Map The Spider is a Citizen Science project that asks people to report sightings of purse-webs found in North America. Purse-web spiders (Atypidae) are rarely seen but their distinctive webs can be common - and hidden in plain view. Look for them any time of year in your neighborhood and help make the map!
Current Map (2020-06-09) The map includes sightings from personal notebooks and datasets. Red circles are Parks visited once and no purse-webs were found.
About Purse-web Spiders
Purse-web spiders (Infraorder Mygalomorphae, Family Atypidae) are secretive and primitive-looking creatures related to trap-door spiders and tarantulas. They are sometimes called 'atypical tarantulas' because of their unique web and method of prey capture. The purse-web is a sock-like silken tube that is often found attached vertically at the base of trees and extends into a burrow below ground where the spiders spend most of their time. When unwitting prey happen to walk upon the web they are stalked invisibly from inside, stabbed with large fangs through the silk, and then dragged inside where they are slowly eaten...
Worldwide there are 3 genera and 58 species of Atypids from North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. In North America there are 2 genera and 8 species of purse-web spiders. These are reported from Minnesota to Texas and eastward to New England and Florida, and in southern Ontario, Canada, and northern Mexico. The two U.S. genera are Sphodros with seven species, some of which are widespread, and Atypus with only one species. Atypus snetsingeri Sarno 1973 is known only from Delaware County, PA, and adjacent areas near Philadelphia, and mapping its distribution was the start of this project!
Visit Bugguide.net to view photos and accompanying descriptive information for U.S. species of purse-web spiders along with a map and month table for the images submitted, with more photos and a map at iNaturalist.org. The pictures are mostly of 'wandering males', some of which are rather striking and conspicuous. Females and immatures rarely leave their webs where they'd be noticed and photographed, and people usually don't recognize purse-webs as 'webs'.
Clearly we would know more about the distribution of purse-web spiders if people simply looked for the webs instead of hoping for a chance encounter with a male.
The Map The Spider project asks if you can find any purse-webs.
Purse-web spiders live a long time and presumably stay in the same tube for many years. The webs are visible, durable, and can be found at any time of the year. Their camouflage is quite excellent and when you find one it's like discovering a secret.
Can you find a purse-web in your neighborhood? at your favorite park? on your next hiking trip? Please let us know by reporting your sightings using the MapTheSpider app. Maybe your search will uncover a new colony of spiders - or even a new species!