Spiders: Family Araneidae

Common name: Orb-Web spiders. 40 genera in South Africa alone. One of the most interesting and diverse groups of spiders with various shapes, colours, camouflage systems and webs which makes it very difficult to elaborate in detail. Diurnal and nocturnal. Interestingly the diurnal spiders continually repair their webs for a number of days. The nocturnal ones on the other hand construct a new web every evening and when dawn comes, the web is taken down and eaten as it is a valuable source of protein. Each species of spider has its own characteristic web design. Harmless to humans. Abundance: very common.
Spiders: Family Cheiracanthiidae

Common name: Sac spider. Medically significant. Long-legged Sac Spiders are common and found in most habitats. Nocturnal hunters resting during the day in sac-like silken retreats mostly in vegetation. They often come indoors, resting e.g. in folds of fabric. Fangs are large and black and as they often come into close contact with humans, account for about 75% of known spider bites in South Africa. Venom is cytotoxic (cell destroying) and bites cause necrotic wounds which take several weeks to heal completely. Abundance: common.
Spiders: Family Corinnidae

Common name: Antlike and dark sac spiders. This is a moderately large and diverse family. More than half of the species are ground-living while some are plant dwellers. Some mimic ants and some again, are found in leaf litter. Size: 2 – 10 mm. Legs long and thin. Abundance: common.
Spiders: Family Erisidae

Common name: Velvet spiders. “The velvet spiders are medium-sized to large spiders with a soft, velvety appearance. They have diverse life-styles, making retreat webs under stones and under bark, or communal nests in trees or burrows in the soil. (Spiders of the Savanna Biome – Dippenaar-Schoeman, Foord & Haddad). The genus which has been photographed here is Stegodyphus – Community Nest Spiders. Some of them are social and live together in large retreats, while other species are solitary. The retreat has numerous tunnels and chambers in structures such as shrubs, fences etc attached by sheetlike webs in which prey is trapped. Abundance: rare.
Spiders: Family Gnaphosidae

Common name: Ground spiders. Ground spiders lack a prey-capture web and generally run prey down. They are nocturnal hunters and spend the day resting. They hunt by active foraging, chasing down and subduing individual prey. They can successfully hunt large and potentially dangerous prey by producing thick, gluey silk and applying their webbing to their prey's legs and mouths. Thus they can immobilize prey while reducing risk of injury to themselves. Harmless to humans. Abundance: very common.
Spiders: Family Hersiliidae

Common name: Long-spinnered bark spider. 3 genera and 11 species in South Africa. Diverse life-styles but most of the species are arboreal. Free-living and beautifully camouflaged to blend with e.g. bark. Extremely fast, running in quick, jerky spurts. Colour variation depends on the bark colour on which they are found. They attack pedestrian prey by circling it and covering it with silk strands. Difficult to see, except when the sun reflects on their untidy guide threads. Harmless to humans. Abundance: rare.
Spiders: Family Lycosidae

Common name: Wolf spiders. Most of the genera are terrestrial, free ranging, not having webs, although some construct burrows. Some species are even semi-aquatic. Mainly diurnal, some species being nocturnal. Fast moving and usually run down their prey. 28 Genera occurring in South Africa. Females can often be seen carrying a white round egg case which is attached to the spinnerets. When the eggs hatch, the young are carried on the mother's abdomen. 3-30mm in length. Lycosid families are easy to identify but are notoriously difficult to identify down to genus level often needing microscopic examination of the genitalia. Harmless to humans. Abundance: common.
Spiders: Family Nephilidae

Common name: Orb-web spiders/Golden orb-web spiders. Nephila species occur in southern Africa, one of which is the largest known orb-web-spinning spider. These spiders make the largest orb webs - in fact large enough and strong enough to accidentally catch small birds. We have all had the experience of walking into one of these orb webs in the veld or webs spun across a footpath ending up with the spider on your hat or hair! The orbs can span enormous spaces. Nephila fenestrata can form semi-social populations, joining their webs onto one another, thus forming an almost impenetrable curtain of webs. Spiders in the family Nephilidae first bite the prey caught in the web and then proceed to wrap it. These spiders pose no threat to humans. The only genus to use yellow silk is Nephila, so the common name is not quite correct. Abundance: common.
Spiders: Family Oxyopidae

