Spider Reproduction


Male spiders spend their whole life preparing for the time they will mate. All of their energies, movements, feedings, molting, and even the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives are designed to aid the continuation of their species. When males are sexually mature, they transform a hunger for food into one of procreation. Before seeking a partner, the male needs to prepare for courtship by pumping his palps full of sperm. A male does not have a penis. He deposits sperm from beneath his body onto a specially constructed silken mat and from there siphons it into his palps. He is now ready for mating.

Unfortunately for the male, the female is always food motivated, whether it be insects or male spiders. After finding a partner, males are driven by two conflicting motivations; one of sexual desire, the other for self preservation. Males of different species will use a range of approaches when wooing females.  These vary from the rhythmic strumming of the web by the male to the seductive waving of the Wolf Spider’s front legs.

Most males make tentative approaches towards the female, with limbs trembling and appendages chattering. Many males are equipped with structural adaptations for gripping onto the female and holding her fangs away from him. Behavioral adaptations include: tying females down with silk; mesmerizing them into a trance-like state and in some species, approaching and mating without the female even knowing.

If the male is successful, he will have placed his palps near the female’s egg tube and squeezed out the sperm fluid which the female stores in special pockets until she is ready to lay her eggs. Once copulation has taken place, the male must flee or risk being captured and eaten by the female who uses him as a valuable energy source in the production of her eggs.

Even if the male does escape, he will soon die as he takes no further interest in feeding – his mission in life is now complete. Females build protective egg-sac until fully formed. At this stage they hatch, but remain inside the egg-sac attached beneath her abdomen. Once the spiderlings have emerged, they will ride on her back for up to 7 months before dispersing.

Common House Spiders


RED-BACK(Latrodectus hasselti)

The abdomen of the female Red-back is round and large with characteristic orange to red markings on the middle of her back. Mature females are larger and darker than males. In fact, males are often mistaken as baby spiders. The Red-back is often found in dry-sheltered sites in the corners of sheds, under tables, around pot plants and in outdoor toilets. Although the female may lay up to 300 eggs, as with many other spiders, the young are cannibalistic and only a few reach maturity.

No specific first aid is prescribed, as the venom of this spider moves very slowly. The use of restrictive bandages will only increase pain. Seek medical advice immediately, taking the spider along for positive identification. Iced water in a bag may be applied to the bite to reduce pain.

GREY HUNTSMAN (Holconia immanis)

Even though common around the house, the natural habitat of these large, hairy bodied spiders is amongst the trees of forested areas. Their flattened bodies and sideways spread legs enable them to squeeze underneath the bark of trees where they construct their papery silky nest. Often they will hunt on the outside of the tree, waiting motionless for unsuspecting insects to pass by.

Huntsmans are not considered dangerous to humans, although they can deliver a painful bite.

DADDY LONG LEGS (Pholcus phalangioides)

Unmistakable in their looks, Daddy Long Legs are friendly visitors to homes (and bath tubs) all around the world. They are completely harmless to humans. Like their legs, the webs they weave are delicate and fine, and provide the perfect scaffolding to snare prey including Red-backs, and other spiders. They are completely harmless to humans.

BLACK HOUSE OR WINDOW (Baduma longinqua)

Black House or Window spiders may be identified by their web alone which is commonly built in the corners of windows, walls, tree trunks and crevices.  The web is very silky and gives an untidy funnel-like appearance.

These robust spiders can be dark in color, with a very hairy abdomen and short, stout legs. A bite from this spider may cause vomiting, headaches, sweating, and in extreme cases, semi-consciousness. Infection of bite area may occur.



GOLDEN ORB(Nephillia)

Golden Orb spiders build huge golden silky wheel webs that are remarkably strong and often strung between small trees in woodlands and gardens. The female spiders are large and can often span the width of an adult’s hand. Female Golden Orb spiders are characterized by the yellow bands that run around the joints of their black legs. Their slender body is a yellow-brown to silver-grey color. These spiders eat insects – even cicadas.

