All of California’s native tarantulas are in the genus Aphonopelma. They often are found in pool filters. The females live in burrows and are occasionally dug up in gardens. Males are often seen wandering in search of females in the fall.
“I can’t believe it’s not a tarantula!” Often mistaken for a tarantula, Calisoga is smaller and unable to climb smooth surfaces. Very frequently encountered in the Oakland hills. There is considerable variation in color and form. The similar Calisoga thevenetti is less frequently seen. As with tarantulas, the spiders are usually safely hidden in their burrows, and wandering males are the most likely to be encountered.
The common synanthropic cellar spiders in California are European invasives, native pholcids are much smaller. Sometimes confused with “daddy long-legs”, which are not spiders, but rather Opiliones (“harvestment”). Pholcus can be distinguished from Holocnemus (“marbled cell spider) by the grey/brown concolorous abdomen. Their webs are irregular tangles. When disturbed the spiders often gyrate in their webs. [left: Pholcus (photo: Jerome Rovner),
“silver garden spider”, “yellow garden spider”, “banded garden spider”
Common in gardens, makes an orb web with conspicuous, shiny, radiating “stabilimenta”. [left: silver, Argiope argentata (photo: Sean McCann), middle: yellow, Argiope aurantia
Another European invasive, this spider seems to be displacing our native black widows in urban areas. This spider is roughly the same size and shape as a black widow, but is brown with a faint purple sheen. Makes a typical theridiid tangle web.
There are many jumping spiders around the home and garden, but of the common ones Phidippus are the most conspicuous. Jumping spiders are visual, day-time hunters with large frontal eyes, and do not make webs.
This is the only spider that you are likely to encounter in California whose venom is medically significant. The red hourglass may be yellow or orange, and may not actually be shaped like an hourglass. Males and immature females are not solid black, and have attractive marble-like patterns on their abdomens. Makes a typical theridiid tangle web.
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