5 of the Biggest Spiders in Kentucky

Argiope aurantia, yellow garden spider
© iStock.com/AwakenedEye

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: June 29, 2023

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Kentucky is a state steeped in a unique brand of southern culture, and it’s also the home of many natural wonders. While camping in this state or fishing on one of its many beautiful lakes, you’re bound to run into some of the animals that call this state home, including spiders. While most of the spiders in this part of the country are small, some large and frightening ones exist. Today, we’re going to focus on the biggest spiders in Kentucky, and we’ll show you why you shouldn’t be afraid of them but still need to be respectful of their existence.  

The Carolina Wolf Spider is the biggest spider in Kentucky.

What Are the Biggest Spiders in Kentucky?

What Do Black Widows Eat - Male and Female Black Widow

While the black widow is not the biggest spider, it is the most dangerous in Kentucky.

©Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock.com

Many different species of spiders can be found within the borders of Kentucky. The majority of them are helpers in the sense that they eat harmful insects like mosquitos. Even the largest ones are not going to hurt a human being.

That’s why we’re going to take this time to examine some of the biggest spiders in Kentucky, show you what they look like, tell you where they can be found, and inform you about the severity of their bites. That way, you can rest easy the next time you see a fishing spider skittering past you on a dock.

5. Southeastern Wandering Spider

Southeastern wandering spider

The southeastern wandering spider actively hunts for prey using ambush tactics.

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Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Anahita punctulata0.5-1.6 inchesInflicts mild pain and redness in the area of the bite

Do not confuse this spider with the much larger and more harmful Brazilian wandering spider. The southeastern wandering spider is a brown, tan, or brownish red spider with a light band running behind its eyes and down the length of its cephalothorax.

It typically has a mottled but light-colored abdomen and legs that are lighter near the body than they are at the ends. This spider is not necessarily more aggressive than most, but it is more defensive when humans try to handle it. If you receive a bite from this spider, don’t worry.

Unless you are allergic to their venom, the most you will get is mild pain and redness at the place where you’ve been bitten. Otherwise, you’re fine. You’ll mostly find these spiders crawling along the ground near burrows or waiting for prey on plants.

4. Striped Fishing Spider

Striped Fishing Spider

The striped fishing spider is known for the light stripes on its sides.

©Oleg Nikonov/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Dolomedes scriptus1- 2.4 inchesA bite can cause pain and swelling much like a bee or wasp sting or bite.

The striped fishing spider has trademark stripes and long legs. These spiders are often light brown, tan, or gray. Their abdomens have a gray, brown, or black W-shaped pattern running down them, and the sides of the spiders are cream-colored or white. These are easy to spot, and they’re commonly found near water.

You may see one of these spiders while fishing, but you don’t need to worry. Most times, they’ll run away before you know they’re there to avoid interacting with humans. A bite from one of these spiders will inflict pain and swelling like a bee sting.  

3. Black and Yellow Garden Spider

The black and yellow garden spider is also known as the writing spider.

©iStock.com/AwakenedEye

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Argiope aurantia0.5-3 inchesRarely bites humans, but it may cause pain and swelling.

The black and yellow garden spider is a common sight throughout much of the United States. The scientific and common name tells you everything you need to know about this creature’s looks. They have a silver “face” and cephalothorax. Their abdomens are black and yellow for the most part, but they may have silver mixed into them.

This spider is famous for its large, specialized webs that have an extra thick portion that resembles a zig-zag shape. The purpose of this part of the web is up for debate, but it has contributed to the nickname, the writing spider.

These spiders don’t like to be disturbed, and they will bite humans defensively. Their bites aren’t that bad, but they can cause mild pain and swelling in the area where the bite is delivered.

2. Rabid Wolf Spider

rabid wolf spider

Rabid wolf spiders are harmless to humans, but larger specimens can give a painful bite.

©Brett Hondow/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Rabidosa rabida1-3 inchesThe bite may cause some pain and swelling, it but is not otherwise harmful to humans.

Despite its name, the rabid wolf spider is not that dangerous, but it is quite large. They can measure up to three inches long, including their leg span.  Like other wolf spiders, they hunt at night by chasing down and pouncing on their prey.

These spiders are usually light brown or tan, and they have two dark stripes on their cephalothorax, separated by a light stripe that occurs between their eyes and a light-colored stripe on either side of the dark stripes. The abdomen has a single dark stripe that is bordered by light color.

If one of these spiders bites you, it will be moderately painful and cause a little swelling. Other than that, the bites are not known to be severe unless the victim is allergic to the venom.

1. Carolina Wolf Spider

Largest Wolf Spider - Carolina Wolf Spider

Carolina wolf spiders are the largest member of their family.

©Will E. Davis/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Hogna carolinensis2-4 inchesThe bite from this spider causes local pain and swelling.

The Carolina wolf spider is one of the biggest spiders in Kentucky, if not the largest of them all. These spiders can measure upwards of 4 inches, including their leg length, and are usually dark in color. They can be black, gray, brown, or some mixture of colors.

Wolf spiders are easily confused for tarantulas even though they aren’t quite as large. However, since they carry their young on their backs for a time, the size profile of their abdomens can give them the appearance of being very large.

Carolina wolf spiders are mostly active at night. They’re very fast and possess better vision than most spiders. In other words, it’s going to be hard to come into contact with one of them. Still, if you pick one up outside or in your home, they can react by biting a person.

Most bites from a wolf spider aren’t serious, causing pain and swelling. Sometimes, people can have an allergic reaction to their venom. They’ll experience nausea, headaches, and a rash. These are signs you need to get checked by medical professionals.

Now that we’ve gone over the biggest spiders in Kentucky, it’s clear they’re not the ones you need to worry about. Instead, you need to worry about bites from the most dangerous spiders in Kentucky. These include the black widow and brown recluse, spiders that can seriously harm or even kill humans.

Always be respectful of spiders, especially if you don’t know what they are, and seek help getting rid of them if you cannot do it on your own.

Summary of 5 of the Biggest Spiders in Kentucky

RankSpiderSize
1 Carolina Wolf Spider2-4 inches
2Rabid Wolf Spider1-3 inches
3Black and Yellow Garden Spider0.5-3 inches
4Striped Fishing Spider1-2.4 inches
5 Southeastern Wandering Spider0.5-1.6 inches


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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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