An outstanding feature in the Ingwelala landscape during March was the Golden Orb spider. There were hundreds of them everywhere, spinning and guarding their webs, and going about their spider business.
Those that are more visible and eye catching to the observer are of course representatives of the female gender. The female orb can be up to a thousand times larger than the smaller and more discreet males which are less than 10% of the female size. Several males may cohabit on the web and are usually found at the top of the web. The female sits at the hub of her web, facing downwards, and waits for insects to become trapped in the web. She then wraps her prey in silk to immobilise it, killing it with a bite, before moving her quarry to the centre of the web for consumption or addition to her food store.
A dozen interesting facts about Golden Orb spiders:
- They are diurnal, sedentary and web bound
- Webs are not often dismantled and can last for several years
- There are 11 African species in the genus
- Their venom is harmless to man
- It is not the largest spider, but makes the largest and strongest web, deriving its name from the golden colour of its silk.
- The silk is strong enough to trap small birds which it does not eat, but can damage the web. To negate such potential damage the female often leaves a visible line of insect husks on the web (likened to a safety strip across a glass door)
- The tiny males are able to steal the females food without her even noticing.
- Females live slightly longer than males
- The male mates with the female while she is distracted (usually whilst she is feeding)
- The eggs are buried in the ground
- The spiderlings are not fully developed when they hatch, but once they are fully developed they move apart from their siblings to avoid cannibalism
- The web silk (used by some traditional folk) can be used to make fishing lures, traps, nets, bird snares and is medicinally used to stop bleeding.
Facts researched from the Internet, text by John Llewellyn