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Fishing Spider (Dolomedes spp.)

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

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Image Credit: Thais G. taken in Monhegan, ME
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The Fishing Spider is commonly found near bodies of water and, as any fisherman could tell you, it can grow to be 'this big'.

Updated: 06/29/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Fishing Spiders are typically found near bodies of water. They may also venture into nearby woods for terrestrial hunting. Fishing Spiders are large and look menacing. Their leg span can stretch to more than 75mm (3 inches), making some slightly bigger than the palm of an adult hand. Like nearly every spider in North America, it can bite and deliver venom, but its venom is not considered dangerous unless you happen to be specifically allergic to it.

As members of the Nursery-Web family, females will lay their eggs on a silken mat and then wrap them up into a small ball. She will then carry the egg sac in her jaws as she looks for a good place for them to hatch. She will build a web and attach her egg sac to it, then stand guard until the spiderlings emerge. Hundreds of spiderlings can hatch at once and they eventually disperse from the nursery on their own silken threads.

Fishing Spiders get their name from their hunting behavior and occasional food source. They are adept at ambushing insects and other food items on land, but they are also able to submerge their bodies just under the surface of calm water and hunt for small fish and tadpoles. The bristly hairs on their body trap air bubbles that they use to breathe while underwater and waiting for something to swim by. They have been known to stay submerged for more than 30 minutes at a time when hunting in water. They are also able to eat insects skimming or treading on the water's surface above them.

They are active during the summer months. Look for Fishing Spiders on or near boat docks and marinas. They may also be seen near shorelines and the banks of rivers and creeks. Keep an eye on still water to see if any are quietly hunting.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect biting icon
Venomous insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Arachnida
      Order: Araneae
        Family: Pisauridae
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          Genus: Dolomedes
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            Species: spp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dolomedes spp.
Category: Spider
Size (Adult; Length): 7mm to 26mm (0.27" to 1.02")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; tan; gray
Descriptors: large; huge; biting; venomous; chevrons; zigzags; water; long legs spread out

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 7mm (0.3in) and 26mm (1.0in)
Lo: 7mm
Md: 16.5mm
Hi: 26mm

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 Fishing 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 Fishing Spider. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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