Saturday, 23 December 2006

I spy with my little eyes

This huntsman spider (Holconia sp.) lives behind a painting on my kitchen wall. At night, it emerges to hunt insects. As long as it stays on that few square metres of plaster, then it's welcome to remain inside. If it develops an eight-legged wanderlust, it can keep going—straight out through the back door. Why? Because I've been bitten by a huntsman spider that was only half the size of this one and it hurt. I do not want to repeat the experience. To make things worse, not only can these spiders bite but the spines on their legs also inflict injuries. (Not serious ones but that's not the point. Or rather it is the point ...) Luckily, huntsman spiders are generally timid and inoffensive. My bite was the result of a sequence of events that culminated in the poor animal believing it was under attack, even though I had no idea it was there. (And that, your honour, is the case for the defence.)

In the wild, they hide under tree bark during the day, emerging at night to ambush prey. They will eat anything they can subdue, including other spiders and even large centipedes. (That timidity only extends to encounters with animals larger than themselves. They're not stupid.)

If you're arachnophobic, it is not a good idea to wander around a eucalypt forest at night with a torch. See all those green sparkles on the tree trunks? They ain't dew drops. Spiders' eyes reflect light.

But they have multiple eyes, don't they? So if you count the spots and divide by eight it's not so bad.

Sure. If that makes you feel happy. But not all of those eyes are in the same plane. Chances are, you'll only pick up one or two of them as eyeshine ... (If you're an arachnophobe with a masochistic streak, try spotlighting a well-watered lawn. Wolf spiders live among the grass stems in very high densities.)

Often, people who squash most other spiders at the first opportunity will tolerate a huntsman around the house. Even if it's not tolerated, they'll attempt to relocate it. Of course, there are still those who'll smack a huntsman with a rolled up newspaper or douse it in so much pesticide it drowns. How could anyone kill a big, fat, roly-poly cutie like this?


Duncan said...

I routinely catch the ones that come into the house and take them out cupped between my two hands, haven't had a bite yet touch wood. I do draw the line with those big robust grey ones with large visible fangs, perhaps they're a different species?

Snail said...

I've picked up huge whip scorpions in SE Asia but, for some reason, I'm a bit reluctant to get hold of one of these fellows. I think it's because they move so quickly and unpredictably. That's my excuse.