Huntsman spiders are in the Sparassidae family and are the large ‘hairy scary’ spiders that absolutely terrify people when they scuttle out from behind a curtain or the sun visor in the car. In reality, Australian huntsman spiders are a fascinating group with 13 genera and 94 described species. Many huntsman spiders live socially in large family groups with the mothers showing extraordinary maternal instinct. These large, hairy grey-brown spiders have flattened bodies and are found throughout Australia, preferring to live outside under the bark of trees or under rocks and logs on the ground. They are typically long-legged (females can reach sizes up to 15cm across the legs) with forward facing legs, and are known for their scuttling sideways gait.

The Huntsman spider is a common neighbourhood spider.

Huntsman spider

 

These sure-footed and agile spiders are nocturnal and sometimes seen indoors at night, hunting for insects. They have keen eyesight and are good hunters, running down and pouncing on their prey. None of these spiders spin webs of any kind. Although some huntsman spiders can give a painful bite, they are not considered dangerous to humans.

huntsman spider

Identification

Huntsman spiders are large, long-legged spiders.. They are mostly grey to brown, sometimes with banded legs. Many huntsman spiders, especially Delena (the flattest), and including Isopeda, Isopedella andHolconia, have rather flattened bodies adapted for living in narrow spaces under loose bark or rock crevices. This is aided by their legs which, instead of bending vertically in relation to the body, have the joints twisted so that they spread out forwards and laterally in crab-like fashion (‘giant crab spiders’). Both Brown (Heteropoda) and Badge (Neosparassus) Huntsman spiders have less flattened bodies.
Brown Huntsman (Heteropoda species) spiders are patterned in motley brown, white and black.

Size range

Body lengths: 2 cm (female), 1.6 cm (male); Leg span: up to 15 cm

Distribution

These genera are generally widely distributed throughout Australia, although Heteropoda is absent from most of Southeastern Australia and Tasmania has only a few Huntsman species, notably Delena cancerides and Neosparassus spp.

Habitat

Huntsman Spiders are found living under loose bark on trees, in crevices on rock walls and in logs, under rocks and slabs of bark on the ground, and on foliage. Dozens of the social huntsman species,Delena cancerides, can be seen sitting together under bark on dead trees and stumps (notably wattles) but they can also be found on the ground under rocks and bark slabs.
Huntsman spiders of many species sometimes enter houses. They are also notorious for entering cars, and being found hiding behind sun visors or running across the dashboard.

  • Habitat type :Terrestrial Habitat: peridomestic, tree hole, under bark
  • Feeding and Diet :Food consists of insects and other invertebrates.
  • Feeding Habits: arthropod-feeder, carnivorous, insectivorous
  • Life history mode: aerial

Life cycle

The female Huntsman (Isopeda, for example) produces a flat, oval egg sac of white papery silk, and lays up to 200 eggs. She then places it under bark or a rock, and stands guard over it, without eating, for about three weeks. During this period the female can be quite aggressive and will rear up in a defensive display if provoked. Some species will even carry their egg sac under their bodies while moving about. Delena females lay a ground-sheet of silk upon which the egg sac is anchored while the eggs are laid into it. They will then complete her egg sac and pick it up, leaving the silk ground-sheet behind. Incubation periods vary and are probably influenced by climatic conditions.
In some cases (Isopeda), the female may moisten and tear the egg sac open, helping her spiderlings to emerge. The mother stays with them for several weeks. Young Huntsman spiders are pale. They undergo several moults while still with their mother, hardening to a darker brown, and eventually disperse.
Huntsman spiders, like all spiders, moult in order to grow and often their old skin may be mistaken for the original spider when seen suspended on bark or in the house.
The lifespan of most Huntsman species is about two years or more.

Mating and reproduction

In the genus Isopoda, the male and female Huntsman spiders have a lengthy courtship, which involves mutual caresses, with the male drumming his palps on the trunk of a tree. He then inserts his palps into the female to fertilise her eggs. The male is rarely attacked, unlike some other species, and in fact many huntsman spiders live peacefully together in large colonies. A silken retreat is often built for egg laying, as well as for moulting.

Predators, Parasites and Diseases

Predators of Huntsman Spiders include birds and geckoes, Spider Wasps, nematode worms and egg parasites (wasps and flies).

Danger to humans and first aid

A cold pack may relieve local pain. Seek medical attention if symptoms. persist.

huntsman spider

 

Classification

  • Family: Sparassidae
  • Superfamily: Sparassoidea
  • Order: Araneae
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Kingdom: Animalia