New Zealand is an amazing and beautiful country. New Zealand’s beaches, mountains, caverns, and land in between are all some of the most spectacular places on earth. It is a one-of-a-kind place with inhabitants that are some of the most interesting creatures in the world. Some creatures might be better to see from afar, and some get a bad rap even though they are technically the good guys. Spiders fall into that category. They are labeled as scary, mean, ugly, and creepy though few are any of those things. All spiders do a great job of keeping the insect population in check.
The orb-weaving spiders make massive webs and catch thousands of mosquitos, and that right there is a reason to thank them. Spiders do a great job and get almost no credit for it. They are squished, screamed at, and treated like their goal in life is to creep up on us and attack. In reality, spiders want precisely nothing to do with you unless they are a jumping spider, and those cuties are just overly curious about what we are and what we’re doing. Like all other spiders, they will not attack you unless you threaten or hurt them. They can’t stand our skin and how it feels and would rather skitter away than touch us.
Let’s discuss some of the more terrifying spiders you might find while in New Zealand. Keep in mind; they are far more afraid of us than we are of them. Wouldn’t you be?
The Katipo is a dark brown to black colored spider with a red stripe running down its back. The red arrow-looking line makes this spider reminiscent of The Last Airbender. These highly endangered spiders are rarely seen, even by residents of New Zealand. There is little to worry about with them since they are so extremely shy and rare! Like most other spiders, they would instead do just about anything than come in contact with a human. It will be brief if you are lucky enough to see this rare critter. They tend to hide under logs or wooden objects near sandy beaches in Southern New Zealand.
The Katipo will run and hide to evade you and will only bite as a last defense or if hurt by you. Like anything venomous, people tend to experience the bite only if they are messing with the creature. If you are so unlucky as to be bitten by the Katipo, you will likely not die or have any severe side effects. It’s best to get to the hospital for your safety. The bite will cause abdominal discomfort, shaking, malaise, sweating, and numerous other lesser conditions.
The Redback Spider of Australia and New Zealand’s venom is dangerous to humans. It is in the same family as the Katipo and the Black and Brown Widows. These spiders are common in urban environments, and you should be cautious when you see a sloppy tunnel-like web with sticky catching web lines that connect to the ground. These spiders make their webs in dry areas, like sheds, bathrooms, scrubs, and garages. They are less active in the winter months.
Over 250 cases receive antivenom every summer in New Zealand. Only the female spiders are capable of biting because the males are too small. The adult female is roughly the size of a pea. They rarely leave their webs, so avoid sticking your hand into their web. Since antivenom for this bite exists, no deaths have been reported since its introduction. The bit is excruciating. Once bitten, you will have muscular cramping and discomfort, sweating, pain at the bite, increased blood pressure and heart rate, nausea, and vomiting. Get to the hospital as soon as possible to receive antivenom.
The White-Tailed Spider is the third most dangerous-to-humans spider in New Zealand. Generally speaking, this is not a very harmful spider to humans, though some people can have an extreme reaction, like with anything else. The common effects are swelling at the bite site and itching, which you will experience with most insect or arachnid bites. A case study ruled out the necrotic ulceration of skin following bites from these spiders.
The White-Tailed Spider gets its name from its white-tipped abdomen. The rest of its body is reddish-grey and is approximately 12-22 mm long, which is the size of your thumbnail. They tend to wander at night, feasting on other spiders. These spiders may be found inside, but that’s not all bad since they have no interest in you and are explicitly seeking warmer temperatures and to eat black house spiders. They like to hide in sheets, so if you are afraid of spiders or want to avoid any bite, shake your sheets out before bed.
The Nelson Cave Spider is a cave-dwelling spider located in the caves and caverns in the Buller and Nelson areas in New Zealand. They have the most considerable leg span of any spider in New Zealand at five and a half inches. Their body is only slightly under one inch long. The first two legs in the front of the spider have a claw on the end to help hang from slick cave ceilings. They are a mottled brown and are frequently mistaken for sheet web spiders. The Nelson Cave Spider hangs from the cave’s ceiling and descends to the cave floor, where it drops down on unsuspecting Weta and hauls them back up to the ceiling like Spider-Man.
These spiders are extremely rare and were the first spider protected under the Wildlife Act. All spiders are venomous, but this is not one that you have to worry about. If one does bite you, slight swelling is all you’ll likely have as an effect.
The Avondale Spider is a communal or social huntsman spider native to New Zealand. The spider gets its name from its hometown, Avondale, near Auckland, Australia. These mid-sized spiders reach 3/4 to slightly over one inch in size. Their body is light fawn brown and covered in tiny hairs that help them pick up vibrations of prey nearby. The mother spiders can lay up to 200 eggs and tend to carry them around.
If one of these spiders bites you, you will experience a similar reaction to other arachnid and insect bites. Swelling, pain at the bite site, headache, and possibly increased heart rate and vomiting if you are extra sensitive. Sometimes these spiders are aggressive and will attack, but it is generally only to protect their young, just like any good mother.