Bites from these spiders can be quite painful, and usually only occur if harshly provoked. NET-CASTING (Deinopidae)

Net Casting Spiders literally throw a net over their prey as it walks below them. These spiders will hang down from twigs or grass, combing their coils of tangled silk, awaiting suitable prey to approach.  The spider will eat then cast the net, and envelop the prey. Net Casting spiders have a stick-like appearance with very long legs that are often grouped into pairs, similar to the St. Andrew’s Cross Spider.

Net Casting spiders are thought to be completely harmless to humans.

ST. ANDREW’S CROSS (Argiope Keyserlingi)

The female of this spectacular species of spider is characterized by the colorful silver and red/orange bands that cover her body. She often weaves a web with a cross in the center. Here she will sit with adjacent pairs of legs together to form a cross. When threatened, the St Andrew’s Cross is able to shake her snare violently so that the whole web glimmers and she becomes a blur. As with many species of spider, the male risk losing their lives if they attempt to mate with a not too willing female.

If bitten, symptoms may include swelling, nausea, and dizziness.

WOLF (Lycosa)

These drab colored, but often strikingly patterned spiders use their large, strong legs to run potential prey down. They may even run out onto the water in an attempt to catch their victim. The male Wolf Spider will use the unusual courting behavior of waving his front legs about as if he is the conductor of an orchestra.

Once, fertilized, the female lays her eggs in a silken ball which remains attached to her spinnerets. After the eggs hatch, the spiderlings ride for a period of time on their mum’s back.



MYGALOMORPHS The family Mygalomorphs includes some of the largest, most ancient and most dangerous spiders in the world. In Australia we have 10 families of Mygalomorphs. Included within are the Funnel-web, Mouse and Trapdoor Spiders.

FUNNEL-WEB (Hadronyche and Atrax spp.)

Massive fangs glisten with venom as the body of this formidable spider rears up – ready to make the first of its many repeated strikes.

The Funnel-web family, uniquely Australian, includes the spider that is considered by many to be the world’s deadliest spider – the Sydney Funnel-web (Atrax robustus.). The increase of urban sprawl along the east coast of Australia has seen humans encroaching upon the Funnel-web’s natural habitat – hence the corresponding increase in the incidence of reported bites. Before the development of the antivenom in 1980, at least 13 people had died from the bite of a male Funnel-web. There have been no fatalities since.

The largest of the Funnel-web spiders, the female Northern or Tree-dwelling Funnel-web is twice the size of the male and can span the width of an adult’s hand. Both males and females are potentially dangerous and the toxins they inject may be fatal. Fortunately, this spider is rarely encountered as it inhabits heavily timbered areas rarely visited by people.

MOUSE (Missulena Occatori)

The colors of the female and male of this species are so dissimilar, that they were once thought to be members of two distinct species. The female is glossy black, whereas the male is much more distinctive, with his orange to bright red fangs and head. They both appear stumpy because of their wide body and short legs. Immature males live in burrows until maturity.

WHISTLING (Theraphoisdae)

Largest of all Trapdoor spiders, with a leg span of up to 16cm. The Whistling Spider gets its name from the hissing noise it makes when disturbed. Although not naturally aggressive, it will rear up with its large fangs poised ready to strike. Selenocosmia is the most common genus of Whistling Spider in Australia. Bites from such a large spider would be painful and cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, however, they are not deadly. Seek medical advice.



Bite Prevention Spiders do not set out to harm people. A common sense approach will reduce the chances of your being bitten by a spider, and in most cases, prevent it from happening. Wearing suitable footwear and gloves while gardening and exercising caution when moving things around your shed or garden are examples of simple precautions that should be taken.


First Aid

The vast majority of spiders are harmless to humans. A bite from most spiders will heal quickly, producing very few side effects. Even the more dangerous spiders in Australia rarely produce effective envenomations. (People react differently. The type of reaction depends upon a number of factors that range from the size of the spider, to the size of the person.) On most occasions, first aid will not be necessary for spider bite victims. However, it is always best to be cautious. Suspected bites by Funnel-webs and Red-backs should always be taken seriously and medical advice should be sought immediately. The pressure-immobilization method should only be used in the treatment of a Funnel-web Spider bite.

