Tangle Web Spiders

The Tangle web Spiders are also known as cobweb spiders and comb-footed spiders. They all belong to the family Theridiidae. Tangle Web Spiders are a large group of spiders with over 2,200 species in 87 genera. Tangle Web Spiders are found throughout the world and are known as ‘three-dimensional space-web-builders’. The family also includes the genus Latrodectus, the notorious widow spiders.

This family of spiders also contains a subfamily species called ‘kleptoparasitic’ which often have triangular shaped bodies. Tangle Web Spiders live in the webs of larger spiders and eat the small prey which are caught and killed in the larger spiders webs. They may also consume the silk from the host web and may sometimes attack and eat the host spider.

Tangle web spider Characteristics

The characteristics of this family of spiders are that they are entelegyne (have a genital plate in the female) and araneomorph ecribellate (use sticky capture silk instead of woolly silk). They are spiders that build tangle space webs and have a comb of serrated bristles (setae) on the tarsus of the fourth leg.

One species in Theridion family, the Hawaiian Theridion grallator, is known as the ‘happyface’ spider’, as certain morphs have a pattern uncannily resembling a smiley face or a grinning clown face on their yellow body. The Hawaiian name is ‘nananana makakiʻi’ (face-patterned spider). The binomial ‘grallator’ is Latin for ‘stilt walker’, reference to the species long spindly legs.

Tangle web spider Habitat and Webs

Tangle web spiders make messy looking, non-sticky webs that are often found in bushes or on buildings. The webs are often called ‘cobwebs’.

Tangle web spider Diet

Tangle Web spiders hang upside down in the middle of their webs, waiting for ants or crickets to get tangled up. Many Tangle Web spiders trap ants and other ground dwelling insects by means of elastic sticky silk trap lines leading to the soil surface.

Tangle web spider Reproduction

Female spiders produce egg sacs with up to 400 eggs inside, depending on the species. Baby spiders are called spiderlings, however, most are eaten before they have a chance to mature. The mother spider usually does not stick around to protect her eggs or her young, so the spiderlings are on their own as soon as they hatch.

Tangle web spider Venom

Two genera of the Tangle Web spiders have venom which is known to be medically significant. One genus, the widow spiders of genus Latrodectus, has caused more human fatalities than any other. The other genus, the false widow spiders of Steatoda, has a far less serious bite.