Long-Winged Kite Spider

Gasteracantha versicolor

Last updated: January 20, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Dan Olsen/Shutterstock.com

The long-winged kite spider sets itself apart from other spiny orb-weavers by its elongated spiked protrusions from its sides, giving it the appearance of a pointed kite (its namesake).

Long-Winged Kite Spider Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Arachnida
Order
Aranae
Family
Araneidae
Genus
Gasteracantha
Scientific Name
Gasteracantha versicolor

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Long-Winged Kite Spider Conservation Status

Long-Winged Kite Spider Locations

Long-Winged Kite Spider Locations

Long-Winged Kite Spider Facts

Prey
Insects
Main Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Spiderling
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
  • Solitary except during mating season
Fun Fact
The long-winged kite spider sets itself apart from other spiny orb-weavers by its elongated spiked protrusions from its sides, giving it the appearance of a pointed kite (its namesake).
Biggest Threat
Habitat destruction and pet trade
Most Distinctive Feature
Colorful, spike-protruding abdomens like shells
Diet
Insectivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Common Name
Long-winged kite spider
Origin
Africa
Number Of Species
1
Location
Africa

Long-Winged Kite Spider Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Spiky
Lifespan
3 months
Length
.39 inches
Venomous
Yes
Aggression
Low

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The long-winged kite spider, known by scientific name Gasteracantha versicolor, is a species of diurnal (meaning awake during the daytime) spiny orb-weaver spider indigenous to tropical regions of Southern Africa. 

These spiders are easily distinguishable from other types of spiders and indeed look like a whole different species. Long-winged kite spiders are identified primarily by their bright colors. They also feature six prominent spines on their hardened, almost shell-like centers. 

Long-winged kite spiders are generally considered harmless to humans despite their imposing spikes and vivid coloring

5 Long-Winged Kite Spider Facts

  • As members of the orb-weaver family, long-winged kite spiders build their webs with a radial center. As they weave, the strands stretch out like the spoke of a wheel.
  • Long-winged kite spiders are venomous, but their venom is not dangerous to humans.
  • Like many species of Southern African spiders, habitat destruction and the pet trade threaten their livelihoods. However, conservationists consider them of the least concern.
  • The long-winged kite spider sets itself apart from other spiny orb-weavers by its elongated spiked protrusions from its sides, giving it the appearance of a pointed kite (its namesake).
  • There are three known different races of Gasteracantha versicolor the main species was first discovered on the African mainland and two more (G. v. avaratrae and G. v. formosa) were later discovered on Madagascar.

Long-Winged Kite Spider Species, Types, and Scientific Name

The scientific name for the long-winged kite spider is Gasteracantha versicolor, with the word “color” providing a helpful hint in identifying these brightly pigmented arachnids in the wild. “Versicolor” refers to bright yellow or white coloring on the abdomens of female long-winged kite spiders. The word “gastercantha” comes from two Greek words, gaster for “belly” or “abdomen” and akantha, which means “spine” or “thorn.” Spiny, colorful bellies are the long-winged kite spider’s most notable feature, so the name quite fits these eight-legged creatures.

Scientists have so far discovered three known races of long-winged kite spiders, that share the scientific name. Researches separate these distinct types by the specific locales in which researchers discovered them.

Appearance: How To Identify Long-Winged Kite Spider

Long-Winged Kite Spider 1
Female long-winged kite spiders are generally more colorful than their male counterparts.

©David Havel/Shutterstock.com

Like any spiders, long-winged kite spiders display sexual dimorphism. This means that the females of the species are much larger and more visually distinct than the males. 

Female long-winged kite spiders range between 8 to 10 millimeters, while males clock a much smaller length on average. The female spiders most often feature a bright yellow coloring on their abdomens, which are glossy, colorful, and almost shell-like. The hardened core protects the vulnerable cephalothorax of the female and is covered in six protruding peripheral spines. In long-winged kite spiders in particular, the lateral pair of spines are slightly longer and curve backward.

Male long-winged kite spiders, conversely, are smaller, far less colorful, and lack the spikes of their female counterparts.

Habitat: Where to Find Long-Winged Kite Spider

These arachnids reside on the African continent, spotted in Southern and Eastern African countries such as South Africa and Madagascar. The species usually lives in woodland edges and sometimes makes its way into shrubby areas, such as gardens. 

Long-winged kite spiders have been most often sighted in May when they are most active in hunting and mating after they hatch in the winter.

Diet: What Do They Eat?

These African native spiders mainly eat insects that they trap with their webs. They most commonly spin their webs several feet above the jungle forest floor, where they wait for and catch their prey. 

Spiders cannot digest solids, so the long-winged kite spider uses their venom to liquefy the internal organs of their prey. Once the webs trap a bug, the spider pumps it full of enzymes from its mouth via a fang bite. As the internal organs dissolve, the long-winged kite spider uses the puncture holes to create a soupy liquid that they drink.

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About the Author

Shanti Ryle is a content marketer with nearly a decade's experience writing about science, real estate, business, and culture. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Global Finance and Banking, Weedmaps News/Marijuana.com, and other publications. Her favorite animal (by far) is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi!

Long-Winged Kite Spider FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is a long-winged kite spider venomous?

While the venom of a long-winged kite spider can turn a bug’s internal organs into a soupy liquid, humans have nothing to fear from their bite.

How long do long-winged kite spiders live?

This species of spider has a relatively short lifespan, with most individuals living no longer than three months. They usually live until after the reproduction cycle: females die after laying a mass of eggs, while males die a few days after inseminating them.

Where do long-winged kite spiders live?

This species is primarily found in the southern and eastern parts of Africa in wooded forests. While their territories are small, the species rules over an extensive range that stretches from South Africa to Madagascar.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System , Available here: https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=856948#null
  2. Kloof Conservancy Bioguide, Available here: https://biogui.de/entry.php?commonname=Kite_Spider
  3. Observation.org, Available here: https://observation.org/species/562446/

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