do not construct a web to catch their prey. Instead, they actively hunt, relying on their athletic abilities to find food. You may be able to find their silken retreats, though, which are often found in the corner of a ceiling or other elevated position. They use this retreat to rest and hide between hunting.
Although they look dangerous, Pantropical Jumping Spiders will only bite if handled roughly. Their bites are relatively harmless and, at worst, may resemble a bee sting.
#7. Wolf Spiders
Wolf spiders are found everywhere and in almost any habitat. I know that I see them often when flipping over rocks or logs. There are many individual species of wolf spider found in Iraq, and it would be impossible to list them here, especially since most of them look very similar.
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! Some wolf spiders will make a burrow and then wait inside for dinner to walk by. Most individuals wander without a permanent home, and they always live and hunt alone.
When it comes to arachnids, these spiders have incredible eyesight. They also have retroreflective tissue in their eyes, which produces a glow if you flash a light at their faces.
Wolf Spiders will bite if provoked, but they do not always inject venom. Therefore, they are not considered dangerous to humans. Bite symptoms are minimal and may cause itching, swelling, and mild pain.
#8. Cellar Spiders
- Legs are thin, long, and fragile.
- Black and white circles wrap around the leg joints.
- The bodies of both sexes range in size from 5-7.5 mm.
The best place to find cellar spiders in Iraq is in your house!
They are commonly found living in the corners of basements and attics. You have nothing to fear, though, as even though they have venom to subdue their prey, their jaws are not strong to bite a human.
These spiders display an interesting behavior where individuals will join together and share an existing web. In addition, most spiders will migrate to many different webs over their lifetime. It’s been observed that cellar spiders living together in groups have smaller abdomens, which means they are probably eating less than if they were by themselves. But the trade-off is that they don’t have the energy costs of making their own web.
It has been very hard for researchers to figure out the lifespan of cellar spiders because of their habit of migrating to new webs!
- Colors vary; most are dull brown or dull gray, but some may be yellowish, greenish-brown, or reddish.
- Single body region, only two eyes that do not see well.
The Harvestman might be the most recognizable spider in Iraq!
I know many people find them hiding underneath rocks or logs. They are also very social so you will many times find them in large groups.
But here’s the crazy thing: Even though Harvestmen look just like spiders, these arachnids are technically NOT spiders! They are in the Order Opiliones and have no venom, lack fangs, and do not bite.
In addition, Harvestman can actually 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.
Their long 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 will groom by licking with their mouthparts. Seriously, you can watch this behavior below!
Learn about other animals found in Iraq:
Which of these spiders have you seen before in Iraq?
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