Scaffold web, cobweb weavers or comb-footed spiders

Family Theridiidae

These spiders make a littery web and the webs can be described as an intersecting mass of scaffold work with a central area consisting of a three-dimensional trellis of silk. From the web to the ground are vertical threads with sticky glue at the bottom. If an insect crawls against the thread it will break and the prey will hang in the air awaiting the attack of the spider. Although they are small of size they are violent attackers and do not fear to attack much larger insects than themselves.
The members of this family are also called comb-footed spider because they have a "comb" on their last pair of legs. The comb is a series of serrated spines which they use to comb out the silk from the spinnerets. This combed silk is not sticky but insects get entangled in this "wool".
The dangerous black widow or red back, (Latrodectus hasselti) belongs to this family and is notorious for its poisonous neurotoxic venom.

In Australia 20 genera and 90 species of this family are described.

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Latrodectus hasselti, "Red-back", Jockey spider or "Black widow"



Latrodectus hasselti female guarding her egg-sacs and the very small male below.
Latrodectus hasselti

Survey of 2144 cases of red-back spider bites: Australia and New Zealand, 1963--1976.

Sutherland SK, Trinca JC.

An analysis has been made of 2144 consecutive cases of latrodectism (envenomation by the red-back spider, Latrodectus mactans hasselti) reported to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. In the last eight years, notifications have averaged 240 cases per annum. Bites, usually on the extremities (74%), occurred most frequently in the summer months, and in the afternoon or evening. Most victims (79%) were aged between 18 and 50 years and 64.4% of them were males. Males are still often bitten on the genitals or buttocks (9.7% of cases). Local pain, redness and swelling were the most common symptoms, although significant pain was felt at other sites in 39% of the cases. The regional lymph nodes often became swollen and tender within 30 minutes. General effects included nausea, vomiting and sweating, but coma and respiratory failure were very uncommon, probably because of use of specific antivenom. This was administered within 24 hours of the bite in 92% of cases, and within two hours in 70%. Although 11 anaphylactic reactions (0.54%) were reported, no deaths resulted either from the venom or from reactions to the antivenom. Few delayed serum reactions (1.7%) were recorded. The action of the venom is described and the management of red-back spider bite is outlined.

Med J Aust. 1978 Dec 30;2(14):620-3.

A black widow's toxin is 15 times more poisonous than that of a rattlesnake, making her one of the few spiders in the world capable of seriously harming humans.
Due to the good hospital services, deaths from a bite are not recorded any more.
Her size is around 10 mm. Only in her final moult she gets her black colour. The male is creamy brown of colour and with a white hour-glass pattern on the underside of his abdomen. He is about 3 mm long.

Latrodectus builds her web in dark places near the ground, preferring the sheltered sides of buildings, abandoned rodent holes, or openings in stone outcroppings. She seldom ventures indoors, but anyone living in black widow territory should be aware that she sometimes makes a home in outbuildings such as woodsheds or outdoor toilets. The web is easily recognized by its tangled appearance, and a series of vertical trap threads extending to the ground. The web silk is extremely strong. Crawling insects getting stuck on the sticky threads are quickly lifted into the web where they're wrapped in layers of silk, injected with venom, and sucked dry. She lays 50 - 200 eggs usually in 4 or 5 egg-sacs. Females mature over a period of 4-8 month and males in a 2-3 month period. The female can live up to three years and males only 6 months. After 14 days the spiderlings emerge from the eggs. This emerging is often correlated on the onset of rain when temperatures are low and humidity high. The spider are cannibalistic and. The spider leaves the web by a process known as "ballooning". A thread line of silk is released until the drag of the air is strong enough to lift the young spider in the air.

There is a dispute whether she is a variant of the almost extinct New-Zealandic Kapito (Latrodectus mactans).

Juvenile (young) Latrodectus hasselti before her last moult where she gets her black suit with red spot(s).

Latrodectus hasselti male from above (dorsal) side Latrodectus hasselti male from below (ventral) side
Parasteatoda ZZ012 a look alike Latrodectus hasselti in Nyang station (Emu creek) Western Australia

Genus Achaearanea


Achaearanea lunata
(European species) with youngsters.

