Herpyllus ecclesiasticus (Eastern Parson Spider)

About Herpyllus ecclesiasticus

Taxonomic Hierarchy

→ Kingdom: Animalia
→ Phylum: Arthropoda
→ Class: Arachnida
→ Order: Araneae
→ Family: Gnaphosidae
→ Genus: Herpyllus
→ Species: Herpyllus ecclesiasticus

Common Name (Official / AAS)

Parson Spider

Other Common Names

Eastern Parson Spider, Ground Spider

Author

Author of species name: Nicholas Marcellus Hentz. First year published: 1832, as Herpyllus ecclesiasticus.

Pronunciation

her-PILL-uhs eh-klee-zee-ASS-tick-uhs

Meaning

Herpyllus is a Greek masculine noun referring to “tufted thyme,” a type of creeping plant (Cameron 2005). Since this spider creeps and crawls without a web, perhaps Hentz was making an analogy. In Latin, ecclesiasticus means “pertaining to the congregation,” as the markings on the spider’s abdomen so resemble the old-style cravat (neck band) worn by nineteenth century parsons or ministers.

Notable Previous Names

Herpyllus vasifer

Identifying Traits of Herpyllus ecclesiasticus

Size

Body length (excluding legs) of adult female ranges from 6.5-13 mm; adult males range from 4.5-6.5 mm.

Female Primary Colors

Male Primary Colors

Eye diagram of Herpyllus ecclesiasticus

Eyes

Total of eight eyes. When viewed from the front: two horizontal rows of four eyes each. The AME (anterior median eyes) are the largest and they are circular, whereas the rest of the eyes are somewhat smaller and oval.

Legs

The legs are brownish or black, visibly hairy, and of medium thickness. Back pair of legs (legs IV) longest. The tarsi (tips of legs) have 2 claws, as well as what are called “claw tufts” (a cluster of hairs that help the spider climb).

Body

Overall color is dark brown or black, with a broken pale or silvery stripe down the back of the abdomen. The cephalothorax is shiny, owing to reflective silvery hairs. Slender as spiders go, the cephalothorax and abdomen are essentially equal in size. Abdomen elongate and somewhat flattened. This species appears quite furry, even from a distance. The long, cylindrical “tail-pipe” spinnerets help to peg it as a member of the family Gnaphosidae.

Range of Herpyllus ecclesiasticus

Herpyllus ecclesiasticus can be found in the following states, provinces and territories across the United States and Canada. Our current understanding of each spider's distribution is drawn from numerous scientific publications and online spider submissions, in order to be as accurate as possible. It is important to remember that spiders do not adhere to the territorial lines decided on by humans, therefore these ranges are subject to change.

Important Range Notes

The species is common and widespread east of the Rocky Mountains. A nearly identical species, Herpyllus propinquus, lives west of the Rocky Mountains, so careful not to confuse the two. An exam under a microscope is needed to be absolutely certain which is which.

United States

Canada

Additional Information

Habitat

Found mostly in wooded habitats, where it prowls by night, and hides under tree bark, debris, stones, boards, and other objects by day. This species may turn up at outdoor lights at night, looking for insects attracted to the beacons. It also strays indoors on occasion in the course of hunting. It climbs well and may show up on ceilings and walls.

Web

This is a hunting spider that does not spin a web to catch prey. It uses its silk for other purposes, such as safety lines, egg sacs, and little silken retreats.

Season

Mature individuals may be found at almost any time of year. It is known to hibernate in a silken sac beneath loose bark on trees.

Food

Prey is mostly insects that the spider simply runs down and overpowers.

Lifecycle

Egg sacs are spun by the female spider typically in the summer or fall. The flat, disc-shaped egg case is deposited in a silken retreat where the female guards it, usually under tree bark. One recorded egg sac in Connecticut was 17 millimeters in diameter and held 130 spiderlings (Kaston 1948).

Remarks

Pictures of Herpyllus ecclesiasticus (Parson Spider)

General

Female Spiders

Male Spiders

Filtering options are grayed out when we do not have pictures for the given perspective. If you are a spider photographer, you can submit pictures of spiders to help fill any voids in our ever expanding library.
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Lynx
  • State: Ohio
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Immature
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: NE
  • State: Florida
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Immature
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: NE
  • State: Florida
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal, Gravid
  • City/Region: Groton, Middlesex County
  • State: Massachusetts
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Eyes
  • City/Region: Lakewood
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Lakewood
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Lakewood
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Lakewood
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal, Eyes
  • City/Region: Lakewood
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Lakewood
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • State: Georgia
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Eyes
  • State: Georgia
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Lateral
  • State: Georgia
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Attributes: Eyes
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Maturity: Immature
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • State: Indiana
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: MaleMale
  • Maturity: Immature
  • Attributes: Dorsal
  • City/Region: Lakewood
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States
  • Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
  • Sex: FemaleFemale
  • Maturity: Adult
  • Attributes: Dorsal, Eyes
  • City/Region: Lakewood
  • State: Colorado
  • Country: United States

References and Further Reading

Various Research Papers

Scientific Diagrams and Keys for Identification

References for the Casual Reader

Species guide last updated: January 21, 2014

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