Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t like spiders (other than Spider Pig). However, mainly due to the macro photography of spiders by my friend The Black Rabbit at Blue Grey I seem to be slowly overcoming my aversion – I even managed to photograph one on Grassy Key the other day!
These are some of the strangest spiders I have ever seen and they are everywhere when you go for a walk in the Florida Keys.
They’re Spinybacked Orbweaver Spiders Gasteracantha cancriformis, also known locally as Crab Spiders, Jewel Spiders and Smiley Face Spiders (my particular favourite).
They are only about 7mm long and 11mm wide, but the females have these amazing pointed spines – 6 in all – on their abdomen which look like little horns or tusks. This is a female… they are much bigger than the male (surprise, surprise) who not only doesn’t have spines but is also rather a dull colour – need I say more?
Their webs are pretty amazing (except when you walk into one – when they are foul). Usually about 50cm in diameter they have as many as 30 loops of spirals spaced at 3mm intervals. A work of art in themselves.
You can see on the first photo little tufts of silk in the web. Experts aren’t sure what these are for but one suggestion is that they make the web more conspicuous to birds, so the birds don’t destroy the web by flying into them. Bit like the black sticky tape my mum puts on her patio doors to stop her from walking into them!
They eat whiteflies, flies, moths and beetles, and although they can bite they are not dangerous to man (or woman I hope!).