Spiders in the Agelenidae family

On this page, Agelenidae family overview - Tegenaria genus - Tegenaria parietina - Tegenaria duellica - Tegenaria atrica - Tetrix denticulata

Agelenidae family overview

There are 508species described so far. The general body shape of spiders in this family (minus the legs) is shown in the drawing below.

Aglenidae spider body shape

Below is a drawing showing the long, segmented spinnarets of spiders in this family. Indeed the spinnarets are so long that they can usually be seen from above as you look down on the spider.

Spinnarets of a spider in the Aglenidae family

Below is the carapace shape showing the layout of the eyes.

Carapace of the cob web spider (Aglenidae)

Spiders in this family tend to be hairy with long, hairy legs. They have closely-woven sheet webs with a silken tunnel or funnel attached where the spider rests and the female keeps her egg sac. They capture prey by running and biting prey as it lands on the web.

Tegenaria genus

Spiders in the Tegenaria genus can have a leg-span of over 10 cm, and it is the males which have the really long legs. The Tegenaria sp. are the big hairy spiders we commonly find wandering round out houses in autumn. They are also one of the most common spiders to be found in the bath. Although we usually find males (see the photographs below) as the females tend to stay on their webs.

The males look very similar to the females except they are a few mm smaller in the body, have a thinner abdomen, longer legs and usually have swollen palps (see the photographs below) as they are in search of a mate.

Below you can just make out the sclerotised entrance to the female's epigyne, this is the opening into which the male must place one of his sperm-charged palps.

tegenaria epigyne

After a successful mating the males will usually live beside the females for a while, but die before winter. This provides the female with a substantial meal to see her through cold weather.

Tegenaria can live for several years especially if they are in a sheltered location such as a house or closed metal shed. The webs can be pretty untidy, and often have a tubular retreat. On the left the female is on her web, note the long palps, these are always in contact with the web to detect any vibration indicating the presence of a possible snack.

Tegenaria egg sacs

Tegenaria females keep their egg sacs in the web covered with bits of debris and another layer of silk. The spiderlings normally disperse without eating their mother. In the U. K. females can produce around ten egg sacs each holding 40 - 60 eggs.

In 1760 when malaria, also known as ague, was common in Britain a Dr. Watson recommended a Tegenaria sp. "gently bruised and wrapped up in a raisin or spread upon bread and butter" as a cure !

In France Tegenaria sp. are released into wine cellars as the presence of their webs is though to create feeling of age.

Tegenaria parietina, the Cardinal spider

Tegenaria sp.

The spider above is a mature female Tegenaria sp., as her body was at least 2 cm I would guess that she is Tegenaria parietina. She had made her web inside a metal shed, and when I found her had grown too big to escape from the shed when the door was shut. She seemed quite happy living off a steady diet of insects though. And as this species can go for a year without food, living inside a normally closed shed should be no problem. Normal body length is 11 - 20 mm for females. The egg sac is white, and usually located in her tubular retreat.

This species is not found in Wales or Scotland.

It got its common name of the Cardinal spider as those in Hampton Court used to terrify Cardinal Wolsey!

In 1936 a policeman on point duty on Lambeth Bridge in London held up traffic to allow a particularly large Tegenaria parietina to cross the road.

Tegenaria duellica

Tegenaria duellica mature male

The photographs above and below show a mature male Tegenaria duellica. Their body length is 10 - 14 mm long, and is slimmer than the females, although their legs are longer. They are fairly widespread in Britain, and are found indoors, in outbuildings or sheltered walls in the north, but can survive outdoors in the south.

Tegenaria duellica mature male showing palps, chelicera, fang and eyes

Males mature in the late summer and autumn, and it is this time that you are most likely to find one wandering around your house. He is just looking for a mate.

Tegenaria duellica mature male palps

Tegenaria atrica

Tegenaria atrica, mature female

Above is a mature Tegenaria atrica female. Fully grown females have a body length of 11 - 16 mm, and males 10 - 14 mm.

They are found in a variety of habitats, and are fairly widespread in northern Europe. This one was found when I was emptying my compost bin.

The web is a sheet with a tubular retreat. Webs in undisturbed locations are usually much larger than those in the open. She often comouflages her egg sac by sticking debris to it.

Tetrix denticulata

Tetrix denticulata

Tetrix denticulata, above, lives in dry habitats. It is commonly found around stones, in dry stone walls or low bushes. This one was in a south facing dry stone wall. It can also be found indoors. It is widespread in Northern Europe.

The males and females are of similar size with a body length of 6 - 8 mm. The female can be found year round. Courtship is usually in May.

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