Large, black, furry jumping spider

2012 May 2

I found this unusually large jumping spider on one of the roof support pillars on our front porch on July 18, 2011. He was a big, black, furry, sinister-looking specimen, over a centimeter long.

Normally, jumping spiders are kind of cute, but this one has more the air of the insect murderer that he actually is.

In this closeup of his face[1], we see that he’s got iridescent green chelicerae (his mouthparts), so he’s probably one of the Phidippus jumping spiders.

Jumping spiders use all four of their rearmost legs for jumping. In this next picture, you can see the very hind pair shaped something like a grasshopper’s hind legs, all ready to push backwards. The pair in front of that are oriented a little bit differently, so that when he jumps they will pull forward rather than pushing backwards.

To show how this works, here’s a short video I found on YouTube that was shot with a high-speed camera[2].

I think the use of four legs for jumping rather than just two gives him far more control than most small jumping arthropods have. And he needs precision very much. Things like grasshoppers, leafhoppers, and fleas are using their jumping abilities to escape from predators, so they don’t care about fine directional control. They just want to get away. Jumping spiders, on the other hand, are using their jumps to intercept. They don’t have to jump far, but they do have to have pinpoint precision.

[1] In the picture, it looks like he has human-like eyes. That’s an artifact of the way my Cone Macro Flash Concentrator directs light from the camera flash. The white “iris” is a reflection of the posterboard cone that most of the light from the flash is bouncing off of; the black “pupil” is the circular end of my camera lens; and the glowing-white spot in the middle that makes him look demonical is the light that traveled directly from the on-camera flash and bounced back from his eye. And what looks like a baggy lower eyelid is a reflection of a corner of the white sheet of paper he’s standing on. It’s just a coincidence that it all lined up to look like human eyeballs, I swear!

[2] There is a note on YouTube from the person who posted this video that the slow light-dark strobing of the background brightness was due to being shot under fluorescent lights, which flicker either 100 or 120 times per second, depending on whether they are powered by 50 or 60 cycle AC. So since the brightness strobes about five times in the course of the jump, that means the jump only took about 1/20th of a second – too fast to see with the naked eye.

33 Responses
  1. sandy permalink
    May 2, 2012


  2. Carole permalink
    May 2, 2012


  3. Kathleen permalink
    May 3, 2012

    He was beautiful- I hope you didn’t him.

  4. Kathleen permalink
    May 3, 2012

    Left out ‘hurt’- I hope you examined him and let him go.

  5. May 3, 2012

    Oh, certainly. He was completely unharmed by the experience, and went right back into the yard to go about his business when we were through. I like having jumping spiders around.

  6. May 3, 2012

    I love the close-up shot of the eyes. Freaky. Like it’s channeling Cthulhu.

  7. Brian permalink
    May 4, 2012

    Nice. How big is/was he?

  8. May 4, 2012

    About a centimeter long (just a hair under a half-inch long). Pretty big for the local jumping spiders, which are usually less than half that long, but not all that large in the greater scheme of things.

  9. Brian permalink
    May 4, 2012

    Cool. I only ask as being from the Chicagoland area we used to have tiny jumpers that seemed to like hanging out on doorbells….Though I once discovered one rather large guy on my shoulder [surprise!] when I was inside sitting on my couch. He was easily 1 (maybe 1.5) cm. I would guess he was a lost bold jumper.

  10. blah permalink
    May 4, 2012

    Those eyes freak me out. I feel like I’m looking a caveman in the eye.

  11. May 8, 2012

    It would be interesting to see a longer video of a jump. It looks like the spider loses control pretty quickly and rotates in mid-air in almost random ways, landing however.

  12. May 8, 2012

    And, of course, awesome photos as always. Gorgeous!

  13. May 8, 2012

    It would be cool to see longer videos of jumping spiders jumping, but this one was the only one I could find. Probably the only way to get better ones, would be to get hold of a high-speed camera and shoot them myself.

    Unfortunately, I think they’re pretty expensive.

  14. Katbird permalink
    July 27, 2012

    Did you ever determine if this was P. audax?

  15. July 28, 2012

    Katbird: It could be, but if it is then it has somewhat atypical coloration. Most P. audax look to have a black abdomen with either three white spots or three orange spots, while this one has a light-gray abdomen with a black splotch running down the middle. That doesn’t look completely outside the range of their variation, but it isn’t close enough to any Phiddipus species that I’d be prepared to ID it as any of them.

  16. Stephanie permalink
    April 1, 2013

    I see this in my backyard. I am just wondering if they are harmful in any way. I am not a bug lover like all the rest of you. I have 3 small dogs so I am concerned about me and my dogs if dog happens to find one of these critters. Also, will they just stay outside or will they come inside the house? They are scary to me. Thanks, stephanie

  17. katbird permalink
    April 1, 2013

    Your dogs will not be harmed if they eat one- though they probably won’t- won’t be able to catch one. The fangs on these guys are so small, they are unlikely to be able to break you skin- if you should happen to pick one up and they resented it. They hunt by sight and will see you coming and try to run away, spring away, or use their web materials to drop away. I see lots of spiders in houses, but almost never jumping spiders- they don’t crawl in under doors or anything. I hope this helps. If you can get a spider in a jar so you feel safe- take some time to examine it and perhaps your fears will lessen as you get to know it better. They would hate being called bugs…

  18. Amanda permalink
    April 9, 2015

    I found one of these in my laundry room outside, in Texas. He hid in my stored things. Is he dangerous? I have tons of laundry, he was hid in a clothes pile waiting to b washed. Should I make an effort to relocate him, or just leave him b. I have dogs cats and kids hanging out all over this area. We r talking, egg sized.

