Nature Matters || It’s a dog-eat-dog spider world

Bad reputation: The male redback spider has some slick pick-up moves.
Bad reputation: The male redback spider has some slick pick-up moves.

‘Straya mate. What’s a more Australian experience than steak on a barbecue? 

A redback spider and her eggs sack inside our barbeque cover.

That was my Australia day nature experience and what better excuse to talk about a critter that you’re sure to come across at some point, like it or not.

Venomous creatures get a bad rap. I guess that’s the life you lead when a single bite of your two fangs has the capacity to kill innocent children. Although here in Australia, that doesn’t really make you all that special. 

Redback spiders, however, do it in style - their prey capture is the stuff that horror movies are made from.

The poor life choices made by beetles, spiders, small mice or lizards, end badly in the redback’s web.

Nimble spiders squirt a sticky gluey silk at their captives to bind them in place before injecting their venom and further binding them up. Envenomate. Bind. Digestive enzymes. Bind. In this process, the internal tissue of prey much greater in size and strength slowly turns into a tasty soup, hearty and nutritious for all.

In the dating scene, the male redback spider has some impressive pick-up moves - leg-flicking, lunging or chasing females around are all in his repertoire.

If that all sounds like a lot of effort, I hear you.

That’s why there is also a game of stealth and wit at play where larger spiders and spiderlings sneak in and steal from inattentive braggers.

It’s a dog-eat-dog spider world.

In the dating scene, the male redback spider has some impressive pick-up moves - leg-flicking, lunging or chasing females around are all in his repertoire.

She consents to the attention of her potential suitors, by permitting a bridal veil of silk to be thrown over her legs and body. Males back it up with intense abdomen vibrations.

As if that’s not impressive enough, he finishes it off with a headstand and somersaults towards the female. Miss Redback Spider, pleased at his efforts, thanks him by sucking up his internal fluids. Sexual cannibalism baby!

So, back to Australia day. What did I do upon encountering my patriot spider from the barbecue cover? That’s too easy mate. I let her go some distance from our house.

Out in the garden they are food for birds, and predators of smaller flies and midges.

Redbacks are so rarely aggressive and so common anyway, it seems unnecessary to go around killing them and racking up bad spider karma.

But if you see one around your joint and you disagree with my ecological view of the food web, at least take a moment to appreciate their incredible behaviours before squashing one under your thong.

This story There's stealth and wit, but it’s still a dog-eat-dog spider world in your backyard first appeared on The Armidale Express.