The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

The Biggest Spider In Ever (Araneus gemmoides)

I was out in the yard playing fetch with the dogs, when suddenly a large, ominous shape…slowly creeping up the beige siding of my house…caught my attention.   Holy jeezum crow: the biggest fracking spider I’d ever seen.

I did what any self-respecting entomologist would do: I wrung my hands and hopped from one foot to the other, doing the Holy-Heebie-Jeebies-Icky-Icky-Spider Dance.


I mean, I did what any self-respecting entomologist would do: I scooped it up with the two-foot-long tennis ball-launcher I was holding and walked it, arm’s length, into some sunlight, with half a mind to take some pictures.

Eh.  Heh. 

I mean…oh, I’ll just say it: it creeped me right the heck out.  You guys know I’m not a huge fan of spiders, and this was a DOOZY. 

It was cold and not moving too much, but I coaxed it onto a leaf.  It sat:

Then dangled:

Then it crawled back up, started moving towards the petiole I was holding…and suddenly the leaf was not nearly big enough. Not even REMOTELY big enough.  I scampered over to the garden and deposited it on some autumn-browned flowers:

It sat and looked spider-ey and bristle-ey.

It occurred to me that closeup photographs would probably not capture the true bulk of this impressive creature.  I needed something in the images for scale.  I tried a tennis ball…lens cap…another leaf…nothing looked quite right. 

So I did what any self-respecting entomologist would do: I ALLOWED THE GIANT SPIDER TO CRAWL ONTO MY HAND. 

My fingers are apparently trying to flee from the rest of my hand.

I quaked and thought of those giant chelicerae and swore I would never in a million billion years touch another arachnid so help me god if it bit me.  I wondered if spiders were like dogs…if they could be whipped into a snarling, vicious frenzy if they so much as caught a whiff of fear.

It walked some more.

O Halp.

And then it started thinking about walking up my sweater.


*End photo shoot*


(No spiders were harmed in the making of this post, although the human was visibly trembling by the end.) 

(And, ok, so maybe this isn’t the biggest spider in EVER, but it is pretty darned humongous.  I need to spend a little time IDing it…anyone recognize this ferocious man-eater?)

40 responses to “The Biggest Spider In Ever (Araneus gemmoides)

  1. Katie November 12, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Cool new pics at the top of your blog. Good job with the spider. So, do you know what it is, after it crawled all around on you?

  2. Warren November 12, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    Guessing, I’d say Araneus gemmoides, but let me get back to you…need to consult a couple of experts.

  3. Morgan Jackson November 12, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    Great pics Geek! Congrats on putting the brave entomologist face on and getting it done!

  4. Rachel November 13, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    OK, just looking at the pictures in this post gave me a mild panic attack! ACK! DID YOU DO THAT ON PURPOSE?!!!!???

    *Flailing all her extremities wildly*

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  6. Steve Willson November 13, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    When I handle large spiders, it’s a comfort knowing that the spider won’t bite unless provoked. Then I wonder if the spider knows it’s not supposed to bite. That’s an excellent specimen, by the way.

  7. Ted C. MacRae November 13, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    Believe it or not, I could never ever in a million years do that!

  8. 6legs2many November 14, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Wow! You’re right that he looks way more imposing on your hand.
    Digging through sweep nets has gotten me a lot more calm about spiders, but I’m still pretty leery of the big ones.

    • TGIQ November 14, 2010 at 12:37 PM

      I’m making a conscious effort to get more comfortable with them, but so far it’s a very slow process. This was a big step! As for sweep nets, I prefer to let the bigguns crawl out by themselves before I go rooting 😛

  9. MObugs41 November 14, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard…I can so relate to your
    Holy-Heebie-Jeebies-Icky-Icky-Spider Dance. I’ve done my fair share of those in my backyard every time I walk into one of the webs these icky-icky spiders make. They always build them right where I need to walk…why is that? Then I get completely freaked out when I think that big, hairy spider is probably crawling on me somewhere, that’s when the dancing starts.
    I’ve spent the past 3 years overcoming severe arachnophobia….and I have finally just this year worked up the courage to do what you did…and hold one!
    Why is that so many of us who love insects, have a sense of dread at the sight of a spider? Are they really that different? I just felt a shiver up my spine!

    • TGIQ November 14, 2010 at 12:46 PM

      So the part of the story I left out…right after it tried to crawl down my sweater I (very) quickly put it back on the plant, then glanced away for a moment to throw the ball for my pesty dog…I looked back down and…the spider was GONE.
      I suddenly was consumed with the notion that the spider had constructed a drag line before I had put it down, and said drag line was (of course) still attached to me, and that it had climbed back up and WAS NOW ON MY PERSON.
      I freaked and did a quick body-scan.
      Then I spent the next five minutes rooted in place until I finally saw the spider exactly where it should have been: on the plant and not on me. I couldn’t bring myself to move until I could see where it was.
      I really don’t understand the phobia…but boy oh boy….

