October 2012 - Labyrinth Spider
I have noticed a number of strange spiders this summer - or more accurately I have noticed their funnel-shaped webs. I found a magnificent example right in our own garden in Bawburgh! I can understand how people can get confused between this spider and the so-called Australian funnel-web spider which has the notoriously deadly bite. But our labyrinth spider is a shy creature, and even if you do have the misfortune to get bitten by one, the bite is unlikely to cause any real problems unless you are one of those unfortunates who is allergic to it, in much the same way as some people have allergies to wasp and/or bee stings - this is extremely rare.
Labyrinth spiders are always present in gardens but largely go unnoticed as they are a dull grey-brown in colour. If looked at more closely they are patterned, the abdomen having a central pale brown stripe with darker, more greyish bands on either side. The darker bands have tiny white dashes or chevron markings running through them. Once they start to build their elaborate webs, however, they can easily be recognised. The webs are usually found fairly near ground level, and start as a flat thick web sheet. They are usually built in a south facing hedgerow or grass bank, or in the case of our labyrinth spider in a low lying shrub. At one end of the web sheet there is a funnel, leading to a spiralling tunnel, ending in a central chamber containing the egg sac, tethered in mid-air by strands of silk from all sides of the labyrinth. The female spider is extremely conscientious and protects the eggs and subsequently the young until they are ready to leave the 'nest'. If the mother dies before the babies leave, they will feed on her body, although normally the adults eat flies and other small insects.
According to the internet humming-bird hawk moths are on the increase in the area to be seen until late September. A photo of one was sent to us by Kevin Symonds of Garvestone last year and can be viewed in the wildlife photo gallery. What a wonderful sight - and he took this photo with his mobile phone! There is hope for all of us!
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