Venomous (Poisonous) Spiders in Virginia

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: May 3, 2022
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If you come across a spider in Virginia it is most likely not going to be poisonous. There is only one native poisonous spider in Virginia, the black widow. Other spiders that live in the state may be mildly venomous but not harmful to humans. Some people believe that brown recluse spiders live in the Blue Ridge Mountains but brown recluse spiders are not native to Virginia.

What can you do to avoid poisonous spiders? What should you do if you are bitten by a poisonous spider? Where in Virginia would you find poisonous spiders? Let’s find out all about venomous (poisonous) spiders in Virginia.

What is the most venomous (poisonous) spider in Virginia?

Female black widow spider guarding an egg case

Black widows are the only venomous (poisonous) spider in Virginia.

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©Chuck Evans(mcevan)”./ CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons – License

The most venomous spider in Virginia is the Black Widow. It is the only venomous spider that is native to the state. The Black Widow has a shiny black abdomen and all black head. You can tell it is a Black Widow by the red hourglass shape on the abdomen. Black widows are around 1-1 ½ inches long including their long skinny legs. The females are the ones that are jet black with a red marking where as the males are a dull brown and quite a bit smaller. Females are the only ones that bite and they generally run away vs biting. If they are startled or protecting their egg sac, then they might bite.

Where do Black Widows live?

A Black Widow Spider suspended in its web.

Black widow spiders are found throughout the state of Virginia and are typically outside, but are sometimes accidentally brought in with firewood.

©Ken Thomas / public domain – License

Black Widow spiders live throughout Virginia and can be found in webs close to the ground. They can live near the edge of forests, grassland and deserts, but also make themselves comfortable in urban and suburban areas. The most likely places you would run into them are in sheds, behind a stack of firewood, or the dark corner of a garage. They prefer to be outside so it is not common to find them inside homes. They are sometimes accidentally brought indoors when people bring in firewood from outside. In the United States they are in the southern and western states.

How can you avoid being bitten by a Black Widow?

Black Widow on Black Background

Black widows are very dangerous.

©iStock.com/AmericanWildlife

You can avoid being bitten by always being aware of spider webs. Black widows weave messy webs that cover a fair amount of space. If you are working outside and notice a web, keep your eye out for the black widows. If you have to move firewood or landscape rocks, they will often hide in these spaces too. In general, if you are working outdoors it is safest to wear a pair of protective gloves to avoid accidents. If you keep boots or shoes in your garage or shed be sure to check them before sliding your foot in, especially at the beginning of seasons when they have not been worn for awhile.

What should you do if you are bitten by a venomous spider in Virginia?

If you are bitten by a venomous spider you should seek immediate medical attention. If it is safe to collect the spider you can catch them in a glass jar and bring them in to help medical professionals identify the spider. Washing the bite area with soap and water can be a first step. If you have any trouble breathing call 911 immediately. Some people can have an anaphylatci reaction to spider venom.

What are the symptoms of a Black Widow bite?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of a black widow bite are pain and swelling at the bite site. That may be the only symptoms you have or you may also feel pain in your chest and abdomen, nausea, vomiting, tremors and sweating. The venom from Black Widows is a neurotoxin and affects the nervous system. (When we talk about poisonous spiders they are actually venomous but it is common to use the terms interchangeably even though not technically correct.) One thing to note about Black Widow bites is that the bite itself is not very painful so many people do not know they have been bitten until 1-3 hours later when the site starts to hurt and other symptoms appear.  

What other venomous spiders are there?

Most Dangerous Spiders

The brown recluse spider is one of the most dangerous spiders in the United States. They are a little smaller than a Black widow but are also poisonous.

©Pong Wira/Shutterstock.com

The CDC states there are two main kind of venomous spiders in the United States, the Black Widow and Brown Recluse. The Black Widow spider belongs to the Widow family and there are a few other kinds of widow spiders that are venomous. There are three kinds of Black Widows in the United States including the Northern Black Widow, Southern Black Widow and Western Black Widow. Red widow spiders are very rare but do exist in the US, they can be distinguished by their red head and thorax and red legs. Brown widows are similar to black widows in size but have a dull brown color and fainter markings.

Brown recluse spiders could be seen in Virginia if they were accidently transported through firewood or in shipping materials, but they are not native to the state. According to the University of Pennsylvania Extension brown recluse spiders only live in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Brown recluse spiders are a little smaller than black widows and have a different kind of venom that affects skin tissue. A bite from a brown recluse would be very painful and it destroys skin tissue so can leave a large sore. Getting medical assistance for brown recluse bites is also the best idea.

Are there Tarantulas in Virginia?

Tarantula crawling on rocks

Tarantulas are not found in Virginia, except as pets. They can bite but are not venomous. 

©Milan Zygmunt/Shutterstock.com

Tarantulas are not a native spider of Virginia. These large hairy spiders are very intimidating looking and can get to be the size of a human hand. The good news is they are not poisonous and do not have any venom. They can bite which is quite painful, but they do not release any venom.

What other venomous animals are in Virginia?

A Timber Rattlesnake striking prey

You wouldn’t want to run into a Timber Rattlesnake and they do live in Virginia.

©Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

Besides spiders you should be aware of these venomous creatures that do live in Virginia:

So when it comes to living in Virginia or visiting there are a fair number of venomous creatures. For now there is only on venomous spider in Virginia to be concerned about, the Black Widow.

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


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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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