  10. mthew November 21, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    Walking — isn’t crawling such a lovely word? — up inside the sweater sleev: now that sounds like some sacrifice to science, all right.

  11. Warren November 22, 2010 at 10:09 PM

    Maybe the phobia’s from scary movie spiders when we’re little. Or maybe from those bitches crawling on you when you take a web of dead bugs to the face, which happens A LOT off-trail. I didn’t like em either until I saw that jackass Irwin picking em up. Then I started doing it. In retrospect, not the best guy to compete with.

    • TGIQ November 23, 2010 at 6:48 AM

      I really have no idea…I don’t recall any scary spider movies…but it was probably a series of those “BOO!” moments where you look down and suddenly one is on you…aaak!

  12. Lucy Corrander December 2, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    I am not frightened of spiders unless they have hairy legs.

    You, are brave.


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  14. dragonflywoman January 12, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    I came across this online today and it reminded me of your spider phobia and this post. If you haven’t read it, it perfectly describes why it is okay to be afraid of spiders:

    I think most entomologists are at least a little scared of spiders. Some just hide it better than others. 🙂

    • TGIQ January 14, 2011 at 9:34 PM

      LOL! I’ve seen that one before, and I laughed pretty hard over it. Although, that blogger’s fairly recent post about dogs and moving…oh lordy it had me in tears, in TEARS of laughter for about the first 15 times I read it.

  15. spit September 22, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    This is from quite a while ago now, but I came across it while trying to ID one of these guys — think it’s the same species, anyway, I’ll have to get a better look tomorrow if she rebuilds a web — and as a fellow bug dork, it made me laugh uproariously.

    For the record, I actually kind of _like_ spiders as long as they don’t, like, leap several feet in an unpredictable direction or something, but this one wigged me out, too. Didn’t help that she had built her web across the 8′ span of the porch steps, or that I apparently mangled part of the web without noticing her, first thing in the morning, before I’d had my coffee.

    • TGIQ September 22, 2012 at 6:41 PM

      Thanks for joining the freak-out-fest, spit. Better late than never! I completely understand why you were a little unnerved by your encounter.

      TWO of these spiders have taken up residence at my house this year. I have half a mind to collect the one I can reach (it’s in my wood shed; the other is living under the eaves of the roof) and making a little video of it. I don’t think it’s quite as big as the one in these photos, but it’s probably close!

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  17. Marina September 8, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Yes! It’s called the Cat-Faced Spider or Jewel Spider, Araneus gemmoides. The one you found is a female. Non-poisonous to humans, great at keeping pesty bugs away. We found one near our apartment in Provo UT and named it Harold. 🙂

    • TGIQ September 10, 2013 at 4:42 AM

      They are really lovely animals 🙂 I’ve since had another encounter, and recorded an educational video showing me handling it…without wildly trembling hands! I’ve come a long way 🙂 You can see the video if you click my Zoology Lab Tutorials tab!

  18. krabby January 8, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    I know this original post is old and I hope your phobia has improved greatly by now. The first time I saw one of these in my backyard, I actually heard him first. He was on the fence, munching on a wasp and, yes, I could HEAR the crunching. Considering his menu choice, I decided he could stay. I’m not gonna mess with anything that will eat a wasp.

    • TGIQ March 23, 2014 at 3:58 PM

      Wow, that's impressive (if terrifying!) :D Happily, YES, my phobia has improved tremendously. I've held other individuals since with no shaking nor fear of impending death/doom/destruction. ;)

  19. Sharon Foster September 18, 2016 at 5:27 PM

    Whoa! I just discovered a gigantic Araneus gemmoides (Cat-faced spider) under the overhang on my garage!!! And it about 6 inches away from a wasp nest!!! So did it set-up some spidey smörgåsbord? I guess it would actually be more like an all-you-can eat since smörgåsbord implies a *variety* of food! Wish I could post the picture of this fascinating occurrence.

    • TGIQ March 30, 2017 at 11:51 AM

      Cool! Spiders will definitely often set up shop near ready sources of food – entomologists often find webs strung across traps they’ve set to catch flying insects (much to the delight of the spider, and the angst of the entomologist!) I wonder if there is a light near the spider’s web? That’s a good place to find things like moths, flies, and beetles that are drawn to the light at night 🙂

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