5 of the Biggest Spiders in West Virginia

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: May 25, 2023
© iStock.com/JasonOndreicka
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West Virginia is a rugged area that attracts people that want to witness incredible natural beauty and experience the great outdoors. People travel from all over the United States to take part in hiking, rafting, fishing, and other activities that put them in close contact with wild animal species. Today, we’re going to talk about five of the biggest spiders in West Virginia that you’ll encounter if you choose to enter the wilds of this state.

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We’ll help you figure out how to identify some of the biggest spiders in the state and see how large they can get!

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What Are the Biggest Spiders in West Virginia?

West Virginia is home to a fair number of large spiders. Many of the biggest spiders in West Virginia belong to the Hogna and Dolomedes genera, but we’ve decided to give you a larger overview of the different spiders in the state. After all, you don’t want to just look out for wolf spiders and fishing spiders when so many others exist!

Let’s explore five of the largest arachnids you’ll find in the state and see what they look like, where they live, and if they are dangerous to humans!

5. Trapdoor Spider

Trapdoor spider
The trapdoor spider may look scary, but you’ll probably never encounter one.

©nokkaew/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Ummidia Genus1-2 inchesDelivers a mildly painful bite.

Unlike a lot of the other spiders on this list, most of the trapdoor spider’s length comes from its body rather than its legs. Their bodies can give them a length of about an inch and a half. Yet, their short, powerful legs that they use for burrowing make up the rest of their length, giving them an overall measurement of about 2 inches.

You’ll rarely see these creatures because they spend significant amounts of time in their burrows. They hunt and live in these web-lined caverns, only throwing open the hinged door to attack prey that happens to scurry by.

These spiders may look scary with their shiny black carapaces and hairy legs, and your mind may want to scream “Tarantula!” However, these creatures are not that big or dangerous. They can only deliver a mildly painful bite to a human in the very rare case that they bite at all. 

4. Long-Bodied Cellar Spider

daddy long legs
Cellar spiders are commonly seen in basements.

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

Long-bodied cellar spiders are common sights in most homes on the East Coast. These are the somewhat translucent, grayish-brown, and light-brown spiders that like to live in basements, garages, and unused pantries.

Most of this spider’s length comes from its legs, and its body is small and relatively peanut-shaped. Sometimes, these spiders have a dark marking on their cephalothorax that resembles a skull, so you may have heard of the creatures called the “skull spider” on occasion.

The chances are good that you will encounter these spiders, but you don’t need to worry. They may look creepy with their long-legged skittering, but they can’t hurt you. If you are bitten by one, you’ll probably have a mild burning sensation for a little while and a small mark. 

3. Black and Yellow Garden Spider

Garden Spider spinning a web around a spotted lanternfly
The black and yellow garden spider uses its web to great effect.

©cwieders/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Argiope aurantia0.2-3 inchesRarely bites humans, but it may cause pain and swelling.

As this spider’s name suggests, you’re most likely to find this creature living in your gardens and other areas with tall plants that they can use to build webs. These spiders build webs that are a few feet in diameter, and they’re very noticeable.

After all, the black and yellow garden spider is also known as the writing spider. That name comes from their habit of building a stabilimentum, a thick, dense portion of the web constructed in a zig-zag shape. It almost looks like someone with messy handwriting tried to leave a message on the web!

This species has a silvery cephalothorax and an abdomen with black, yellow, and sometimes gray patterns on it. Moreover, they can have some white spots on the abdomen. They may bite if you disturb their web and try to handle them. However, their bites only cause a little pain and swelling. 

2. Tiger Wolf Spider

Tiger Wolf Spider
The tiger wolf spider is also known as the speckled wolf spider or woodland giant wolf spider.

©HWall/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Tigrosa aspersa2-3 inchesDelivers a moderately painful bite that causes swelling and redness, other symptoms may appear.

This wolf spider species is alternatively called the speckled tiger spider and a few other names. Most people are not interested in this creature’s name as much as they are worried about its bite. Like most other spiders, the tiger wolf spider prefers to flee instead of fighting. If they do bite you, then you can count on some pain, swelling, redness, and other symptoms, including headaches and nausea.

It’s not hard to spot these creatures. They’re very large, with bodies that measure over an inch and legs that can measure over 3 inches. Most often, you’ll find them in tall grass, wooded areas, and near human structures that they can use for shelter and to obtain food.

The tiger wolf spider is usually a dark color, like brown or black, with a light-brown stripe running from behind its eyes. Their bodies often have lighter patterns on them, and their femurs may have alternating light and dark chevrons.

1. Dark Fishing Spider

dark fishing spider
The dark fishing spider prefers to spend time on trees.

©iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

Scientific NameSizeDanger to Humans
Dolomedes tenebrosus3.5-4.5 inchesThis spider can bite humans and deliver pain that is similar to a bee sting.

Fishing spiders are the biggest spiders in West Virginia, and the dark fishing spider is usually considered the biggest of them all. Interestingly, this spider is not often found near water like other members of its family. Instead, you can find them resting on trees.

These spiders are often light brown to dark brown in overall color, and their appearance is best described as mottled due to the variations in patterns along the body. The abdomen usually has W-shaped patterns toward the back end, and the legs are usually banded with a light and dark color.

Don’t be scared if you see one of these running across a dock, though. They’re not going to hurt you. They rarely interact with humans, and the worst a bite will do is cause pain like a wasp sting.

We’ve looked at the biggest spiders in West Virginia, and it’s clear they’re not going to harm you. The same can’t be said for all spiders. The most dangerous spiders in West Virginia are the black widow spider and the yellow sac spider.

The black widow is far more dangerous, though, capable of killing humans in rare cases and causing other health concerns in the best cases. Give spiders are respectful distance and don’t handle them.

Summary of 5 of the Biggest Spiders in West Virginia

RankSpiderSize
1Dark Fishing Spider3.5-4.5 inches
2Tiger Wolf Spider2-3 inches
3Black and Yellow Garden Spider0.2-3 inches
4Long-Bodied Cellar Spider1-2 inches
5Trapdoor Spider1-2 inches

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The Featured Image

dark fishing spider
The dark fishing spider can run across the surface of water or dive into the water to catch prey
© iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

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About the Author

I've been a freelance writer since 2013, and I've written in a variety of niches such as managed service providers, animals, and retail distribution. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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Sources
  1. Insect Identification, Available here: https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.php?identification=Cork-Lid-Trapdoor-Spider
  2. The National Wildlife Federation, Available here: https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Invertebrates/Yellow-Garden-Spider
  3. Missouri Department of Conservation, Available here: https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/wolf-spiders
  4. Missouri Department of Conservation, Available here: https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/dark-fishing-spider