The Funnel Web Spider: Maker of shimmering mornings
In mid-March, while taking an early morning walk, I noticed sparkling webs spreading for several feet from the edges of rock and logs. The morning dew was catching the sun. Each web had a centralized opening. Those beautiful coverings were the work of funnel web spiders.
The funnel spider’s webs spread out like a carpet from the spider’s tube-like living chamber. From the chamber they can feel outside movement and can judge the size of the intruder. Then they know whether it’s a food item like a cricket to attack or an enemy to hide from.
The web is not sticky but acts as an extended sensory apparatus. When it catches some prey, that prey is pulled down the chute into the living chamber and then the remains are packaged and dropped out the bottom, its back door.
A female spider will make an egg case that she attaches to the living chamber so she can keep guard. Over 100 spiders will hatch and spread out.
Funnel spiders spend the winter hiding in cracks and under rocks. Early in the spring they awaken and spread their webs to sparkle in the sun.
In the U.S., there are over 100 species of these nocturnal arachnids. None of the U.S. spiders are seriously poisonous but the Australian funnel web spider is deadly. If you visit Sydney, you will see signs warning you about them.
When you see a large, flat but complex spider web, follow where the funnel leads. Look into that tube and you might see the spider.