back to article BAT-GOBBLING urban SPIDER QUEENS swell to ENORMOUS SIZE

If you're a city-dweller who thinks spiders have gotten bigger over your lifetime, you might just be right, according to boffins from Sydney University. Looking at the harmless but impressive Oz arachnid Nephila plumipes – the Golden Orb-Weaver – they've found that urban specimens are fatter than their country cousins. The …

  1. FartingHippo


    That 'impressive' picture of the spiders 'getting together' is like something from Indiana Jones.

    I no longer have my feet on the floor. The picture is me in my spider-proof suit --->

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: *whimper*

      To repurpose an old joke:

      "The artifact's in Australia. I hate snakes!"

      "Nah worries Indy mate. The spiders killed all the snakes."

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: *whimper*

        Getting together and weaving communal webs ....

        I'm not an arachnophobe, but give them a few million years, and they may evolve into group minds like termites and honeybees ... but bigger, faster, and much more individually capable.

        Any SF author want to take this idea and run with it?

        1. John Gamble

          Re: *whimper*

          Vernor Vinge had a scene like that in Marooned in Realtime, although "group mind" wasn't necessarily there.

          J. G. Ballard had a spider whose web had usable neurons in one of his "everything's going to pot" short stories.

          For what it's worth.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: JG Ballard

            Hmm. I remember a throwaway conversation involving a spider spinning neural material as needed in a story by Delany. Possibly one of the Fall of the Towers books. Delany burned up ideas like that twenty times in any given novel.

            Maybe my own tatty neurons are misfiring on this one, though. I remember the conversation revolving around how the reason the creature was spinning web was because it was thinking about the people looking at it.

            Stupid brain, wearing out just when I need it most.

        2. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Any SF author want to take this idea and run with it?

          Web, by the great John Wyndham. An excellent book, and exactly what that photo brought to mind.

    2. Ilsa Loving

      Re: *whimper*

      I will never forget when I was little, I had gone with my class to a museum that had a display on spiders. It included a statue of a spider, drastically blown up to be about 3 feet wide, so you could easily see the intricate details of it's body.

      Someone suggested that it would be so awesome if it came to life and broke out of the exhibit.

      I damn near fainted just from the thought.

      *jumps into FartingHippo's arms, Scooby Doo style*

    3. BongoJoe

      Re: *whimper*

      Cue the fabulous "The Black Widow" by Alice Cooper with, of course, Vincent Price with the obligatory opening monologue.

      But at least Alice was first with Vinnie.

  2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Insects? Pah! It's obvious the city slickers are gorging themselves on McDonalds and kebabs. Once they've worked themselves up a bit more, they'll move on to cats and small dogs. Then it'll be children, and finally people.

    It's quite clear that the only way we can stop this is to evacuate Australia, before the animals learn how to consume us puny humans, and then take over the world. Or maybe it's even too late for that, and we'll just have to nuke the place. But that's got to be a last-ditch solution, as the risk of giant, radioactive mega-spiders is just too high. Plus, imagine how huge the drop bears would get...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You'd have to do it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

    2. dotdavid

      "It's quite clear that the only way we can stop this is to evacuate Australia, before the animals learn how to consume us puny humans"

      Does that explain all the Aussie expats in London?


      OK maybe a bit out of date now what with the recession an' all.

    3. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: children then people

      When do children become people?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: children then people

        When do children become people?

        I'm not exactly sure. I'd say at about age 25? Once they've learned to wash regularly, mostly got a decent haircut and turned their music down.

        And got off my lawn, obviously.

    4. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Upvote for the drop bears, those buggers hurt!

  3. D@v3

    I know it's friday, and i'm sorry

    but on a slightly serious note, is it just me, or do neither of the so called 'spiders' in that image at the bottom of the article actually have the required 8 legs?

    I've looked, and counted, and re-counted and I only see three pairs on each...

  4. Alan Brown Silver badge

    That's a spider?

    THIS ( ) Is a spider

  5. Chris Miller

    Spider size

    is limited by their respiratory system. Spiders have 'book lungs' (and insects have tracheae) that are not capable of delivering oxygen to interior tissues if the body size becomes too large. So the biggest spiders and insects we see today are about as large as such creatures can get (which is quite large enough, thanks). Sea-dwelling arthropods, such as crabs and lobsters, are less constrained and hundreds of millions of years ago could grow to a couple of metres in length.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Spider size

      Land-dwelling arthropods aren't nearly as constrained as insects, either.

      as for molluscs ... yuk.

      I refuse to consider buying a house with a downstairs bathroom after hearing how warm moist air attracts these creatures to slither under the back door (story told by someone who stepped on one just after bathing, and SCREAMED! ) Give me a big spider any day!

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Spider size

        I really should have added the Gippsland Giant Earthworm, and the Amazon Giant Leech. Google for dimemsions, pictures.

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Massed Nephila plumipes webs

    What the hell are they trying to catch? Paragliders?

    1. WraithCadmus

      Woth apologies to Gary Larson

      "Yes it's a lot of silk, but if we pull this off we'll eat like kings!"

