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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Araneae (spiders)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthropoda > Arachnomorpha > Cheliceriformes > Chelicerata > Euchelicerata > Arachnida

Many different spider species occur in your garden and home. Only a couple are venomous and pose a possible threat to man. We acquaint you here with the more common spiders in southern Africa for which the Iziko South African Museum is regularly approached for identification. Spiders perform a vital function by keeping down the populations of various insect pests and should be encouraged in your garden and around the home, instead of emptying cans of insecticide on every one that is seen.  

On this page:

See also:

"If you wish to live and thrive, let the spider run alive"

Ask Norman
Norman Larsen answers your questions on spiders in the Western Cape of South Africa.


These pages on spiders were written by Norman Larsen and Margie Cochrane, with photographs by Norman Larsen


Suborder Mygalomorpha (Primitive, 2 pairs of booklungs, chelicerae/fang action paraxial - forward and downwards). Suborder Araneomorpha (1 Pair of booklungs, majority of species are web makers.chelicerae/fang action diaxial - sideways  and inwards (pinching). 







Where did you see the spider?

Family Inside the home

Outside the home Close to permanent water On a plant, bush, tree or flower Under rocks, in walls In underground burrows
Araneidae       X    
Eresidae         X  
Lycosidae   X X      
Miturgidae X X        
Pholcidae X          
Pisauridae      X      
Salticidae X X   X X  
Scytodidae X       X  
Selenopidae X     X X  
Sicariidae X       X  
Sparassidae X X   X X  
Theraphosidae         X X
Theridiidae X X     X  
Tetragnathidae     X X    
Thomisidae       X    


Spider publications

  • BRISTOWE, A. M. 1958. The World of Spiders. London: Collins. 304 pp.
  • BURNET, B. 1994. The Silken Web. A Natural History of Australian Spiders. Sydney: Reed New Holland Books.
  • BURNET, B. 1998. Spiderwatch. A guide to Australian Spiders. Sydney: Reed New Holland Books.
  • DIPPENAAR, A. and N. 1987. Spiders. The Insight Series. Pretoria: De Jager-Haum.
  • DIPPENAAR-SCHOEMAN, A. 2000. Field Guide to South African Spiders. Pretoria: Briza.
  • DIPPENAAR-SCHOEMAN, A. S. and JOCQUÉ, R.1997. African Spiders. An Identification Manual. Plant Protection Research Institute, Handbook No.9. 392 pp.
  • DIPPENAAR-SCHOEMAN, A. S. and MÜLLER, G. 2000. Medically important spiders and scorpions of southern Africa. (CD-Rom). Pretoria: Agricultural Research Council. (See details under Spider bites).
  • FILMER, M. 1999. Southern African Spiders. An Identification Guide. Cape Town: Struik. 112 pp.
  • FILMER, M. AND LARSEN, N. 2010. Filmer's spiders - an identification guide for southern Africa. Struik Nature, Cape Town.
  • FOELIX, R. F. 1982. Biology of Spiders. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 306 pp.
  • HAWTHORN, T. 1998. Spiders and Scorpions of southern Africa. A First Field Guide. Cape Town: Struik.
  • HILLYARD, P. 1994. The Book of the Spider. From Arachnophobia to the Love of Spiders. London: Hutchinson.
  • HILLYARD, P. 1997. Spiders. Glascow: Harper Collins.
  • JONES, D. 1983. Spiders of Britain and northern Europe. Middlesex: Country Life Books.
  • KASTON, B. J. 1972. How to know spiders. 3rd ed. Dubuque: W. M. C Brown Publishers. 272 pp.
  • LAWRENCE, R. F.  A Conspectus of South African Spiders. Department of Agricultural Technical Services, South Africa Science Bulletin 369. 64 pp.
  • LEROY, A. and LEROY, J. 2000. Spiderwatch in southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik. 96 pp.
  • LEVI, H. W. and L. R. 1968. A Guide to Spiders and their kin. New York: Golder Press.
  • MARSHALL, S. D. 1996. Tarantulas and other arachnids. A complete guide. New York: Barrons.
  • MASCORD, R. 1991. Australian Spiders in Colour. Sydney: Reed Books.
  • NEWLANDS, G. and De Meillon, E. 1986. Spiders. Struik pocket guides to southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik. 64 pp.
  • PRESTON-MAFHAM, R. and K. 1984. Spiders of the World. Dorset: Brandford Press.
  • PRINS, A. J. AND LEROUX, V. 1986. South African Spiders and Scorpions. Cape Town: Anubis Press. 72 pp.
  • ROBERTS, M. J. 1995. Collins Field Guide to Spiders of Britain and northern Europe. London: Harper Collins.
  • SMITH, A. M. 1990. A revision of the Theraphosidae family from Africa and the Middle East. London: Fitzgerald Publishing.142 pp.
  • TAYLOR, B. 1999. Spiders. Nature Watch. London: Lorenz Books, Anness Publishing.
  • YATES, J. H. 1968. Spiders of southern Africa. Cape Town: Books of Africa. 200 pp.