Woodlouse Hunter Spider
Dysdera crocata is a hunting spider found from New England to Georgia and west to California. It is also a commonly encountered spider in England, northern Europe, and Australia. The woodlouse hunter preys on pill bugs or sow bugs (order Isopoda) and derives its common name from the British common name for these crustaceans. D. crocata is known to feed on other arthropods as well. This is the only species of the family Dysderidae known to occur in Pennsylvania.
Female D. crocata are 11 to 15 millimeters in length, and the males are 9 to 10 millimeters. The cephalothorax and legs are reddish-orange and the abdomen is a dirty white. The chelicerae are large, thick, and slanted far forward. The six eyes are arranged in an oval.
The woodlouse hunter probably overwinters in its adult form. Mating is reported to occur in April, with the eggs being deposited shortly thereafter. The eggs are suspended within the female’s silken retreat by a few strands of silk. Seventy eggs may be deposited at a time. The spiderlings will remain with the mother at first, living in her retreat for a period before moving out on their own.
D. crocata bites have been implicated in causing a localized, intensely itching erythema 4 to 5 millimeters in diameter. The bites apparently do not result in any systemic neurotoxicity or cytotoxicity.
Authored by: Steve Jacobs, Sr. Extension Associate
March 2002 Revised 2012This publication is available in alternative media on request.
Baerg, W. J. 1936. The Black Widow. Ark. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bul. 325. 34 pp.
Baerg, W. J. 1959. The Black Widow and Five Other Venomous Spiders in the United States. Ark. Agr. Expt. Sta. Bul. 608. 43 pp.
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.
Kaston, B. J. 1948. “Spiders of Connecticut.” Conn. State Geol. Nat. Hist. Survey. Bull. 70. 874 pp.
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. Vol. LXXVIII (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.
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.
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences research, extension, and resident education programs are funded in part by Pennsylvania counties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Visit Penn State Extension on the web: http://extension.psu.edu
Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by Penn State Cooperative Extension is implied.
This publication is available in alternative media on request.
Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to minorities, women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and other protected groups. Nondiscrimination.
© The Pennsylvania State University 2015