5 Of The Biggest Spiders In Massachusetts

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: May 12, 2023
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Massachusetts is known for its institutes of higher education, beaches, and farmlands. The latter brings the presence of insects from all over the area. Although some insects are beneficial to the growing process, like bees, others are not so helpful, like beetles and aphids. That’s why farmers don’t mind when spiders show up to quell the number of harmful insects. Today, we’re looking at five of the biggest spiders in Massachusetts.

You’ll learn how big they are, where you’re most likely to see them, and how they fit into the food web in this state!

If you get bitten by a dark fishing spider, you’ll probably have pain and swelling that is similar to that of a bee sting.

What Are The Biggest Spiders In Massachusetts?

When most people think of the largest spiders, they imagine tarantulas and various species of bird-eater spiders. You won’t see those in Massachusetts unless they’re someone’s pets. That doesn’t mean you can’t see some sizable spiders throughout the state, though. Take a look at the biggest spiders in Massachusetts and you’ll see that even the biggest spiders aren’t that frightening!

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5. Golden Silk Orb-Weaver

The golden silk

orb weaver

builds a web that measures nearly 5 feet in diameter.

©Max Rossa/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Trichonephila clavipes1.5-2 inchesTheir bites cause redness and mild, fleeting pain

This spider is sometimes called the banana spider, but that name can apply to a variety of different species. Instead, we’re going to cut down on the confusion and identify this as the golden silk orb-weaver, Trichonephila clavipes. These spiders are known for their large, intricate webs that can measure several feet in diameter.

The spiders are fairly large, measuring up to 2 inches long including their leg length. Moreover, they are quite easy to identify because they have a gray cephalothorax along with a yellow abdomen that features white spots.

Males have yellow legs that are striped with black, and females have yellow legs that are striped with black and a dark red color. These creatures won’t go out of their way to bite you, but a bite can cause mild pain and redness where you’re bitten.  

4. Long-Bodied Cellar Spider

Female Cellar Spider Protecting Her Eggs

Cellar spiders have translucent bodies.


Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Pholcus phalangioides1-2 inchesA bite may cause a mild burning sensation.

The long-bodied cellar spider goes by many names including cellar spider, skull spider, and daddy long legs spider. The latter is often confused with other arachnids called the harvestman.

Contrary to some myths, these spiders are relatively harmless to people. They do not bite frequently, and they only produce a mild burning sensation when they deliver a bite.

Cellar spiders are commonly found in dark places in homes and outbuildings, like basements and garages. This species is easy to spot because they have unusually long legs for their body length as well as a translucent, grayish-brown color to their body.

They have dark markings on their cephalothorax that some have said resembles a human skull in some cases. These spiders look far more dangerous than they are in reality, though.  

3. American Nursery Web Spider

american nursery web spider

Male American nursery web spiders will tie females’ legs during mating to avoid being eaten afterward.


Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Pisaurina mira1-3 inchesHas a bite that is mostly harmless to humans, with pain and swelling common.

The American nursery web spider is a common creature found throughout New England, and it’s often maligned because it bears a passing resemblance to a wolf spider. They are ambush predators that wait for prey to get close and then attack.

These spiders include reddish brown and brown in their coloration. Oftentimes, the majority of their body will be a light reddish brown, with a darker brown stripe down the middle. Their legs are hairy and brown.

American nursery web spiders are interesting for many reasons, including the fact that they are sexually cannibalistic and that they build a sort of nursery for their young. When the mother spider realizes the eggs in her clutch are about to hatch, she makes a large, webby pouch for them and then guards it until the young are born.  

However, these spiders aren’t very harmful to humans. The majority of their bites will only cause pain and swelling rather than any serious side effects.

2. Carolina Wolf Spider

Largest Wolf Spider - Carolina Wolf Spider

The Carolina wolf spider can reach nearly 4 inches long.

©Will E. Davis/Shutterstock.com

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

The Carolina wolf spider is the largest of all the wolf spiders in the U.S., and even this one is not very dangerous to humans. Their bite will cause local pain and swelling, but not much else unless the person is allergic to them.

Their bodies are large. Female Carolina wolf spiders can measure over an inch long with just their bodies and about four inches when you consider their legspan. Although it’s easy to confuse species of wolf spiders, you can use this spider’s markings to differentiate it from others.

The Carolina wolf spider has a brown body that integrates light brown, gray, and black markings. For example, the spider’s cephalothorax is usually dark brown or even black and has a light-colored stripe running down the middle as well as along the edges.

They have light markings behind their uppermost eyes, too. These spiders are often found in burrows that are situated in tall grassy areas, woodlands, and even flat, open areas.  

1. Dark Fishing Spider

dark fishing spider

The dark fishing spider is the only member of its genus that is found less frequently near water.


Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Dolomedes tenebrosus3.5-4.5 inchesCan bite humans and cause a reaction similar to a bee sting.

The dark fishing spider is an interesting species that does not always live up to its “fishing” moniker. Instead, you’re more likely to encounter it on trees in forests that are near water. Of course, you can still find it close to a body of water. Either way, the dark fishing spider is the biggest spider in Massachusetts.

Dark fishing spiders have brown bodies that can be either light or dark. They are known for having several chevrons alternating light and dark colors up and down their legs as well as many patterns on their bodies, especially on their abdomen.

These spiders will flee if they encounter humans in the vast majority of cases. Nevertheless, they can bite a person. If they do, you’ll probably have pain and swelling that is similar to that of a bee sting. Aside from that, though, these spiders are nothing to worry about.

Now that we have identified the biggest spiders in Massachusetts, it’s clear that none of them pose a serious threat. Nevertheless, dangerous spiders do live in this state, like black widows. Make sure to avoid these spiders or contact a pest control agent to quell an infestation in your home or outbuilding.  


RankSpiderSize in Length
1Dark Fishing Spider3.5-4.5 inches
2Carolina Wolf Spider2-4 inches
3American Nursery Web Spider1-3 inches
4Long-Bodied Cellar Spider1-2 inches
5Golden Silk Orb-Weaver1.5-2 inches

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Max Rossa/Shutterstock.com

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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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