Saturday, April 28, 2007

Charlotte's Web II: The Revenge of Charlotte--This Time It's Personal

Giant spider makes NZ home

Orb weaving spiders of the genus Nephila are spectacular. Not only are they impressive in their own right, they make huge orb webs:

...Lorrie Griebel's Marlborough backyard is home to a golden orbweb spider – the latest found in New Zealand in recent months. Eleven discoveries of the tropical spider have been reported to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry this year. The Marlborough spider is one of just three confirmed sightings in the South Island since 1975. Measuring over 5cm in length, the spider was thriving on a generous diet of bumblebees and other garden insects. The spiders are known to catch small birds.Griebel discovered "Charlotte" in the garden...Her children, Alicia, seven, and Hayley, five, named the spider after the main character in the book Charlotte's Web. "The first thing we noticed was these strange-looking legs and my main concern was the kids running through it. I left it well alone and gave it a wide berth. I got more interested when it started to change and I thought `this is definitely not a common everyday spider'," Griebel said...

We have Nephila in the SE of the USA. I have also seen them in Central America and Trinidad. The genus is represented throughout most of the worlds tropics. How they recently became established in NZ is somewhat of a mystery. They could have been introduced as stowaways on produce, or spiderlings (which are very small) could have drifted there by ballooning.

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