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Family Agelenidae - Funnel Weavers

Mysterious spider - Eratigena agrestis 2 Hacklemesh Weavers - Coras - male - female Agelenopsis utahana (Agelenidae) - Agelenopsis utahana - male Coras - male Spider in Trash Bin Spider Long-legged spider - Eratigena atrica - male Funnel Weaver - Coras - female
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Chelicerata (Chelicerates)
Class Arachnida (Arachnids)
Order Araneae (Spiders)
Infraorder Araneomorphae (True Spiders)
No Taxon (Entelegynes )
Family Agelenidae (Funnel Weavers)
Pronunciation
ay-jeh-LEN-ih-dee
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
(Note a recent transfer of the genera Coras & Wadotes back into Agelenidae.)
Explanation of Names
"Funnel weavers" are named because their webs are funnel-shaped. In Australia, there's a totally different group of spiders that also make funnel-shaped webs; ours are araneomorphs (modern or true spiders), while the Australian ones are mygalomorphs (primitive spiders).

Please refer to the "Remarks" section at the bottom of the page for more information (specifically the Potential Confusion topic).

The scientific name comes from the genus Agelena.
Numbers
116 species in 12 genera in North America.(1)

Agelenopsis - 13 species(1)
Barronopsis - 5 species(1)
Calilena - 20 species(1)
Coras - 15 species(1)
Eratigena - 2 species (new genus created in 2013)
Hololena - 30 species(1)
Melpomene - 1 species(1)
Novalena - 6 species(1)
Rualena - 9 species(1)
Tegenaria - 3 species
Tortolena - 1 species(1)
Wadotes - 11 species(1)
Size
NOTE: When measuring the size of a spider, only the body length is measured (do not include the legs).
Members of the family Agelenidae range from 4 - 20 millimeters in body length.
Identification
The Web:
For this family of spiders, the web is a horizontal, sheet-like web with a small funnel-like tube off to a side (or for some species, the middle of the web). This funnel is what the family is named for, and is used by the spider for hunting and protection. The spider will lay in wait in the funnel, and when an insect flies into, or lands on the web, the spider will rush out, very quickly check to see if it is prey, and if it is prey, bite it. The venom is fast-acting on the prey, so once the prey is subdued (within a second or two), the spider will drag the prey back into the funnel (for safety while eating, and to prevent other insects from recognizing the danger that lurks on the web...)


Depending on the species, the web may or may not be sticky. If the web is not sticky, the web will actually become tangled around the prey's feet, ensnaring it in the web. Sometimes this may cause hardship for the spider later, because if the spider wanders across a web that is sticky... the spider may walk clumsily and become prey for another funnel weaver.

Web Locations:
The funnel web for the genera Agelenopsis and Hololena are distinctive, and often are noticed in bushes and grass, especially in the early fall mornings where the dew has collected on the web. The webs can be expansive, covering several square feet, or just small webs in the grass.

The funnel web for the genera Tegenaria & Eratigena are slightly different from the other funnel weaving spiders, both in appearance and the location. Tegenaria and Eratigena webs are funnel-shaped, but a majority of the web is the funnel, and the funnel is wider at the opening. (Rather than a sheet with a small retreat as with Agelenopsis spp., it is shaped more like a megaphone, or the bell of a trumpet). The Tegenaria & Eratigena that are found outside often have webs in darker areas, such as flower beds, wood piles, and around the house. If it is found in the house, the webs are often in corners of dark rooms, such as the basement.

The Spider:
Like most spiders, funnel weavers are nocturnal. They are often seen when the lights are turned on, or at least the ambient lighting changes enough that the spider feels it must run for cover. There are approximately 1,200 species of funnel weaver world-wide, and a little over 100 of them are found in North America ((1)(accessed October 2012). Sometimes, if you slowly approach the web, and look around the funnel or down into the funnel, you might see the spider. (Sudden movements or changes in light (like your shadow) will cause the spider to retreat deep into the funnel so you most likely will be unable to see it).

There are several genera of funnel weaver, but the most commonly found are: (click on the genus name to see the info page for that specific genus)
Agelenopsis (commonly referred to as "Grass Spiders") - These spiders are very common throughout the United States and Canada. Their webs will "litter" the grass in summer to early fall, and are really noticable after a nice early morning dew. They are fairly easily identified: a "small" brown spider with longitudinal striping, the arrangement of their eight eyes into two rows. (The top row has four eyes and the bottom row has four eyes). They also have two prominent hind spinnerets. A spinneret is a spider's silk spinning organ. They are usually on the underside of a spider's abdomen, to the rear. On many spiders, the spinnerets cannot be seen easily without flipping the spider over; however, with Agelenopsis, the spinnerets are readily seen without having to flip the spider over. Agelenopsis also have somewhat indistinct bands on their legs.

