Day 22 Sit Spot Challenge—What Spiders are Venomous?

black widow image by Smithsonian Institution-NMNH-Insect Zoo

black widow image by Smithsonian Institution-NMNH-Insect Zoo


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© 2013 Shanna Lea

When my kids and I went hiking, we encountered spiders all along the trails.  We studied them in our homeschooling nature studies and learned which ones were venomous.  But, we would still be startled occasionally.  Hitting a trail early in the morning, while the dew was still fresh on the grass, we would pick our way through the mesquite thickets.  And we always ran right into a spider web.

There’s nothing like having a face full of web and then suddenly seeing legs crawling down the inside of the bill of your hat straight towards your eyes!  We must have been a sight, suddenly tearing hats off and frantically brushing our hair trying to get away from them.  Then we would fall to the ground laughing at each other, at how silly we were.

But it was the fear of seeing something crawling right down inside of our hats that got us every time.  We laughed about it and brushed ourselves off and hit the trail again.

One way to reduce a fear of the unknown is to get to know it and understand it.  When you understand something, you reduce or eliminate the fear.  So today get out your field guides, and see how many venomous spiders live in your area.

Which spiders are venomous?

The Kamana One course uses the Reader’s Digest:  North American Wildlife resource for pictures and descriptions of arachnids.  Looking in it and available online sources, I see that for my area, the types of arachnids that are venomous are Black Widow and Brown Recluse.  Be sure and check the field guides for your area.

So we will take these 2 spiders and study them, one at a time, for our Nature Journals.  Pick one of the spiders and study its picture, then close your book and draw the details you remember.

What do they look like?

Now, go back to the book and look again.  Were there any details you missed?  Looking at the Black Widow, we see it has a large abdomen and a red hourglass shape on its belly.  Study the picture again, close the book, and draw it again from memory in your Nature Journal.

Now do the same exercise with the Brown Recluse.  What markings distinguish this brown spider from other brown spiders?  I see a marking on its back that looks like a violin, or fiddle.  They are commonly called fiddlebacks in my area.  It’s important to know where the violin shape is on the body. There are many spiders that have similar markings or shapes, so study the details closely.  Looking at the Spider Research page from the University of California Riverside website we see that a brown recluse has:

  • “A dark violin shape on the cephalothorax ( the portion of the body where the legs attach ).  The neck of the violin points backwards toward the abdomen.”
  • And it has 6 eyes, in sets of 2.   Most spiders have 8 eyes.
Brown recluse image from spiders ucr

Brown recluse image from spiders ucr

Brown recluse eyes image from spiders ucr

Brown recluse eyes image from spiders ucr














Now compare the sizes of each spider to another object, say a quarter, a dime and nickel.   Label this in your Nature Journal, and it will also help you remember what to look for the next time you are identifying a spider.

Where do they live?

Now you want to read the descriptions of where these guys live.  The brown recluse likes small, tight dark places.  They like old clothes in storage, under rugs, leaf litter and woody areas.

Black Widows live in barns, inside rotten wood, basements, fruit and vegetable gardens, under rocks and in trash piles.  Record all the details about where they live in your Nature Journal.

Now you know the most likely places you will encounter the venomous spiders.  And when you are pulling old clothes out from storage, give it a good shake before putting it on you.  Or, before you grab a jar of home canned peaches from the cellar, you know to look before your touch.

What do you do for a spider bite?

What do you do if you are bit by one of these venomous spiders?  Again, knowledge and understanding about what to do is the critical factor in how a situation is handled.  Do some research in your books and online for the appropriate action to take.

And teach your children early.  Always involve them in your learning so they can be in the habit of developing their awareness skills and use them throughout their life.


Kamana One Exploring Natural Mystery from the Wilderness Awareness School

Reader’s Digest:  North American Wildlife 

University of California at Riverside Spider Research page


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