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Broad-Faced Sac Spider

Trachelas tranquillus

Trachelas tranquillus ranges from New England and adjacent Canada, south to Georgia and Alabama, and west to Kansas and Minnesota. They are found outdoors walking on foliage; under leaf litter, stones, and boards; and on buildings under the windowsills and siding. They construct silken retreats, within which they hide during the day. Most occurrences of T. tranquillus in homes coincide with falling temperatures in autumn. They do not, as a rule, establish reproducing colonies in homes.

Description

broad-faced-sac-spider.jpg

The females are 7 to 10 millimeters in length; the males are 5 to 6 millimeters. The chelicerae and carapace are thick, hard, reddish-brown, and covered with what appear to be tiny punctures. The abdomen is pale yellow to light gray, with a slightly darker dorsal stripe. The front pair of legs is darker and thicker; the other three pairs become increasingly lighter and thinner toward the last pair.

Life History

These spiders prefer warmer and drier habitats. They can be found at the bases of plants, on fences, inside rolled leaves, and under stones and boards. Mature females are often collected while they wander around in homes during the autumn. Males mature and mate in midsummer, and each female will deposit a pure white egg sac containing 30 to 50 eggs in September or October. A common oviposition site is under loose tree bark. A peculiar trait of this spider is its reported tendency to scavenge on dead spiders and insects.

Medical Importance

The broad-faced sac spider has been reported to produce a painful bite. There are records of severe secondary infection associated with the bite. It has been suggested that these infections may result from the spider’s propensity for feeding on dead and decaying arthropods. Typically, the bite produces a painful erythema similar to that of a bee or wasp sting. Individuals who are sensitive to arthropod venoms may exhibit a more severe and possibly systemic reaction.

Authored by: Steve Jacobs, Sr. Extension Associate
March 2002 Revised 2015

Reference

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Baerg, W. J. 1959. The Black Widow and Five Other Venomous Spiders in the United States. Ark. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bul. 608. 43 pp.

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Breene, R. G., et al. 2003. Common Names of Arachnids. 5th ed. The American Arachnological Society Committee on Common Names of Arachnids. 42 pp.

Gertsch, W. J., and F. Ennik. 1983. “The spider genus Loxosceles in North America, Central America, and the West Indies (Araneae, Loxoscelidae).” Bul Amer Mus. Nat. Hist. 175: 24–360.

Herms, W. B., and M. T. James. 1961. Medical Entomology. 5th ed. The MacMillan Company, New York. 616 pp.

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Isbister, G. K., and M. R. Gray. 2003. “Effects of envenoming by combfooted spiders of the genera Steatoda and Achaearanea (Family Theridiidae: Araneae) in Australia.” J. Toxicol. Clin. Toxicol. 41: 809–819.

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Kaston, B. J. 1972. How to Know the Spiders. 3rd ed. Wm. C. Brown Company, Dubuque, Iowa. 272 pp.

Levi, H. W. 1959. “The Spider Genus Latrodectus (Araneae, Theridiidae).” Trans. Amer. Microscopical Soc. 78(1): 7–43.

Long, D., R. Snetsinger, and K. F. Helm. 1995. “Localized Pruritic Rash Due to Recurrent Spider Bites.” J. Geriatr. Dermatol. 3(6): 186–190.

McKeown, N., R. S. Vetter, and R. G. Hendrickson. 2014. “Verified spider bites in Oregon (USA) with the intent to assess hobo spider venom toxicity.” Toxicon 84: 51–55.

Ubick, D., P. Paquin, P. E. Cushing, and V. Roth, eds. 2005. Spiders of North America: An Identification Manual. American Arachnological Society. 377 pp.

Vetter, R. S., and P. Kirk Visscher. 1998. “Bites and Stings of Medically Important Venomous Arthropods.” International. J. Derm. 37: 481–496.

Vetter, R. S., et al. 2006. “Verified Bites By Yellow Sac Spiders (Genus Cheiracanthium) in the United States and Australia: Where Is the Necrosis?” Amer. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 74(6): 1,043–1,048.

Vetter, R. S., and G.K. Isbister. 2008. “Medical aspects of spider bites.” Annu. Rev. Entomol. 53: 409–429.

 

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