These spiders build untidy tangled webs amongst trees and along walls. Their webs sometimes contain a leaf or other debris that is used as shelter. The spider's size varies between 7 and 12 mm.
The high abdomen and the ringed legs are characteristic for the genus.
The male and female may occupy the same web for some time before mating occurs. After mating the female constructs up to eight pear-shaped papery brown egg-sacs.
These spiders feed on all kind of insects, even on ants.
Achaearanea riparia (European species)  
Achaeranea

Achaearanea/Theridon? ZZ011 with ant.

Achaearanea/Theridon? ZZ011
Achaearanea/Theridon? ZZ126 Achaearanea/Theridon? ZZ126
   


Genus Anelosimus

These spiders are closely related to Theridon spiders but their body is more elongated. They occur world-wide but most are found in tropical or sub-tropical habitats.
The spider lives in a web that is a tangle of criss-cross threads.
Often the spider can be seen guarding a white round egg sac. Several species, but only those living on the American continent, are described to be social or subsocial.

The adult spider length is between 3 - 8 mm

 

 

 

Anelosimus_ZZ392
  Anelosimus ZZ392
Anelosimus_ZZ392 Anelosimus ZZ055
Anelosimus ZZ392 Anelosimus ZZ055
Anelosimus ZZ503 Anelosimus ZZ516
Anelosimus ZZ503 Anelosimus ZZ516
Anelosimus ZZ595 Anelosimus ZZ537
Anelosimus ZZ595 Anelosimus ZZ537

 


Genus Argyrodes

   
Argyrodes antipodianus Argyrodes antipodianus

Argyrodes antipodianus

Argyrodes antipodianus
Argyrodes antipodianus This small spider can often been found in webs of the enourmous Nephila, golden orb-web,or tent orb weavers, Cyrtophora spider.
But they can be present in any one web.
Up to 25 spiders can be present in a single web.
These spiders are named kleptoparasites, they steal prey from other spiders.
Only a few spiders from this genus catch prey in their own webs. The long legs and highly sensitive vibration detecting organs enable them to move stealthily in the web. Depending of the size of the host the spider is a commensal, just an inhabitant that does not steal food from the owner, or she is detrimental to the host by stealing normal prey from the host, forcing the host to reallocated the web more often, removing silk from the web or preying upon the host or its eggs.
The males are 2 mm and the female 4 mm and both have the same colour pattern.
Their common names are Quicksilver and Dewdrop spider.
If a disturbed spider falls out of the web in your hand, the spider starts whirling and resembles the behaviour of the liquid metal mercury (quicksilver).
The female makes globular-shaped papery brown egg-sac with a diameter of 4 mm similar to the whip spider below. They attach the sac at the outside of the web or just outside the web on twigs of leaves. Each sac contains around 30 white eggs.
Argyrodes antipodianus egg-sac. picture Wendy Eiby  
Argyrodes rainbowi Argyrodes rainbowi
Argyrodes rainbowi female Argyrodes rainbowi male
Argyrodes rainbowi Argyrodes rainbowi
Argyrodes rainbowi female Argyrodes rainbowi
Argyrodes ZZ265 Argyrodes ZZ391
Argyrodes ZZ265 Argyrodes ZZ391
Argyrodes ZZ391
Argyrodes ZZ391 in a web of a tent web spider
Argyrodes ZZ391

Argyrodes occurs world-wide.
Most species are small. Their size varies between 3 and 12 mm for the largest ones.
Males are slightly smaller than females.
Most Argyrodes species are black with silvery markings.
All are known to spin tiny webs of their own but they are more found in the webs of other spiders.
While hanging in these webs with their legs closely drawn to their body, they resemble debris, like twigs, straws, scales, bits of leave, and are so camouflaged that they are completely lost.
Largely immune to attack from their hosts because they are so small in size compared to the hosts target prey.
Argyrodes feed on the tiny insects disregarded by the host.