First Aid for a Funnel Web bite only Technique developed by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory

1 Remove the patient from danger. DO NOT attempt to catch the Funnel Web, but note any distinguishing characteristics that will assist with its positive identification.

2 Reassure the patient, keeping them as calm and as still as possible. Do not clean or even wipe the bite. Any residue of venom from skin or clothing can be used by medical staff for positive identification of the offending spider.

3 Apply a broad, firm bandage directly over the bite and as far up the limb as possible, remembering to keep the limb still. Even removing clothing would cause movement which must be avoided. The same tension that you would use for a sprained ankle is enough; the aim is to restrict the lymph flow and not restrict the blood flow. The bandage should be able to be tolerated comfortably for some hours if necessary. (Creep bandages are the most ideal but torn up clothing could also be used).

4 immobilize the limb by applying a splint, over clothing if necessary. A bitten arm can be immobilized using a splint and a sling; an effective method of immobilizing a bitten leg is to bind it to the patient’s other leg.

5 Call an ambulance and be sure to give precise directions as to your location. Bring transport as close to the victim as possible.

6 Ask the patient questions to obtain a brief medical history: e.g. Is the patient an asthmatic? Are they using any medication? This information may be important.

7 DO NOT give alcohol under any circumstances. If respiration stops, administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

8 The pressure bandage should not be removed except by medical staff.

Keeping the victim still and calm is one of the most important actions. Panic only hastens the spread of the venom through the lymphatic system and also makes it difficult for medical staff to separate the symptoms of Funnel Web bite from shock. Antivenoms are now available for funnel web bites. With prompt action, proper first aid and medical treatment, surviving even the most serious of Funnel Web bites is a high probability.



Spiders have a body consisting of two parts, the abdomen and the prosoma. They have four pairs of legs and six to eight ‘simple’ eyes. They do not have any antennae, wings or true jaws. They are found in every habitat of Australia, from the harsh deserts of our arid interior to the slopes and rocky outcrops of our snow capped mountains. Even though most spiders have four pair of eyes, they can only see about 1cm in front of themselves. Even spiders that are described as having particularly good eyesight, (Wolf Spiders, Huntsmen and Jumping Spiders) can only see a few centimeters. Spiders rely very much on their other senses to detect predators and prey.


From the magnificently constructed and refined wheel webs that sprawl between the leaves of garden shrubs catching the dew-drops and sun of a new day, to the messy, silken spread that radiates towards the entrance of the Funnel-web’s tunnel, no other animal is dependant upon silk as much as the spider. For most spiders, silk aids in the capture of prey. Spiders use silk not only in the formation of webs, but in a variety of applications such as the construction of retreats and shelters. Some hibernate in a chamber of silk, whilst others use it as a lining for their burrows. Many wrap their prey in silken threads and store these bundles in a disused part of the web.


Silk is not only used by animals such as spiders, but by humans as well. Although quite impractical in this day and age, spider silk was once used to manufacture royal garments and fishing nets.


A beautiful maiden, named Arachne was famous throughout the whole of Ancient Greece for her skill as a weaver of fine fabrics and embroidered tapestries. So famous did she become that Athene, goddess of the Arts, became extremely jealous.  Believing that she was the finest weaver in the whole of Greece, she challenged Arachne to a “weave off.” Both women tested their skill against one another. Arachne was the winner. Resentfully, Athene tore the fruits of Arachne’s labor into shreds. With her beautiful work destroyed, Arachne took her own life. Athene was so filled with remorse that she brought Arachne back from the dead in the form of a spider. Arachne’s name lives on today, through that large group of creepy crawlies we call ‘Arachnids.’


The dispersal of spiders, their wide spread distribution and the early colonization of isolated areas can be attributed to some spiders’ ability to balloon! When such a spider or spiderling wishes to travel, it raises its abdomen and releases a copious amount of liquid silk which dries immediately. The silk is caught by the breeze and lifts the spider into the sky.