I’d like to introduce you to Debbie. She is a large, Garden Orb Weaving Spider that lives on my balcony in Australia. I rarely get a good look at her because she is a night spider that sits in the middle of her giant web from sunset until very early morning. She is hoping to catch some large insects for dinner such as flies, beetles and occasionally a cicada. Some nights if she hasn’t had much luck catching bugs, she stays out a little longer in the morning, which is when I got to take this great photo of her. I even fed her a large blow fly that had flown into my kitchen after I stunned it with the fly squatter. For a hefty spider, she certainly ran faster than I expected towards the fly I stuck to her web. She immediately wrapped it up, took it to the center of the web and ate him – she must have been hungry! During the day when she is not in the web, she is contently tucked away into her sleeping hole in one of the bricks of my balcony. She will sadly only live a year, as they generally die out in late Autumn to early Winter. Before that happens, she will try to find a mate and lay eggs in late Summer to Autumn encased in a silky cocoon. Unlike some other spiders, males and females are similar in size. The babies will hatch not long after and catch the breeze with their little silk balloon to relocate to a new home. Hopefully there will be many more little Debbies to share my home with and admire.
Even though I named this photo terrifying, and I can understand why it might be to some people, I was so excited to see this gorgeously hairy tarantula. Even though tarantulas have fangs and are venomous, and may on a rare occasion bite causing discomfort, there has never been a death by tarantula bite (of a human). Their body hairs however can irritate the skin and cause a rash, and some people are known to be highly allergic to them. These spiders hunt at night which is when we saw this beauty, which was about the size of my hand. Squished up in a burrow they wait for unsuspecting prey (or a thin stick in this case) to walk by the entrance to their lair, and then they pounce! As is quite common in the world of spiders, male spiders are terrified of females, but of course need to get close to mate. So to make it a quicker affair, before males encounter a female they lay a ‘sperm-web’ and secrete semen onto it, rub their specialized legs into it (pedipalps), and then go on a search for a receptive female. Using female pheromones to guide him, he finally encounters a female burrow, and will tap to let her know he is there. If she likes him she will exit the burrow and he will spider-dance for her. If he has impressed her, her will get closer, hold her fangs with his legs and deposit the sperm underneath her abdomen. If she didn’t enjoy his dance she will either pay him no attention at all or attack him, and hopefully he has fast enough reflexes to get away.
Garden Orb Weaver
I thought it about time for another spider, also a very common species on the east coast of Australia. Don’t worry, just like the St Andrews Cross spider, this is also one of Australia’s friendly spiders which wont kill you. The garden orb weaver is a beautiful arachnid, easily identified by its signature plump belly. It spends the early evening making a magnificent web and spends the night sitting in the center, waiting for an unsuspecting winged insect to fly into this brilliantly formed trap. During the day, the spider will leave the web and tuck itself away in a rest spot, often a leaf very close to edge of the web. If you are walking around and get a face full of spider web, its usually from these guys, thankfully its most often without the spider on your face too!
St Andrews Cross Spider
Not necessarily an image you want with your leisurely morning coffee whilst browsing your WordPress reader (sorry for that). This spider is just one of the species under the genus Argiope which are known for the striking colors on their abdomen. A. keyserlingi and A. aetherea are found in Australia and we call them St Andrews Cross spiders because they sit in the very center of the web with pairs of legs together in an X shape. They also often incorporate a much larger X across the web with silk (part of this can be seen in the bottom left of this photo). Rest assured, this is one of Australia’s friendly spiders which wont kill you 😉