 

 

 

Argyrodes ZZ391  
Argyrodes ZZ542 Argyrodes ZZ542
Argyrodes ZZ542 Argyrodes ZZ543
Argyrodes ZZ583 Argyrodes ZZ583
Argyrodes ZZ583 Argyrodes ZZ583


Genus Ariames

Whip or Stick spiders.

These very long spiders are often common in eastern Australia in gardens. Because of their narrow body they are difficult to spot between dead grass and sticks. The female is 20-25 mm and the male 12-15 mm. during the day she rests motionless with the legs outstretched. During the night they become active and hang downward towards the ground with a single snare attached to the ground. Even with this simple snare she is able to catch small insects. Her egg-sac is of strong papery silk and is 3-4 in diameter. The female guards her egg for the two weeks it takes before the young hatch.

  Ariamnes colubrinus


Genus Cryptachaea

Cryptachaea gigantipes
Cryptachaea gigantipes with vespula wasp  
Its old name was Theridion gigantipes. It is a common spider in Australia and New Zealand that can befound in corners of walls and windows. Its size is about 6 mm. Cryptachaea gigantipes
Cryptachaea gigantipes Cryptachaea gigantipes male and female by Greg Russell-Jones
Cryptachaea gigantipes Cryptachaea gigantipes
Cryptachaea gigantipes female with youngsters Cryptachaea gigantipes male


Genus Chrysso

These spiders are 3 - 4 mm small and they occur in the tropics. This spider was originally named Arygyrodes pulcherrimus.  
Chrysso pulcherrima Chrysso pulcherrima
Chrysso pulcherrima Chrysso pulcherrima
Chrysso pulcherrima Chrysso pulcherrima
Chrysso pulcherrima Chrysso pulcherrima

Genus Dipoena

These spiders are small with a size between 2 and 4 mm. They construct small webs near to the ground where the feed on ants.
These spiders are also named gallows-spiders because they hang their prey until it dies.

 
Dipoena ZZ465 Dipoena ZZ481
Dipoena ZZ465 Dipoena ZZ481

Genus Episinus

Episinus is found worldwide.

This spider does not look like a Theridiid spider with its long and slender appearance.
Their size is approximately 5 mm and the spider can be found at ground level between low vegetation.

Male and female are similar in appearance except for the male's slimmer abdomen. Courtship takes place in summer and is brief. The egg-sac is white and spherical and has coarse loop of silk around it.

These spiders make a very simple H or Y-shaped web near ground level. The sticky ends of the threads are attached to the ground and plants above the spider and are held by the spider. Individuals can also be found on a single horizontal line.

Episinus ZZ272
Episinus ZZ272 Episinus bicornis
Episinus ZZ521 Episinus ZZ548
Episinus ZZ521 Episinus ZZ548

Genus Euryopis

Euryopis elegans Euryopis splendens
Euryopis elegans male Euryopis splendens
Euryopis_ZZ509 Euryopis_ZZ486
Euryopis ZZ509 Euryopis ZZ486
Euryopis ZZ484
Euryopis ZZ484 Euryopis ZZ429 by Farhan Bokhari

Subfamily Hadrotarsinae

Hadrotarsine ZZ491

Female adult 23110
Undescribed not uncommon Theriid from the subfamily Hadrotarsinae.
It feeds on ants. QLD

Hadrotarsine ZZ491

Genus Moneta

Spiders of this genus are small with a size between 2 and 6 mm in length.
Moneta species may be recognized by having their eyes in dorsal view in two more or less parallel rows
Moneta ZZ526
  Moneta ZZ526
Moneta australis Moneta australis
Moneta australis F Moneta australis M
Moneta variabilis Moneta variabilis
Moneta variabilis Moneta variabilis

Genus Nesticodes

Spiders with a length of 5 - 7 mm. They build a small tangled web.
They are found in all subtropical and tropical regions and the spider is strongly associated with humans. It colder regions, up to Germany, in lives in houses
 
Nesticodes rufipes M Nesticodes rufipes F
Nesticodes rufipes M Nesticodes rufipes F (Red house spider) with egg cocoon