Common name: Lynx spiders. Prey is usually captured in a catlike manner, often stalking and pouncing. 3 Genera found in South Africa. Oxyopids are diurnal, free living (meaning they do not have a web-bound life-style). Plant-living, usually found on grasses, shrubs etc. etc. Not much is known about the biology of our lynx spiders. They range from small to large – typically 5 – 25mm. Harmless to humans. Abundance: very common.
Spiders: Family Philodromidae

Common name: Small Running Spiders. They are either terrestrial or plant-living. The ground-living species are free-running, often encountered under rocks or pebbles and often occur in areas infested with termites. Very agile and fast. Very few setae on the body. Plant-living Philodromids are also free-running and commonly found on grass. Well camouflaged on either, grass, bark or leaves. Harmless to humans. Abundance: common.
Spiders: Family Pholcidae

Common name: Daddy-long-leg-spiders. Pholcids are among the dominant web-building spiders in many tropical and subtropical areas. They occupy a wide variety of habitats ranging from leaf-litter to tree canopies, and several species occur in caves and in close proximity to humans. 2-10mm in size (both males and females). When disturbed they will vibrate. This is called “whirling the web” meaning they move their bodies rapidly around in circles with the legs remaining on the web. Their diet consists mainly of ants and other spiders. Also important predators of malaria mosquitoes in Africa. Harmless to humans. Abundance: very common.
Spiders: Family Pisauridae

Common names: Fish-eating spiders, Nursery-web spiders, Funnel-web Pisaurid spiders. Large cosmopolitan family - 12 genera and 36 species in South Africa. Some pisaurids are web-dwelling, others free-living. Body size: 8-30 mm (males more slender). Webs vary from large sheet-webs with funnel retreats to sheet webs made on plants or the soil surface. Take an early morning walk and you will see the sun reflecting on the sheet webs. Pisaurids are found in a variety of habitats. The female usually carries the egg cocoon beneath her sternum and just before the young emerge she constructs a framework of silk, known as a nursery web in which she deposits the eggs. After emerging from the egg cocoon the young remain in this nursery web before they disperse, hence their common name nursery web spiders. They are excellent mothers and will guard the nursery with their lives, sometimes even dying from lack of food. Harmless to humans. Abundance: very common.
Spiders: Family Salticidae

Common name: Jumping Spiders. This is the largest spider family worldwide, 67 genera and 265 species currently described in South Africa. Diurnal, active hunters with excellent eyesight. Size: mostly between 2mm and 8mm depending on the species. Non-aggressive and highly beneficial in controlling pests. Do yourself a favour and Google these amazingly beautiful and endearing little spiders or have a peek at Vida van der Walt's Facebook site for the most amazing photographs – you will not regret it. Size: mostly small, between 2mm and 8mm (depending on the species). Absolutely harmless to humans. PLEASE do not kill them! Abundance: very common.
Spiders: Family Scytodidae

Common name: Spitting spiders. There is a single genus of the family Scytodidae in South Africa, namely Scytodes with 30 species (ADS). They spit their venom which then congeals into a gel as it hits the prey. Harmless to humans. Abundance: rare.
Spiders: Family Selenopidae

Common name: Wall crab spiders, flatties because of their dorsally flattened bodies. Named after the Greek moon goddess, Selene. Nocturnal and free-ranging and well camouflaged on or under their usual habitat of rocks or on trees where their flattened bodies enable them to retreat into small cracks and crevices. Also common in houses and easily seen on walls and other surfaces, often retreating into small crevices such as those behind skirting boards and picture frames. They are extremely agile and able to move very rapidly in any direction. 2 Southern African genera, Selenops and Anyphops. They are very useful in controlling insect pests such as mosquitoes, fishmoths and cockroaches. Indeed very useful creatures in our homes. Harmless to humans. Abundance: very common.
Spiders: Family Sparassidae

