The Jewelled Spider is also known by its Latin name - Gasteracantha Minax, meaning "threatening and projecting". They are also known as spiny orb weavers and are part of the orb weaving spider family. This spider's body is very broad and grows to the size of a 20c piece, with its 8 legs being the length of a pin (fairly short for a spider). Its abdomen is strikingly coloured with bright yellow and white and black. Six stout spines (long and sharp) come from the border of the abdomen.
These spiders mostly can be found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world including Australia. In Australia, this Jewelled Spider has been found in all states including Tasmania and on numerous islands off the coast. It is particularly common in the Summer months of January and February. These spiders inhabit mostly shrub areas close to swamps and creeks. Many Jewelled Spiders are solitary but the well known Christmas Spiders are frequently found in colonies of communal webs which may number hundreds and even thousands. These large colonies overlap one another among shrubbery in the bushland.
Jewelled Spiders spin a fine circular web (wheel-like) to snare their prey. Their webs often overlap and are usually built a metre or two from the ground. Their prey includes flying insects especially flies and communities of these spiders are very social in that they share their prey no matter whose web it lands on.
Like most spiders, the Jewelled Spider mates, the female eats the males, the female lays eggs, the eggs hatch and the young spiders are on their own from hatching. Sometimes they are carried away from the web by the wind.
Jewelled Spiders have a bite that gives a mild local pain. They are harmless to humans and usually move out of the way when approached. If bitten, the victim (fly) would be paralysed then snared in the web.
The female is the stronger of the breed and her bite is more intense. If bitten by a Jewelled Spider, a human may experience localized pain and swelling. He/she should apply a cold compress or ice to the area. If swelling or pain does not subside, he/she should seek medical advice in case of allergy.
The spikes of the Jewelled Spiders are their most distinguishing feature. These would help to frighten their prey and are also used in their defence to avoid becoming prey for other animals.
Research by Geoffrey and Chantelle
Pictures: Ed Nieuwenhuys: http://www.xs4all.nl/~ednieuw
Bibliography - "Wildlife of Greater Brisbane" - Michelle Ryan, 199, Qld Museum;
"Spider Watch: A Guide to Australian Spiders" Bert Brunet, 1996
Click here for more photos of Jewelled Spiders.
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