There are 508species described so far. The general body shape of spiders in this family (minus the legs) is shown in the drawing below left. And below right 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. Below right is the carapace shape showing the layout of the eyes. 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.
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 left 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.
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
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 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
The spider on the left 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. 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.
The photographs on the right 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.
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.
Below 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, right, 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.