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Sowbug Killer Spider (Dysdera crocata)

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

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Image Credit: Mona K. taken in WI
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The Sowbug Killer is adept at keeping the local Roly Poly (or Sowbug) population under control.

Updated: 01/05/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
This spider's favorite meal is the Sowbug, also known as a wood louse. The spider's coloration can range from a red thorax and ivory abdomen to a more purple thorax and tan abdomen. It has six eyes and they are arranged in an oval shape. Females are almost twice as large as males.

The Sowbug Killer is an active hunter, but it does have a lair. A Sowbug Killer uses its spider silk to strengthen its retreat, which is usually built under rocks, moss, or tree bark. Inside, the remains of previous meals are usually found. It does not form webs to catch its prey. Instead, it finds a sow bug and uses its giant chelicera to stab it in an ambush attack. This spider is not aggressive, nor is it interested in humans so bites are not common. Should one occur it is usually a defensive bite, but its venom is not toxic to people. That said, some people may be more sensitive and experience itching in addition to pain at the site of a spider bite.

This spider can be found anywhere: fields, parking lots, gardens, etc. It is equally at home in urban, suburban, and rural areas which conveniently is where its favorite prey item likes to live. It is likely that they overwinter as adults and reproduce in the spring. Look for Sowbug Killers in the spring and summer, when they are most active.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Arachnida
      Order: Araneae
        Family: Dysderidae
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          Genus: Dysdera
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            Species: crocata

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dysdera crocata
Other Name(s): Woodlouse Spider, Woodlouse Hunter
Category: Spider
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 15mm (0.35" to 0.59")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; red; yellow; ivory; orange; purple; tan
Descriptors: jaws; biting; venomous

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 9mm (0.4in) and 15mm (0.6in)
Lo: 9mm
Md: 12mm
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 Sowbug Killer 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 Sowbug Killer Spider. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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