Dream Weaver or the Stuff of Nightmares?

Last week a local resident posted photos of a rather large spider that had been discovered. This sparked some discussion amongst the local Facebook populace and here at Boobook, so we thought we’d share a few facts about the Garden Orb-spider (or Garden Orb-weaver).

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Common throughout Australia (there are over 100 known species); the two eastern Australian species are Eriophora biapicata and Eriophora transmarina. The males range from 1.5 – 2cm in length, with the females 2 – 3cm and can be identified by their stout bodies, reddish-brown or grey colour and often with a leaf-shaped pattern on their fat, triangular abdomens – not very flattering!

Each night the spiders make a wheel-shaped orb web in places where insects are likely to fly, such as between two trees, only to take it down at dawn. Similar to a horror movie, the spider waits at the edge of the web for an unsuspecting insect to get caught, where it rushes out to its victim applying several venom-filled bites to the insect and waits for it to stop moving. It either then consumes its meal in the centre of the web or strings it up for a tasty treat later on.

During the autumn, the spiderlings hatch and disperse by ballooning through the air and landing somewhere safe to wait out the winter. They have a lifecycle of about 12 months, with development occurring in the spring and breeding in the summer before the adults die off in autumn and make room for the new generation.

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Everyone will be happy to know that these spiders are reluctant to bite and the danger to humans is not life threatening. Symptoms from a bite include mild localised pain, numbness and swelling. Occasionally there may be nausea and dizziness after a bite, so if you are concerned seek medical attention.

With thanks to Tabitha Ward for the images.

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