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It is not uncommon to find large spider specimens of questionable safety within residential lawns and gardens. Of course, a spider’s size is no indication of its venom strength, or potential to inflict medically significant bites. For example, the Carolina wolf spider is large enough to be mistaken for a tarantula, and specimens often wander into households in the northeast in search of insect prey. These spiders, which are well distributed in much of North America, are shy around humans, and they rarely bite unless they are mishandled. Another large spider species commonly found all over the United States, including the northeast, is the Araneus marmoreus species. These spiders are often referred to as “pumpkin spiders” on account of their orange-colored and bulbous abdomen. Pumpkin spiders are usually found within lawns and particularly in gardens where they construct large and picturesque webs that resemble webs built by other orb-weaver spider species. Females of this species often reach three quarters of an inch in length, and their long thin legs make them appear much larger. Despite their relatively large body size for northeast garden spiders, pumpkin spiders are not known to inflict bites that result in anything more than a sting.

According to an online survey, citizen scientists have spotted the pumpkin spider specimens a total of 74 times, and only three of these sightings occurred indoors. While pumpkin spiders are not often found indoors, they are spotted frequently around homes, as nearly all other documented sightings occurred in gardens or on structures. Pumpkin spiders are not considered medically significant, and they are often beneficial due to their habit of feeding on insect pests in lawns and gardens. These spiders prey upon flies, ants and numerous other insects that can become nuisance pests. One study found that one single pumpkin spider adult often catches around 14 insects per day in their large and unforgiving webs. If a person does sustain a pumpkin spider bite while gardening, which is unlikely, simply washing the bite wound with soap is typically all that is necessary.

Have you ever spotted a pumpkin spider on your property?