Beware the Path Less Travelled with Bushes Either Side

On Sunday I popped round a friend’s house and during my brief visit I broke one of my own mini rules. The rule is simple, you may have already guessed it, it’s ‘beware the path less travelled with bushes either side.’

Something like this…

pathIn fairness to me, I didn’t know this was a path less travelled, being as it was the most obvious pathway from the driveway to the front door of the house. Turns out nobody uses this pathway, they usually gain access to the house by walking through the garage.

Had I known it was a little used pathway, I’d have been slightly more vigilant in looking for spiders webs. Any kind of pathway like this with trees, bushes, or any sort of growth either side of it is a very enticing location for a spider to build its web. The wider the web the more potential insects the spider might catch.

Or humans.

I have been known, in the past, to walk through these kinds of gaps with my arm held at right angles in front of my face so that I just break through any potential spider’s webs. This method means I travel along the path faster as I don’t have to visually check for spiders.

On this occasion though, I did neither.

Of course, as soon as you walk through a spider’s web face first you are instantly aware of it. The sticky spider’s web clings to your face and you immediately do that jiggly dance as you trying quickly brush your face and head to clear it of any eight legged critters.

I thought I had done my cleaning job properly, but no.

As my friend greeted me at the door with me still flailing my arms around, he said “Okay, I’ve got it.”

And with that he put his hand on my head, lifted something from it and quickly dropped it to the floor. This is precisely where he dropped it…

floorWhen this all happened, I didn’t have my camera with me. What I did do today though was go back with my camera to take a photograph of the pathway and also the spot where the spider was dropped to. What I suspect you really want to see though is a picture of the spider that was sat on my head for about 10 seconds.

I wanted to see it again as well, because I wasn’t quite sure what kind of spider it was. After leafing through my Bible of Brisbane critters, officially called ‘Wildlife of Greater Brisbane’, I had two candidates in mind, here’s the first.

Brown Widow Spider

At first I thought it could have been a brown widow. I wasn’t sure though because these things are only supposed have a 40 mm, that’s about an inch and a half, leg span. This one seemed much bigger than that to me, at least 60 mm or a couple of inches. Its abdomen was the size of an acorn.

Is the brown widow spider deadly?

If this spider was a brown widow, was I in danger?

According to Britannica, the brown widow is the fourth deadliest spider in the world; its venom is considered twice as powerful as the black widow. That said, it’s not an aggressive spider and it only injects a tiny amount of venom when it bites, so you’d rather be bitten by a brown widow than a black widow any day. Apparently though, the spider was responsible for a couple of deaths in Madagascar in 1990, but both victims were in poor health at the time and received no antivenom.

According to ‘Wildlife of Greater Brisbane’ the bite is:

Not as severe as that of a Redback; causes mild to severe local and generalised pain that may last up to 3 days. Redback antivenom is effective against the bite of a brown widow.

The initial thought of it being a brown widow spider was based on just that one sighting of yesterday, but I really needed another look.

Finding the spider

So when I did go back to get that picture of the pathway today, I thought I’d also have good look around for that spider. I really didn’t think he would have gone far.

He hadn’t.

In fact when I took the photograph of the exact spot where he had fallen to the floor, I again brushed into his web, so I nearly had him on my head again!

All he had done was walk up the wall of the porch by my friend’s front door and rebuild his web across the top. So now you can see what he looked like:

spider 1

spider 1c

spider 2

spider 3

spider 3c

Golden Orb spiderFrom the better look I had of him this time, I now had a second and more likely candidate.

Golden Orb Weaver

These spiders grow much bigger, they can be larger than an adult human hand, so the spider I had on my head was substantially smaller than this. I’ve looked at quite a few images of golden orb weavers online and not many of them look like my spider, but one or two do.

If it was a golden orb weaver, then I really wasn’t in any danger at all. There are no records of any bites on a human, although this spiders’ apparent ability to kill small birds suggests that if it did decide to bite someone, it could be a problem.

About those lesser used paths

You may think that if you adopt a similar approach and tread carefully down lesser used paths, especially narrow ones with bushes either side, that this kind of thing won’t happen to you.

I know I’ve mentioned this somewhere else on my website, but I can’t remember where so I will repeat it here. We had not been living in Australia very long when my wife popped out to take the dog for a walk. Half an hour later she rang me from her mobile.

I can’t get up the driveway, there’s a spider’s web that stretches right across it with a great big spider in the middle. Can you help me?

Obviously our driveway isn’t a lesser used path, Mrs Bob herself used it just 30 minutes earlier on her way out. It’s not narrow either. This is my driveway…

my driveDangerous spiders

And because I know you want to know, who are the top two spiders in the already mentioned deadliest spiders in the world list?

2 – Redback Spider
1 – Funnel-web Spiders

We have both of them in Australia.

Conclusion

Given its size and having looked at several more images online, my wildlife book only shows one image of each specimen, I am now almost certain it was a golden orb weaver. Whichever of the two it was though, I wasn’t really in danger. I’m glad it is not still on my head though.

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