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For current information on Nebraska wildlife, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, visit https://wildlife.unl.edu.


© 1986, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


This NebGuide describes the most common species of spiders found in Nebraska, including the black widow and brown recluse, and how to control them.

General Description and Habits

Spiders can be distinguished easily from insects. All spiders have two major body regions and four pair of legs; insects have three body regions and three pair of legs. Spiders vary widely in color, shape, size, and habits. All produce venom that is poisonous to their normal prey. Few spiders are considered dangerous to humans, however. These animals are predacious by nature and use their venom, which is injected through hollow fangs or chelicerae, to immobilize their prey. Spiders normally feed on insects and other small arthropods, but some large tropical species capture small mice, rats, birds, or fish. Spiders can only ingest liquids. Digestive fluids are either injected into the prey or regurgitated on to it. The spider then imbibes the liquified material. Spiders are generally considered beneficial because they consume large numbers of insects and are of almost no importance as disease carriers. They do not differentiate between beneficial and destructive insects in their diet.