    2. John Hawkins

      Re: Massed Nephila plumipes webs

      I remember the webs being built between trees and reaching from ground level up to above head height when worked I on farms in NSW back in the 1980s. The paragliders would therefore have to be flying low, but I expect the occasional pommie tourist hanging in a web probably wouldn't have bothered the locals too much.

  7. cyclical

    When I lived in Sydney, these things were mainly a threat when staggering drunkenly home, not looking where you were going, and all of a sudden you walk into a giant web and have a pissed-off spider the size of a large grape in your hair. Fond memories. Thankfully their bite is painful rather than deadly.

  8. jptech

    not a threat?

    In Miami, we have golden orb weavers which can easily reach 12cm across.

    Their webs are always at face level!

    We also have 5cm tropical orb weavers which every summer make webs from trees to the ground. You walk right into them.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart little fellows (or do I mean their genes?)

    "...the male is a vanishingly-small 5mm".

    Brilliant survival adaptation - imitate a microscopic canape. With any luck the female won't even notice him, or if she does go for something more substantial such as a nematode.

  10. K Silver badge

    Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

    My girlfriend called me into the kitchen the other day and said "There is a massive spider", usually that means bigger than a money spider.. Not this time. Heres a photo of it, the light switch gives you an idea of how big it was -

    Whilst its not massive in comparison to some spiders, for the UK, this is probably the biggest spider I've ever seen inside a house.

    1. Lionel Baden

      Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

      Shouldn't it be a banana for comparison ;)

      I think that one calls for a hoover to remove it though.

      1. mdava

        Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

        Not a hoover - this is the only remaining purpose for the hard-copy Yellow Pages (or Grattan crapalogue, Argos crapalogue, etc)

      2. Alfie

        Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

        If you use a hoover it is still in the house, a spider catcher does the trick though, I had to remove one of a similar size from our bath this week. Never seen one that big outside of Londonshire!

        I should have dropped it further from the house than just out the window, it will probably come back in again if it doesnt get any warmer...

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

          Looks like either a giant house spider (yes, that's its real name) or (less likely) a hobo spider.

          GHS are pretty laid back things, and very, very docile. Seriously, they are utter softies and are fine to be handled - they won't bite, in fact trying to get them to bite at all is a challenge - you really have to harass them. They're pretty happy to go hand-to-hand if you need to move one to calm an arachnophobic flatmate/missus down.

          Hobo spiders are territorial and can be aggressive if disturbed and have been known to nip, but they can't do any harm - a bee sting is far worse unless you're allergic AFAIK, and that's pretty rare.

          GHS's kill hobo spiders. Among dozens of other unpleasant multilegged motherfuckers (slaters, etc)

          So take that chap, and pop him in a corner somewhere out of the way - he's your friendly eight legged pest control who works for free.

          Also - point of fact - GHS are the fastest true spiders in the world. On a hot day, they can run at 15mph or so. I'm not a massive fan of spiders, but even I think they look insanely cool running at that speed.

          Steven R

          1. K Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

            Amazing thanks for the info Steve.. I'm unlikely to leave him in the corner as my dog has a habbit of chasing spider whilst trying to eat them. But I'll be more gentle next time.

          2. HandleOfGod

            Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

            Definitely a GHS - hobo spiders are somewhat smaller. As for the bite, I understand they (hobo spiders) are the cause of the largest number of spider bite related hospital visits in the USA. In the UK we rarely come into contact with them because when they come into houses they invariably end up being eaten by the GHS. The GHS, which is essentially just a larger relative, is not a threat at all as they simply will not bite no matter how much you annoy them. So be glad of the GHS in the UK because it is harmless and keeps its nastier relative out of our houses.

            I think the issue with the GHS though is the psychological impact of finding one of those. I evicted one of a similar size earlier in the week with my other half, who refused to enter the room whilst it was there, complaining that spiders like that should only exist in the tropics (where, incidentally, we are just back from). The other thing is their tendency to scuttle short distances at extremely high speeds in random directions - makes them an arachnophobic's nightmare. But 15mph is a little far fetched, according to the Guiness Book of Records they can reach around 2mph - the fastest known true spider.

            There aren't much good with flies though as they are ground dwelling and poor climbers - that picture of one on the wall is relatively rare as they can only climb walls with relatively grippy surfaces - mostly they make (funnel shaped) webs on the ground in dark corners and catch ground dwelling prey. The best ones for catching flies are those daddy long legs type jobs with messy webs up near the ceiling, They are lethal - but not able to bite humans as their fangs cannot penetrate our skin. Flies on the other hand....

            1. JDX Gold badge

              Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

              A vacuum cleaner is fine, it will be smashed to pieces inside.

              Squishing leaves a really ugly mess and the whole glass/piece of card thing is not suitable for real arachnophobes.

              If it's too big to fit under a pint glass, maybe just let it HAVE the house.

            2. Steven Raith

              Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

              HandleOfGod - you're spot on about the speed, apparently it's just over 1mph, maybe it just seems faster when you watch them as they scamper across the floor like something out of a cartoon!

