A few spider species that belong to the Tetragnathidae family, and are commonly known as “long-jawed orbweavers,” are frequently found by pest control professionals during inspections within and around homes. The three most commonly encountered species in this group include golden silk orbweavers, Guatemalan orbweavers and mabel orchard orbweavers. These spider species have adapted to exploit manmade structures for catching insect prey in gardens, hedges, decks, and screened porches. While several anatomical differences exist between different long-jawed orbweaver species, most are notable for possessing unusually large jaws where prominent fangs are visible. Unsurprisingly, these venomous spiders are capable of inflicting painful bites, but they are not considered dangerous to humans. Of the three above named species, only mabel orchard orbweavers can be found in abundance in Massachusetts where they are particularly abundant around homes located in wooded areas, and this species is native to the eastern US and southeastern Canada where residents often mistake them for black widow spiders.

Although mabel orchard orbweaver spiders prefer to remain outdoors, their commonality and prevalence on the exterior walls of structures see them enter homes inadvertently on occasion. According to an online survey of 73 verified mabel orchard orbweaver spider sightings made by citizen scientists, nearly all sightings occurred on residential properties, and 33 sightings occurred on the exterior walls of homes, particularly beneath eaves. Another 19 photographed sightings occurred on low foliage, seven on high foliage, three indoors, and the rest occurred on turf-grass. These spiders are not uniformly colored, and their exterior design patterns differ noticeably depending on region. Because of these differences, many entomologists believe that the mabel orchard orbweavers should be divided into additional species. These spiders are considered quasi-social in nature due to their habit of building communal webs that are sometimes found encapsulating entire structures and trees. Mabel orchard orbweaver females are around ⅓ of an inch in length, and males possess oval-shaped and dark or brightly colored bodies that feature triangular shapes of varying colors.

Have you ever encountered a spider web that covered an entire garden?