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Arachnophobes beware: More large fishing spiders spotted this year

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A picture of a large spider posted on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Facebook page has gotten a lot of attention – and has caused quite a scare for some people in Wisconsin.

Fishing spiders are the largest spiders native to Wisconsin and Minnesota. The body can be up to an inch long, and including its legs, they can be as large as several inches across, the University of Minnesota says.

The spiders are harmless to humans, but people with arachnophobia may disagree.

Last week, the DNR posted a picture (above) of a female fishing spider guarding her egg sac on a bird house asking if anyone had seen the spiders in their yard. As of Sunday morning, the photo had been shared over 10,000 times and had gotten more than 2,000 comments.

Many commenters were of people posting similar photos of spiders they'd seen in their yard or home, while others were concerned and asking questions.

The DNR says they've received more reports of fishing spiders this year compared to previous summers. DNR forest specialist Linda Williams told the Green Bay Press Gazette that two or three sightings is common, but she's received 10 reports this year, and has personally seen four fishing spiders.

Michael Draney, a spider expert at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay says he's also noticed an increase in fishing spider sightings, especially the "dark fishing spider," which is one of six variations, the Associated Press notes.

"Fishing spiders are one of our native species of spider," Williams told WTMJ. "Most people never see fishing spiders because they're very well camouflaged, but they're out there hunting."

Yes, hunting. Fishing spiders are known for being aggressive enough to hunt small fish or tadpoles. Although they're large and freak some people out, the good news is they typically don't bite humans – and if they do, they're not poisonous and the bites feel similar to a bee sting, the DNR says.

The spiders can be found anywhere in the state – the reports lately have come from Door, Oconto, Marinette and Fond du Lac counties in Wisconsin, the Press Gazette says. There is no information on how many reports of fishing spiders have been seen in Minnesota this year.

The spiders typically live in deciduous forests, especially near the water where they can hunt. But they can be found away from water where they'll travel to find food or lay eggs. In more urban areas, they can be seen around bridges or rocky riverbanks, the newspaper says.

The DNR said on Facebook that they're often spotted on tree trunks, walls or other vertical surfaces at night and will duck into holes when they're startled.

Officials say it's hard to know why there are more sightings this year compared to other years. WBAY says it's not possible to track a spider hatch, so it's hard to know if sightings are up because of an increase in numbers.

"If someone encounters a spider like this, feel free to just let it go on it's way. These guys are beneficial. They eat a lot of other insects. So they're one of the good guys," Williams told WBAY.

Officials agree that if someone who isn't fond of spiders spots one, it'll make a lasting impression.

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