Genus Parasteatoda

Parasteatoda tepidariorum
Parasteatoda tepidariorum with cocoon
Parasteatoda mundula Parasteatoda mundula
Parasteatoda mundula Parasteatoda mundula
Parasteatoda ZZ012 Parasteatoda ZZ012
Parasteatoda ZZ012 Parasteatoda ZZ012
Parasteatoda tepidariorum Parasteatoda tepidariorum
Parasteatoda tepidariorum eating an ant Parasteatoda tepidariorum fighting a much larger spider
Parasteatoda tepidariorum Parasteatoda tepidariorum
Parasteatoda tepidariorum male Parasteatoda tepidariorum

Genus Steatoda

Steatoda ZZ212 Steatoda ZZ212
Steatoda ZZ072 with egg-sac Steatoda ZZ072 with egg-sac

Steatoda is a common house spider that can live for several (upto six) years.
The spider is not known to be harmfull to people.
These spiders have a robust appearance. They often have a narrow light band in front of their abdomen. The sexes are similar in appearance. The webs are generally of the Therriid design, a messy web with criss-cross threads.


Genus Theridon

These spider are very similar in shape and behaviour with Achaearanea.
They build a conical retreat of twigs and leaves in their three-dimensional contructed labyrinth web.
The pear-shaped papery looking egg-sac and the youngsters are protected in this retreat guarded by the female.
Yongsters are fed by mouth by their mother until their first hatch. After their first change of skin they feed on prey catched by their mother.

Theridion pyramidale
Theridion pyramidale
Theridion pyramidale Theridion pyramidale
Theridion pyramidale Theridion pyramidale
Theridion ZZ178
Theridion? ZZ178 Theridion? ZZ564
Theridion_ZZ179
Theridion? ZZ178  


Genus Phoroncidia

Spinnerets of Phoroncidia sextuberculata releasing threads of silk (picture by Farhan Bokhari)
Phoroncidia sextuberculata Phoroncidia rotunda
Phoroncidia sextuberculata (six tubercles) (picture by Farhan Bokhari) WA Phoroncidia rotunda

Phoroncidia are small spiders with a size around 3 mm occuring in QLD, NSW, VIC and WA.

Colours of the marbled abdomen are white, black, orange and brown.
The spider hunts at night in a simple web.
In the picture above a single thread with sticky droplets can be observed.

The egg-sac is a brownpapery sphere.

  Phoroncidia sextuberculata (picture by Farhan Bokhari) WA

Genus Rhomphaea

Rhomphaea ZZ571

Rhomphaea ZZ571


Genus Thwaitesia

This plastic toy-like spiders are strangely enough not commonly observed. The spider's size is around 5 mm.
Of the 23 described species world-wide the two presented here can be found in Queensland. More species may exist in Australia.
These spiders are closely related to the genus Chrysso.
Thwaitesia argentiopunctata
Thwaitesia argentiopunctata F
Thwaitesia argentiopunctata Thwaitesia argentiopunctata
Thwaitesia argentiopunctata F Thwaitesia argentiopunctata M
Thwaitesia nigronodosa
Thwaitesia nigronodosa F
Thwaitesia nigronodosa Thwaitesia nigronodosa
Thwaitesia nigronodosa F Thwaitesia nigronodosa M

Genus Theridula

Spiders of this genus occur in the tropics.

Their size varies between 1 - 3.5 mm.

Theridula are frequently found on the underside of leaves, on bushes or in tall grass. Theridula has a web with long viscid lines that help capture flying prey. With their threads they bend leaves under which they live, mate, guard their egss and raise their youngsters.

 

 

 

 

 

Theridula ZZ381
  Theridula ZZ381 web
Theridula ZZ381 Theridula ZZ381
Theridula ZZ381 female with young spiders Theridula ZZ381 male

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Ed Nieuwenhuys, 1 July 2012
8 April 2011 , 12 february 2011, 15 December 2010, January 4, 2009, 24 September 2006,

Ed Nieuwenhuys, Ronald Loggen 1997, Jurgen Otto 2005, Robert Whyte 2010

Copyright ã 1997-2011