Called alternately the sowbug spider, woodlouse hunter, or the dysderid, this spider is very common throughout the U.S., primarily in the East from New England down to Georgia, then west to California. Outside the U.S., it is common in Australia, northern Europe, and England. Although it lives outside to hunt its prey, it may come indoors in the fall for shelter.
The sowbug spider has a distinctive appearance:
- The female is generally about 1/2- to 3/4-inch long and the male is generally smaller, at less than 1/2 inch.
- Colorful with purplish-brown upper body parts, a grayish-white abdomen, and orange legs.
- Most spiders have eight eyes, but the dysderid has only six eyes―that are set in an oval shape.
- Very large, thick mouthparts with large, forward-projecting fangs. It uses its scissor-like fangs to capture and hold its prey, then uses a single fang to spear an arthropod’s soft belly, kill, and eat it.
- It is sometimes confused with the brown recluse spider, because of its coloring and some similarity of features. Its orange legs are the key differentiating characteristic of the sowbug/woodlouse spider.
The sowbug spider may bite if it is handled, but even if it does, its bite is rarely very painful.
However, if the bite does cause a reaction, the bitten person should seek medical attention.
The best method of controlling the sowbug spider is taking measures to reduce the attraction of your home and property, by decreasing the presence of prey and the harborage sites of both the spider and its prey (damp areas of debris, woodpiles, leaf litter, mulch, etc.), reducing standing water (which also helps reduce mosquito breeding sites).
Spiders that do get into the home can be captured on sticky traps, which is a good control for them. Again, increasing sanitation decreasing clutter in the home (e.g., papers, boxes, bags, etc.) that attract and provide harborage for spiders and pillbugs will help reduce the presence of spiders in the home.