Herpyllus Ecclesiasticus – Eastern Parson Spider

Herpyllus ecclesiasticus, The Eastern parson spider is one of the most commonly encountered hunter spiders in the United States. The largest share of its population occurs in the Eastern part of the American continent but today, the Parson spider is native in every U.S. state.

Eastern Parson Spider Description

Its name “Parson” is not derived from a scientist who devoted its life to arachnids but rather to a distinctive characteristic of the Eastern parson spider. A white or gray marking on the abdomen of the predominantly dark brown black spider bears similarity to a traditional neckband worn by catholic clergy in the past. The entire body of the spider is covered with short hairs and the legs often have a reddish-brown color. On the back of the abdomen there are two short spikes, similar to those of the grass spider.

Eastern parson spider
Can you see the gray marking on the abdomen of the spider? Photo by Henry.

The parson spider is mostly found outdoors and lives under rocks or wood. It usually hides throughout the day and starts hunting at nighttime. During the winter months, the spider is more often seen inside of houses where it is seeking shelter from the cold.


An adult female Eastern parson spider reaches a body length of 0.4 to 0.8 inches (10-20 mm). The male is, as is true for most spider species, smaller than the female.

Herpyllus ecclesiasticus eastern parson spider
An eastern parson spider on the hunt for prey. Photographed by Tammy in Michigan.

Herpyllus ecclesiasticus Web

The parson spider is a hunter spider and does not create a web to catch its prey. It hides throughout the day and roams around at night looking for smaller insects to prey on. It can move fast and is a rather aggressive spider. Its silk glands are only used to produce an egg sac for the offspring.

Eastern Parson Spider Bite

Eastern parson spiders are quick and rather aggressive spiders. If they feel trapped, they don’t hesitate to bite. A bite is usually quite painful and can cause allergic reactions to sensitive people. However, it is not considered a medically significant species and normally, the somewhat intense initial pain diminishes rather quickly.

Distribution of the Eastern parson spider in the USA

Parson spider herpyllus range USA

The Eastern parson spider can be found in every U.S. state. As its name suggests, it occurs more commonly in the Eastern part of the United States. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Herpyllus ecclesiasticus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Infraorder: Araneomorphae
  • Family: Gnaphosidae
  • Genus: Herpyllus
  • Species: Herpyllus ecclesiasticus
Herpyllus Ecclesiasticus – Eastern Parson Spider

9 thoughts on “Herpyllus Ecclesiasticus – Eastern Parson Spider

  1. Found this black spider with unique white markings on its back in my house in South Windsor, Connecticut. It most closely resembles a grass spider from what I’ve been able to find, but doesn’t have a pointed abdomen and its body and legs are a strong matte black, while grass spiders seem to be lighter in color. Would love to know what it is.

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