The Australian Christmas Spider is an orb-weaving spider also known as the Australian Jewel Spider. Well deserving of their name, these highly decorated specimens, come out in large numbers around the festive season, but also have a few other traits aligned with the Christmas spirit.
The scientific name for these spiders is Austracantha, and are easily identifiable by the spines on their abdomen and unique design. During Summer, they put on their best display and show off a wonderful colour scheme of black, yellow, white and red, but then switch to dark brown and black.
The Christmas Spider is quite house-proud and designs the web from the ground upwards in order to be visible to larger animals, presumably so they will avoid contact with the web and not damage the spider’s home. Unlike other orb weaving spiders who collect up their webs at dawn, this Christmas spider will keep its web intact. In a very decorative display, the spiders add large white silk tufts to the cross sections of the web to further highlight their location.
Christmas Spiders have realised the power of community and align their webs next to each other to broaden the possibility of a good feast. Some communities can be up to 30 spiders.
The females tend to cohabit open areas whereas the males hide in vegetation. When the males get frisky they begin the courtship ceremony. Male Christmas spiders will try to get the female’s attention by attaching a "mating thread" from nearby plants to the edge of the female's orb web. It then positions itself in the middle of this thread and begins strumming it with their first and second pair of legs. Serenading perhaps?
The Christmas Spider is harmless to humans and not aggressive but I still wouldn’t like to accidentally walk into one of their webs!
These spiders are found throughout Western Australia but it is unlikely you’ll find one in your home. Spiders that are a pest in your home are usually Redback spiders, White Tipped spiders, black spiders and Huntsmen. Give us a call to inspect your place if you find any of these nasty and potentially harmful varieties.
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