The most familiar order of arachnids and one of the largest is the ARANEAE “The Spider”, “Spinners of Silk”, possessing two main body parts, head and thorax, with 4 pairs of eyes,, 4 pairs of legs, mouth-parts and abdomen with silk spinning spinnerets.
Female spiders are very good mothers and are often seen tending their egg sacs, “oviod papery balls” containing 2-3000 babies at a time. After the first moult the young spiders are totally independent.
Most species of spiders are unique because of their total dependence on silk. They use it to weave webs and silk snares, catch prey, wrap food, escape from danger, survive winters draped in silk, send and receive vibrating signals, truss up prey for storage, and “transportation” via silken ropes, parachutes or balloons (often aided by the wind).
Special insect traps on aircraft have collected spiders from altitudes of 3 miles. PALPS “short leg like organs” exist on either side of the head. Used like hands, these palps are specialised for mating and enable the male to deposit his semen into the female sex organ.
Scorpions are probably the spider’s oldest land relative. Fossils many hundreds of thousands of years old have been found.
There are over 50,000 species of spiders recorded world-wide, with sizes ranging from 0.3 mm to 100 mm.
TARANTULAS are the world’s largest spiders measuring up to 100 mm. These large spiders may live up
to 20 years. Incredibly aggressive, they even kill small birds but are relatively harmless to humans.
Fear of spiders is called ARACHNOPHOBIA. Spiders are ferocious and aggressive predators, paralysing
their prey with piercing fangs, almost always eating their prey alive. Many species are cannibalistic. Males in particular have to be very cautious at mating time in case they too are eaten. Females are normally much larger than the males.
Spiders are fierce hunters, with strong jaws and sharp eyes. Exceedingly sensitive to web vibrations, spiders can distinguish between prey (food), foreign bodies and family. Some species such as wolf spiders (lycosa) do not spin webs. They are, however, fierce hunters and stalk their prey like cats or tigers. Life span of most spider species can normally be measured in months due to the astronomically high attrition rate to birds, frogs, wasps, lizards etc. It appears however, that the larger the species, the longer the life span (See tarantulas above).
Spiders silk threads are sometimes made up of as many as 5 different silks, for different purposes, measuring a little as 1 millionth of an inch thick. Much stronger than steel thread of similar diameter, spider silk with stretch by 20% of its length of similar length before breaking.
It has been estimated that over 660,000 spiders would be required to produce ½ kg of silk. In one experiment over 150 metres of thread was obtained from a single spider.
A normal size mature (Orb Web) spider say 10mm long, will spin a web approximately 15cm in diameter,
containing approximately 25 lateral threads and as many as 50 variable circumference threads totalling over 20 metres of silk thread. This monumental overnight engineering feat entails spinning silk 2000 times its own length, simply to catch its next meal. In exposed situations a single web may not survive beyond 24 hours. The task begins again. Spider silk has made great contributions to science through its use as “cross-hairs” in optical instruments such as transits, levels, microscopes and astronomical telescopes.
Winds are the greatest transport systems for spider and their silk thread parachutes and balloons.
Special insect dust traps on aircraft have collected spiders from altitudes of 3 miles and hundreds of miles from land.
Daddy Longlegs or Harvestmen are not true spiders and belong to the order of Pharangida.
More than 3000 species of the order have been catalogued. An unusual characteristic of this species is their long legs which are designed to break along special points of weakness if held for an instant. This breaking is a process called autotomy. “He who pulls and breaks away lives to hunt another day” as the saying goes.
Lampona cylindrata spiders were first introduced into New Zealand from Australia over a hundred years ago and have gradually become widespread. They have a preference for warm, dry environments and are
likely to be found both inside and outside houses.
Adult spiders have black or dark grey bodies and are readily identified by a small white patch at the rat
end of the body. Juveniles have several paired white spots down the back. Fully grown spiders are about 15 mm in length with shiny black legs that can span a 20 cent coin. These spiders lurk in dark corners and wander about at night, mostly feeding the on the common house spider (Badumna longinquus).
White tailed spiders often enter houses and find their ways into clothing and beds where humans can
disturb them. They will only bit if provoked but this can happen accidentally, especially if caught up in bedding or clothes or squeezed in some way.
Taking articles such as firewood (indoors) could provide a means of introducing spiders into the home environment.
EFFECT OF BITES
Lampona cylindrata spiders are known to bite although in most cases, bites cause little harm and in
some cases, the bite may not be felt. However, bites sometimes result in painful localised blistering, intense itching and some degree of ulceration up to the size of a small coin.
The likelihood of being bitten by Lampona cylindrata is low, even though the spider is quite common. The toxicity of the venom is low but, if the venom becomes contaminated with digestive fluids as the spider bites, serious skin lesions may result.
If bites occur, the consequences are usually minor and no treatment other than cleaning with a mild
antiseptic is required. Very occasionally, bites may lead to a loss of skin down to the deeper layers. Treatment may involve skin grafting.
Medical advise should be sought if bite produces blistering or ulceration. At present, no anti-venom is available.
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