I think I found a huntsman!
Recently, Ben and I travelled the hour and a half to Viive and Ian’s house to take another rambling walk with Duke and Brandy. They were excited, as usual. They pulled us up hills, as usual. They dragged each other around while one was trying to pee, as usual. It was great fun! They seem to enjoy it, based on their wag wag wag VIBRATING pre-walk ritual once the leash appears, but holy crap they do not cooperate. And it’s hilarious.
Ben and I trade turns holding their leash, because while they are helpful getting up hills, one’s arm and shoulder also happen to go a bit numb after a while. We spend the time laughing at the dogs, looking for birds, and singing rounds of Kookaburra Sits In An Old Gum Tree and singing All I Want Is A Proper Cup Of Coffee faster and faster where Ben’s unwavering duty is to perform the deep “boom boom” necessary during the chorus.
We looked for new paths and found an interesting stretch along a dried up creek bed, then headed back to our normal route through several parks, many of which have several of the strangely blackened web-covered trees I’ve mentioned before.
As is my wont, I peered into the largest funnel webs looking for residents and tried to lure them out. I was successful once, but what I got surprised me, and well maybe just a little bit freaked me out, because it wasn’t the brown house spider I expected, but, I think, a huntsman!
Huntsman, or Sparassidae, spiders are the one species that creeps me out a little, both because of their size and their structure. I love orb weavers, with their bulging abdomens and spindly legs, hanging from their webs or awkwardly walking across the ground. Crab spiders are elegant with their bright colors and long, graceful, first and second legs. Wolf spiders have a certain charisma about them, while they hunt through undergrowth and tend to their young, eyes reflecting lights at night like tiny diamonds. Tarantulas are giant friendly teddybears of spiders, furry and stout, with fascinating behaviors. Jumping spiders are simply adorable with their large eyes that track you and respond to your movements, and expressive, often colorful, pedipalps with which they wave in the air to communicate and clean their chelicerae. And on and on.
But huntsman are the one spider that teaches me empathy for those that really can’t tolerate any spider, because of too many legs or hairiness or eyes or movement or whatever. Because to me, huntsman are simply constructed in a proportion that squicks me out on a deep level. Their legs are too long, and not stout and limb-like, or thin and delicate like some spiders. They’re long, so long, and thin (but not thin enough), and hairy. And they’re fast. And they’re big.
So I admit that I jumped when this guy appeared. And maybe continued to twitch a little.
But curiosity is an anti-fear of sorts, so I examined it, took pictures, and played with it with my probing tool. He was maybe 5, 6 inches across? I’m not an expert in Huntsman, by any means, so this is only a tentative identification, but it was definitely *not* the spider that I think built the web. And what it was doing there, comfortably squeezed into the funnel dwelling? I have no idea.
Look at those chelicerae!
The fact that he wasn’t twitchy at all when I got close to take pictures helped a lot, which is good, because huntsman spiders are common all over Australia, and in fact I’ve been looking forward to finding one. To my knowledge they can more normally be found under loose sheets of bark and other narrow, flat spaces, rather than in other spiders’ funnel webs. But really, he’s beautiful.