Log in

Login to your account

Username *
Password *
Remember Me

How many times have you wandered through the bush and brushed through a spider’s web?

Like most of us you’ve either:

• brushed the sticky filaments off and continued on your way with little attention given to the web’s inhabitant, or

• rebounded off the springy supporting lines and rapidly reversed at sight of the (usually large) owner.

Doubtless you will have come away from the encounter with the perception of spiders as solitary animals firmly reinforced. In general this perception is valid, most species of spider are solitary in habit, but as with many things in life there are exceptions to the rule.

One exception is the community nest spiders which belong to the genus Stegodyphus. Six species occur in South Africa (Dippenaar-Schoeman, 2014), of which two may be encountered in uMkhuze Game Reserve.

These are S dumicola and S mimosarum. Both species build large communal webs on vegetation. These are constructed of cribellate (teased) silk with thick supporting filaments mooring them to vegetation. A dense mass of silk is spun to form a refuge where the spiders shelter from the elements and predators.  

 

When an insect becomes trapped in the web a number of spiders will rush out to overpower it. The prey is then shared by the spiders.

spider1

Figure 1: Community nest spiders consuming a fly.

Spider

Figure 2: Community nest spiders dismembering a grasshopper.

As with most spiders there is a considerable difference in appearance between males and females (sexual dimorphism). The males tend to be much smaller than the females and may have different colouration or shape.

It is most likely therefore that the spiders shown in Figures 1 are all female.

 

Written By: Pat Jenning, Honorary Officer uMkhuze Game Reserve.

Sources: Biodiversity Explorer, Dippenaar-Schoeman, A. 2014. Field Guide to the Spiders of South Africa. Lapa Publishers. Leroy, A. and Leroy, J. 2003. Spiders of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers. The Spider Club