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Unusual spider in north county

Hello there,

This afternoon, I noticed this large spider outside on the bench on my porch. 

I live in Lompoc, and I have seen quite a few different species of spiders in my garden, but I have never seen one such as this before! 

It is slightly smaller than a quarter, with a "mask" on its abdomin, a completely black thorax, and translucent orange-brown legs. (See pictures)

Can you please identify this spider? What species is it, and is it native to the area. It is certainly the most exotic spider I have ever seen!

Sara, Northern Lompoc - November 11, 2022

Curator Response

Hi Sara,

Thank you for sending this sighting. You’re right, this is an exotic. This looks like a false widow in the species Steatoda nobilis, a European spider that is considered invasive to our region. You can read all about them on this page from UC Riverside’s Center for Invasive Species Research. Although the researchers there first reported the spread of this spider back in 2012, it looks like they are keeping their map showing the spread of the spider relatively up-to-date, so they may still be collecting photos of Steatoda nobilis sightings in California. The first author’s email is at the bottom of that page, in case you wish to send along information about your sighting.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Steatoda genus, the Natural History Museum in London has a great page about identifying false widows, as well as a page about how their reputation for danger—like that of most spiders—is undeserved.

Stay curious,

Dylan “Spiderwoman” Otte and Collections Associate Jen Maupin, Ph.D.