The Banded Tunnelweb Spider is a type of trapdoor spider. These grow to be bulky and stocky one-inch to one-inch-and-a-half spiders that catch their prey by digging a tunnel to live in, then installing trapdoor lines. When an insect touches the sticky trapdoor webbing, the vibrations will alert the Banded Tunnelweb Spider, who will quickly rush out to grab dinner and retreat into its tunnel again. These spiders tend to be reddish-brown and have a yellow chevron symbol on their abdomen. They also have six spinnerets, and the females have larger eyes than the males.
Banded Tunnelweb Spiders are very shy and avoid humans. If one of these spiders bites you, there is no reason for concern. The bite is harmless and will only cause slight swelling and an itch at the site.
The Black-Headed Jumping Spider is among the many cute and curious jumping spiders in New Zealand. They only grow to be less than half an inch long. These specific ones are golden-bodied with a greenish-yellow stripe down their backs and black heads, which is why they are the Black-Headed Jumping Spider. The females tend to be slightly larger than the males. The males of all jumping spider species dance hopefully for their potential female mates. Sometimes the female runs away or attacks him, and sometimes she accepts the dance.
Jumping spider bites are harmless to everyone except for the tiny insects they feed upon. They are naturally shy but curious and may even approach you to get a better look. Know that you are special if a tiny jumper hops to you and peers into your face with its huge eyes.
The Golden Orb Weaver Spider has a creepy skull-like face and looks a bit alien to some, but they are friends and completely harmless. These spiders are responsible for keeping pest insects under control and their populations low. The Orb Weavers make large cartwheel-shaped webs made from strong silk. They attach their webs to neighboring trees or brush, trapping insects as they fly through. These webs can be one meter wide (over three feet). Sadly, these beautiful spiders are a delicacy in New Guinea and can roast over an open fire.
The body of the Golden Orb Weaver is black with a white pattern on its back and a yellow underside; the abdomen is grey to brown. The spiders are approximately an inch and a half big with long spindly legs.
The Sheetweb Spider is responsible covering fields in enormous webs. That is what happens in the fall rainy season arrives. These little spiders can use their spinnerets to make balloons to float away on the open winds when their nests are in danger of flooding. This saves them and helps them start over in a new, less flooded area. Once they do find a new home, they can make expansive webs. Since they are all looking for dry spots, tons of these spiders end up in the same areas. Sometimes the lonely male will wander into a human’s home during the breeding season, seeking a female. They are not at all harmful and catch many pest insects.
Sheetweb Spiders have a body approximately one inch long and a leg span of up to six inches. They have a brownish-red upper, and yellowish-grey underbody.
Nursery Web Spiders are typically greyish-brown with a yellow-colored band around their front end, the cephalothorax. These medium-large spiders enjoy living near the water, like many humans. The Nursery Web Spiders get their name from the thick, protective webbing they build for their eggs. Then, once laying finished, they take those eggs for a ride in their mama spider’s mouth until they are close to hatching. She then tucks them into the thick web with plant leaves she makes to serve as their nursery until the spiderlings are large enough to leave the nest. Mama spider stands guard over her babies and can be an aggressive protector.
The female Nursery Spiders have a considerable leg span of up to three inches with a body size of around an inch. The males, like most other arachnid males, are smaller. There are over 300 types of Nursery Spiders in the world.
The Vagrant Spider is a white-spotted, brown, and fawn-colored spider with a length of approximately one inch. The leg span can be two inches making these spiders medium-sized in the country. These nocturnal spiders hunt at night and sleep during the day. They enjoy sleeping under rocks, logs, and in the brush. These spiders like to spending their days in gardens, which is how people get bitten. The Vagrant Spider builds small nests to sleep during the day and protect them from danger when they molt.
The females guard their young until they hatch and leave the nest by ballooning with the wind. Ballooning is when they use their tiny spinnerets to make a few strands of silk, with which the wind picks up in a gust and departs the spiderlings elsewhere.
A bite from the Vagrant Spider can be painful and cause mild swelling. The worst reported is joint pain following the bite. They are not harmful, however.
The Golden Brown Jumping Spider of New Zealand is very tiny and harmless. Its size is approximately a quarter of an inch. These little spiders can jump massive distances. The Golden Brown Jumping Spider female is a bit larger than the males. These tiny, big-eyed spiders can jump several centimeters to catch prey mid-flight. They are opportunistic hunters and will hunt anything they can catch. This includes insects that are several times bigger than the small jumper. Since they do not make actual webs for catching insects, these tiny creatures hunt on foot by stalking their prey.
Golden Brown Jumping Spiders have excellent eyesight, which helps them pick up the slightest movement from their dinner. They jump and catch their prey, injecting them with potent paralyzing venom that helps them digest their snack. The Golden Brown Jumping Spider female stays with her eggs until they hatch and her spiderlings can safely live on their own. Since they are arboreal spiders, they love living on plants and in trees but also like hanging out on fences, houses, and barns.
Like all jumping spiders, these little arachnids are friendly and curious about humans. They make great, easy-to-care-for pets. If you are sitting on a park bench in New Zealand, you might find one of these friends coming over to check you out. They turn their heads in a similar fashion to some dogs as they intently look at your face. Known for their friendliness, you might have one hop onto an offered hand. There is a reason jumping spiders are such popular pets worldwide. Their bite is harmless and rare. The only time one might bite is if you are threatening it or its babies.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © KarenGiblettPhotography/Shutterstock.com
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