Common name: Huntsman spiders. Large nocturnal plant-dwelling spiders that wander around in search of prey. Rain spiders (Palystes sp) often frequest houses. Prey: large insects as well as small reptiles and other spiders. They make large silken nests often between leaves which they fasten together with silk strands. The female guards the nest diligently until the, often hundreds, of spiderlings leave the nest. Although quite scary to look at because of their size, they are harmless to humans. Abundance: rare.
Spiders: Family Tetragnathidae

Common name: Long-jawed orb weavers. Small family comprising 5 genera in South Africa.Tetragnathids are cryptically coloured in shades of brown and cream and green for those species that occur amongst foliage. Nocturnal although sometimes diurnal. They make a delicate orb-web usually over streams or bodies of water. The web is taken down and reconstructed daily. Very well camouflaged often resembling dry grass as the front 2 pairs of legs are projected forward and the back pairs backward. Harmless to humans. Abundance: common.
Spiders: Family Theraphosidae

Common name: Baboon spiders. South Africa has a rich diversity of baboon spiders, represented by eight genera and 44 species of which 35 are endemic to the region. The common name comes from the hairy appearance of the spider and from the pads of the spider’s “feet” which resemble the colour and texture of that of a baboon’s finger. They are ground-dwelling and spend most of their time inside their burrows, usually not moving far from the burrow. Most baboon spiders are predominantly nocturnal sit-and-wait hunters and most species await the approach of prey within the entrance of their burrows. Being carnivores. they feed on a variety of small invertebrates such as beetles, grasshoppers, millipedes, cockroaches, crickets, and other spiders. They may also be cannibals, the young eat each other and the females often eat the males after mating. They are very long-lived spiders and may take up to 10 years to reach maturity. While some spider species live only for a year, baboon spiders can live from 15 to 20 years or longer. Female baboon spiders have been documented to live for over 30 years. There are no reports of baboon spiders' venom having any medically important effects on humans. Abundance: rare and threatened.
Spiders: Family Theridiidae

Common names: Tangle Web Spiders. Comb-footed spiders. Large and diverse family – 15 genera in South Africa. The Theridiidae family includes the genus Latrodectus, the medically important widow or button spiders. There are approximately 31 species of venomous spiders in this genus. Black button spiders in southern Africa do not have the red double triangle markings under the abdomen but can have a variety of pretty red and gold markings on the upper side, although usually there is only a dull red dot above the spinnerets. Egg sacs are smooth, usually spherical, sometimes tear-drop shaped and about the size of a large green pea. Webs are 3-dimensional made of very tough silk, usually outdoors. Black Button spiders are regarded as the most dangerously venomous spiders found in southern Africa. Although they are reluctant to bite, preferring to “play dead” if disturbed, proven button spider bites must be taken seriously and medical attention sought. The potent venom affects the nervous system, causing severe systemic symptoms and local pain, but in South Africa, an anti-venom is available. No recorded human deaths in South Africa for more than 6 decades. The Brown Button Spider's bite is also venomous but much less so. Abundance: very common.
Spiders: Family Thomisidae

Common names: crab spiders, flower crab spiders, grass crab spiders, ground crab spiders etc. In Southern Africa they are represented by 39 genera and approx 140 species. Ground and plant dwellers, free-living, found mainly on foliage, only a few genera are terrestrial. Body colour varies from brightly coloured (pink, green, yellow) to dark brown or grey, abdomen often patterned. Body size: 3-23 mm. No webs, when inactive they hide beneath vegetation and ground debris. Sedentary, ambushing their prey. Commonly found on crops, playing an important role in the natural control of pests such as aphids, red spider mites and thrips. Easily distributed by wind. Harmless to humans. Abundance: common.

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