     Note the spinnerets in each image.
    

    Eye arrangement in Agelenopsis:
    

Tegenaria & Eratigena - Most of these spiders are native to Europe, but with the increase of intercontinental commerce and travel, these spiders have found their way into the United States. The most common species of the genus Tegenaria in the US and Canada is the "Barn Funnel Weaver" (T. domestica: info), which is found throughout the continental United States and Canada. It is suspected that the spider arrived with the earliest settlers in the 1600s. Eratigena also has the one funnel weaver species that is currently receiving a lot of (hysterical) hype about potentially being harmful to humans (located primarily in the Pacific Northwest): the "hobo spider" (Eratigena agrestis: info), although current research is finding that the claim is possibly untrue, and the fear is mostly unwarranted.

     Identifying Tegenaria & Eratigena spiders is problematic, and can only reliably be done by an experienced spider specialist and/or by a microscopic inspection of the genitalia.
    


Hololena - Another common funnel weaver. It is the most commonly found genus of funnel weaver found in Southern California.
    

Calilena - Another common funnel weaver. Need to find more information; none have been ID'd/confirmed within the bugguide.net database; some may have been inadvertently placed in a different genus.

Most all species of agelenids are "lightning-quick"; often people only get a glance of it before it disappears behind or under something.
Range
Prolific throughout the continental United States, Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii
Habitat
Typically on or near the the ground, or low-hanging bushes. Depending on the style of siding on a structure (wood shakes, some vinyl sidings, porch eaves and beams, bricks with cracked/broken mortar, etc.), it will build a web in a corner, near a light source that will attact insects. (The structure type has to be able to form some sort of gap or recess for the "funnel" to retreat into.)
Season
Many species are annual (dying off before winter). However, some species do not follow a set cycle, and are present year round (especially those that live longer than a year, e.g. - Tegenaria domestica).
Food
Primarily insects, although some genera of funnel weaver have been observed eating other funnel weavers (specifically Eratigena spp. eating other Eratigena spp., and Agelenopsis spp. eating other Agelenopsis spp.). This could simply be because these spiders are often in such close quarters that they frequently wander onto each others' webs (after all, spiders are opportunistic hunters that will eat whatever they can catch).
Life Cycle
Most funnel weavers only live for a year or two.

Males:
Once sexually mature, the males spend the rest of their life wandering in search of a mate. Shortly after mating a few times, the male often dies.

Females:
For many species, the females often do not wander from the web, and if they do, it is typically to find a new location to build the next web. Females spend most of their time capturing and eating prey, building up their strength to mate and lay eggs. Females do not search for mates, but rather, wait for the males to wander by and find them. In the fall, after mating, some females (e.g. - Agelenopsis) deposit an egg sac in a crevice, and then die - often still clinging to the egg sac. (2)
Remarks
Being Bitten:
These spiders are docile and non-aggressive. They will not bite unless they feel threatened without an option to escape. Most bites occur when gardening, working in wood piles, etc., where the unseen spider is surprised. Attention should be used if a spider is suspected to be in the area you are working; if the spider has a chance to escape... it will!

Most bites from most species are not serious, and, at worst, are comparable to a nasty bee sting. Eratigena agrestis ("Hobo Spider" info) is thought to be harmful (necrotic venom), but this is highly uncertain. Just exercise caution if you live in the Pacific Northwest when dealing with a suspected Eratigena. Please refer to the "Hobo Spider" info link for more information.

The family of "funnel weaver" spiders (family: Agelenidae) found in the United States are 99.9% harmless to people. However, there are a few genera of spiders (family: Hexathelidae) that are called "Funnel-web spiders" (Genera: Atrax and Hadronyche). These spiders ARE NOT related to the agelenid spiders found in North America. Many of the hexathelid spiders are common favorites for the Discovery Channel-style "Deadliest Spider" documentaries; some of the famous "funnel-web spiders" being the Sydney Funnelweb (Atrax robustus) and the Northern Tree Funnelweb (Hadronyche formidabilis). These funnel-web spiders are found in eastern Australia, including Tasmania, in coastal and highland forest regions - as far west as the Gulf Ranges area of South Australia. These spiders are known to be harmful to people, HOWEVER, as mentioned above, they are not found in the United States. For more information about Australian Funnel-Web (Hexathelidae) spiders: click here.
See Also
Hacklemesh Weavers (Amaurobiidae): Info, Images
Works Cited
1.The World Spider Catalog by Norman I. Platnick
2.Spiders and Their Kin: A Golden Guide from St. Martin's Press
Herbert W. Levi, Lorna R. Levi, Nicholas Strekalovsky. 2001. St. Martin's Press.