Herpyllus Ecclesiasticus – Eastern Parson Spider

Herpyllus ecclesiasticus eastern parson spider hunting

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

36 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.

  2. this spider crawled under my dryer a couple times,,,wasnt sure if i saw something or not…today i was spraying some bleach water for the dampness on the concrete and it came out…tried to get a photo because i noticed these markings on the back and just want to know if its poisonous or not..i dont like to kill spiders unless i have to …im in CT..its black with these tan colored bracket looking marks like [ ] sort of…im uploading the best i could do for a photo since it crawled under my ironing board against the wall in a tight spot. i think ive seen them before here and there in the house but dont recall the markings.thanks if anyone can tell me

  3. I just took this picture of this spider on the wall of my garage. Never seen one before…. I live on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. So It has now moved into westren Canada folks……

  4. I find this kind of spider pretty often in my home in St. Paul, MN. This one is small, maybe the size of a penny, but the one I find most of the time are are bigger I’d say around the size of a quarter.

  5. Find these types of spiders here & there in my apartment, they like the ceilings & corners but cannot for the life of me figure out what type of spider they are. No webs around the apartment, and the babies are so so tiny, like a nail on the wall is what they look like, the picture I have the spider is a little older, but we get much smaller ones around here

  6. I live on North Dakota and Minnesota border, found this in my bathroom, no web. About the size of a nickel, legs included.

  7. Hi. This spider lives in my bathroom and I’ve not seen a web. She doesn’t move a lot but when she does it’s pretty quick. Mostly she lives under my team soap dish/drainer thing and is about the size of a dime if you include the legs.

  8. Found this little guy as I was cleaning out my kitchen never seen webs here just see them in my carpets crawling really fast. SA TX out in the country ish

  9. Found in North Dakota on the kitchen table, just running around. Very fast running! Went thru the id questions but none had same pattern on the abdomen?

  10. I found this guy crawling on my shoulder. Scared the stuffing out of me. This is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It is about the size of a dime, maybe a bit larger. It’s hearty, I grabbed it and threw it on the floor. Thought it was dead, but it straightened its crumpled legs and ran off.

  11. This spider was found in our house in Plainville, MA. Can you identify the species? i have never seen one marked like this before.


  12. I found this on my counter. Thought maybe an eastern parsons spider but doesn’t have the markings. Just two little white symmetrical marks on the abdomen.

  13. I have had these spiders in my house more than once I cannot figure out what kind of spider I live in Northern CA I have small children and live in the wooded parts of Humboldt is this spider dangerous to us

    1. Hi Marissa, this spider is definitely not one of the medically significant spiders in your area. I can’t positively ID this one, I am leaning towards some type of sac spider.

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