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Bolas Spider (Mastophora cornigera)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Bolas Spider

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Image Credit: Brandon K.
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The Bolas Spider's abdomen helps it lure prey into its delicate, hanging lines of silk, each strand tipped with a weighty ball.

Updated: 01/02/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Bolas Spider is not a web spinner. Instead, it casts lines of silk strands with a heavy globule at the end called a bola. It swings the bola when prey is within range. This species ensnares moths that fly too closely to it. It is believed to be able to produce a chemical from its abdominal protuberances that mimics the pheromone, or smell, of female moths. When male moths come seeking to mate, they are caught by the lines of silk.

Bolas Spiders are brown with an irregularly shaped abdomen. Two bumps on it look more like deformed outgrowths. A whitish marbling over the abdomen looks like a chalky residue. Males remain quite small, but females molt multiple times, growing to be 5 or 6 times larger than males. Fertilized eggs are laid in a hard, round sac and spiderlings hatch in June.

The Bolas Spider can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from gardens and meadows to shrubby areas and woodlands. They are more common in southeastern North America but have been seen westward all the way to the southern parts of California.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect biting icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Arachnida
      Order: Araneae
        Family: Araneidae
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          Genus: Mastophora
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            Species: cornigera
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Mastophora cornigera
Category: Spider
Size (Adult; Length): 2mm to 15mm (0.07" to 0.59")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; white; ivory; yellow; red
Descriptors: bumpy; bulging; rough; deformed; bulbous; biting

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 2mm (0.1in) and 15mm (0.6in)
Lo: 2mm
Md: 8.5mm
Hi: 15mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Bolas Spider may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Bolas Spider. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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