              As for the daddy longlegs spiders, to counter your debunking of my info, I'll debunk yours, in a reciprocal debunking session (that sounded far dirtier than I wanted it to)


              Basically there are two types of daddy long legs spiders that people refer to - one is the one with only one body section, which has no venom at all (And is in fact a scavenger), the other one does have venom, but has never had it's venom tested for toxicity because no-one really gives a toss (no reported injuries from it) - so there's no facts to base the rumour on. Even the 'not able to bite humans because fangs too short' thing is a bit woofly.

              Anyway, spiders are cool. Have an upvote.

            3. J__M__M

              Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

              Definitely a GHS - hobo spiders are somewhat smaller.

              More telling is the color banding on the legs--- Hobo Spiders have uniformly colored legs.

      3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

        Lionel Baden,

        The hoover doesn't cut the mustard. There's an escalating scale, according to a friend of mine who's terrified of them. Really small ones, she can bear to approach, and gets with the insect spray. Or if she doesn't like the look of it, she's been known to throw the can at them. Bigger ones get the hoover. But the hoover then has to be placed outside, for some friendly person to come and decontaminate. Only in the case of really huge ones does she now run screaming from the room.

        1. Jock in a Frock

          I think Dyson have missed an opportunity here...

          There's money to be made by a vacuum manufacturer who includes an insect chopper / mincer in the hose so that it slices'n'dices the offending beastie before it gets into the bag.

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: an insect chopper / mincer in the hose

            It's not needed but from a marketing angle it would probably work.

      4. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

        No need for a hoover - just grab it, cup it in both hands and shake your hands up and down as you walk out to the garden to release it. The shaking stops the spider getting a grip and squeezing out through your fingers. Easy!

      5. Kane Silver badge

        Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

        "I think that one calls for a hoover to remove it though."

        Nope, the correct procedure in this situation is a vinyl album cover of Dark Side of the Moon, a large mixing bowl, and a clear run from the bottom of the back garden.

        Then you can never live in the house again.

    2. dotdavid

      Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell

      I'm quite pleased that there are basically no spiders in the UK that can't fit under a pint glass.

      When in Oz one of my friends needed to use a salad bowl to evict one spider (huntsman maybe?). *shudder*

    3. Nigel 11

      Re: Not just Oz.. happening in the UK aswell


      (for certain values of cute, that is)

  11. Alistair Silver badge


    Well -- we're finally getting somewhere on whats going on in the world.

    the Spiggers are getting ginormous. This is what's causing the Jihadis to go on terror sprees, which is causing global warming.

    Or at least, the spiggers getting so big is what is keeping me occupied at home, peeling my SO off the ceiling each time one wanders past the monitor.

  12. FunkyEric

    In my house

    The only good spider is a dead spider!

  13. Virag0

    I once caught one of those Huntsman which grow rather big and took it outside to release it

    on the wall. I slid the glass off the wall and before I could step back, two magpies swooped in and one got the prize. They were onto me before I knew what happened...

    1. Nigel 11

      In a similar vein, I once slammed on the brakes to spare a young rabbit, and in the few seconds it was frozen in my headlights, a barn owl siezed its chance.

      1. Jock in a Frock

        Jeez, what an unlucky rabbit

        I expect it had also just broken up with its girlfriend.

  14. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Clearly, a mistake

    Nephila plumipes? - Nephila plumpies, I'd suggest.

  15. Anomalous Cowshed

    If you want to read some scary and not-so-scary stories about spiders...

    I recommend this web site:

    Warning: includes scary graphics and material the mere viewing of which may constitute a capital offence under the anti-terrorist laws of Liechtenstein, for which perpetrators may be extradited from any country in the world.

  16. Crisp Silver badge

    We're going to need to breed some kind of Big Bird to take care of these spiders

    Then we're going to need to genetically engineer some kind of enormous cats to take care of the birds...

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: We're going to need to breed some kind of Big Bird to take care of these spiders

      Just learn to get on with the spiders. The big ones are basically harmless The deadly ones in Oz (and ISTR Brazil) are quite small.

      I'm rather more concerned about Asian Giant hornets

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: We're going to need to breed some kind of Big Bird to take care of these spiders

      Then we're going to need to genetically engineer some kind of enormous cats to take care of the birds...

      Obligatory bit from the simpsons (via tvtropes):

      Skinner: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

      Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?

      Skinner: No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.

      Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?

      Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.

      Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!

      Skinner:No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

  17. poopypants

    This is not snow...

    Spider webs after a flood in Australia:

  18. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "had bigger ovaries than relatives in the bush"

    I do NOT want to know how she found that out.

    1. Jock in a Frock

      More importantly...

      What were the researchers relatives doing in the bush?

  19. Captain DaFt

    I'm surprised

    That no one's linked to this yet:

  20. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Those spiders building webs between treetops...

    Do you think we could genetically engineer them so their silk acts as a UV shade?

    Always thinking of the public health angle.

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