  19. April 10, 2015


    “Egg sized” sounds more like a tarantula (my jumping spider was only about the size of a pea). Tarantulas aren’t dangerous. They don’t bite unless molested, and if they do bite their venom is about on the order of a bee sting. They are pretty fragile, and trying to relocate it is likely to maim or kill it (or make it run crazily around and maybe scamper over you, or make it shed little barbed hairs and kick them into your eyes, which is what they mostly do when being chased by predators). It would probably be best just to leave it alone.

    Here’s the Texas A&M webpage on tarantulas:

    If you do decide to relocate it, I find that the easiest way to move spiders is to get a jar and a piece of cardboard. Come up to it slowly, and put the jar over it. Then slide the cardboard under the mouth of the jar, pick up the whole thing, and take it where you want to release it.

  20. Ayanna permalink
    May 31, 2015

    You all are effin crazy. It’s no way I’m letting this spider that wasn’t welcomed to my house out of this house alive. My 4 year old was in his room minding his out business and was scared outta his mind by one that looks exactly like this. It took a while but I was able to kill it before it got away and without my husband being here to do it for me. Call me crazy and cruel all you want but his home is outside. And the minute he makes his way into my home he’s liable to not make it back out. Oh well.

  21. michael permalink
    September 24, 2015

    I have a photo can someone tell me what kind it is?

  22. September 25, 2015


    You can try posting it to Bug Guide,
    Just create a free account, and then you can post the picture under “ID Request”
    They are considerably more expert than me, and you have a good chance of geting it identified at least to the genus.

  23. Connie permalink
    April 21, 2016

    Saw one crawling on the couch where I am sitting. Yes. Scared me to death. Yes. Killed him dead. Heart is still out of rhythm. Maybe poisonous, maybe not. Did not have an expert around to clear him. Spiders. Stay outside!

  24. Greg permalink
    June 22, 2017

    Same. Only had one crawling up my leg while I was driving! Startled the $#!+ outta me, went to brish it off and ot jumped to who knew where. Assumimg it was still near my feet I pulled out onto another street and then once again to get to suitably less busy street – nearly caused an accident on a majorly busy road with my daughter in the car with me. Once we were stopped I found it took a few pics and killed it – sorry, but had to be done. It just wouldn’t jump out of my car.

  25. JOLENE permalink
    June 25, 2017


  26. June 28, 2017

    We are just on the other side of Lake Superior from you, so if we have them it is perfectly reasonable for these to have made it up to where you are. But yes, I expect that their range is expanding north, both because of the warming climate and because non-winged invertebrates are still in the process of walking north after the end of the last ice age.

  27. Takeyia Clay permalink
    September 30, 2017

    I just had a black an orange spider like this on my car and just almost killed myself trying to run from it I don’t like to kill bugs period but I am highly terrified of spiders so if I’m correct this spider is harmless right

  28. October 2, 2017

    Takeyia: Correct, the spider is not dangerous. They can bite, but in my experience they don’t bite unless you give them a really good reason to (like trying to kill them). And from all reports, jumping spider bites are less painful than insect stings.

  29. Misty M permalink
    November 15, 2017

    Do they ever come indoors? I feel asleep at my computer desk one evening and woke up with something crawling on my leg. It was a very large spider that looks similar to the jumping spider. It scared the life out of me it was so big. I swept it off my leg and have never seen it again.

  30. November 15, 2017

    Misty: Sometimes they do, yes. They rove around quite a bit, and will come in through open windows and the like. They don’t prefer houses, because it is often hard to find water in a house, but I see jumpers inside from time to time (mostly near the windows).

  31. Anna permalink
    June 26, 2018

    I just encountered one of these in my bathroom while I was about to get into the shower and immediately identified it as a jumping spider (which is always a plus, lol). I really like spiders (which is good, because they seem to like me too), but I admit that my first instinct was to scream and throw it into the fiery pits of heck. I did however let it go outside instead, but it’s really reassuring to know that it wasn’t venomous because it scared the living daylights out of me and probably shaved roughly ten years off of my life. In retrospect, it was a really pretty spider and it definitely meant no harm.

    Note: It wasn’t in an area that was wet or anything; it wasn’t in the shower itself and I’m certain that this is the spider.

  32. Bill permalink
    August 20, 2021

    I live in the Buffalo NY area and recently a very large fuzzy black jumping spider jumped out of the grass onto a cement patio while I was mowing the grass. By large I estimate about one inch. It immediately jumped back into the grass as I approached to examine it. I didn’t have time to take a picture. Can you identify it just by my description?

  33. August 20, 2021

    Bill: The biggest jumping spiders in North America are the ones in the Phidippus genus, so that’s most likely what you have.

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