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Beyond Webs – Swimming, Spitting and Other Spider Hunting Methods – Part 2

Deinopis subrufaPlease see Part 1 of this article for a look at the unique hunting techniques employed by Fishing, Trap Door and other spiders.

Orb Webs

I’ve been avoiding “traditional spiders”, but wanted to include an observation I made over 20 years ago in Costa Rica.  I was tossing katydids into the huge orb webs that were abundant near my research station.  The web-owners (Nephila spp.) wrapped the insects in silk and then administered a bite.  Then I offered lubber grasshoppers – the same size and shape as the katydids, but equipped with immensely powerful rear legs.  On several trials, the spiders first pulled off the grasshoppers’ rear legs, then wrapped and bit the insects.  I imagine they were attempting to limit damage to the web. Read More »

Beyond Webs – Swimming, Spitting and Other Spider Hunting Methods – Part 1

Trapdoor SpiderSilk webs are amazing innovations, and the “sit and wait” tarantula stategy is remarkably effective…but among the world’s spiders we also find a mind-boggling array of other hunting techniques.  Some of these odd hunters, such as Fishing, Jumping and Trapdoor Spiders, occasionally appear in the trade…all are worth a closer look.

Tarantulas (Mygalomorphs) and Their Relatives

Tarantulas are the best known of the Mygalomorphs (spiders distinguished by, among other things, fangs that strike downward as opposed to side-to-side).  Some relatives stray from the “sit and wait” strategy: Read More »

Insects, Spiders, Other Invertebrates Have Distinct Personalities – New Research

FirebugMost invertebrate keepers have noticed that individuals of the same species often behave quite differently under the same circumstances.  For example, one Giant Bird-Eating Spider might feed in broad daylight and be content to remain in the open, while another refuses to eat unless provided with a deep burrow and complete darkness – I can recall countless similar observations.  Does this mean that these “simple” creatures have personalities?  According to a recent study, the answer may be “yes”…

How Does One Test Insect Personalities?

An article published in the September, 2010 issue of The Proceedings of the Royal Society (B), reveals that individual insects exhibit distinct personality traits, and that these traits remain consistent in different situations. Read More »

Invertebrate Health – Mites in Scorpion, Millipede and Tarantula Terrariums

Goliath BirdeaterI’m often contacted by Arachnid and millipede owners who are concerned about the tiny white “specks” that they notice crawling about their terrariums and on their pets.  In almost all cases, the little beasts turn out to be relatively harmless Mites.  Mites are actually Arachnids, related to spiders and scorpions, and are unique in the incredible diversity they have attained – over 45,000 species have been described, with many more than that likely remaining to be “discovered”.  Read More »

Hunting the Huntsman – Keeping the Giant Crab or Huntsman Spider – Part 2

Huntsman spiderIn Part I of this article I talked a bit about collecting (or trying to collect!) the Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda venatoria, in a most unlikely setting.  Usually purchased as a “curiosity”, the Huntsman often surprises its new owners with a range of interesting behaviors – if you thought that spider pets were limited to tarantulas, please consider this fascinating alternative!

Caution: Although Huntsman Spiders are not considered to be dangerously venomous, they are fast and aggressive, and will not hesitate to bite.  We know little about spider venom, and the possibility of an allergic reaction must be considered (central nervous system reactions have been reported on rare occasions)….please do not touch any spider with bare hands.

Natural History

The Huntsman Spider likely originated in southern India and Sri Lanka, but is now well-established in warm regions worldwide (including Florida).  They frequently enter buildings, where they sometimes welcomed for their roach-catching abilities.

The alternate name, Giant Crab Spider, took hold because these spiders hold the first 2 pairs of legs spread-out like a crab on guard.   Huntsman Spiders build no webs, but rather run down their prey, and are quite ravenous.  I’ve observed youngsters being dragged about by roaches three times their size, and adults sometimes catch lizards and small bats.

Huntsman Spiders are entirely arboreal and adapted to living upon flat surfaces, such as walls and tree trunks, as opposed to branches.

Huntsman Terrariums

In captivity, they take readily to cork bark  and will climb terrarium glass as well.  Position cork bark slabs near the glass, so that the spiders will remain visible when using the reverse side of the bark as a shelter.

While arboreal tarantulas (i.e. Pink-toed Tarantulas, Avicularia spp.) do well in standard aquariums turned on end to provide additional height, I hesitate to recommend such for Huntsman Spiders – opening the screen cover leaves a wide area available for escape.  I much prefer a “tall or high style” aquarium, with the cover is on top.  Alternatively, a Faunarium turned on its end might work, as the access door is small and should limit escapes.

Heat and Humidity

Huntsman Spiders favor warm, humid habitats, and should be maintained at 77-85 F and provided daily misting and a moisture-retaining substrate.


Huntsmans take nearly any insect prey available, but particularly favor roaches.  Wild caught moths, katydids, beetles and grasshoppers should also be provided whenever possible.


Male Huntsman Spiders are smaller and thinner than females, and their carapace bears darker markings.  When ready to breed, males cease feeding and develop noticeably swollen pedipalps (leg-like structures bearing sperm packets).  They wander about in search of females to mate with (and, usually, to be consumed by!). I’ve had breeding males escape with their lives, but none have survived for long afterwards.

The female carries her uniquely flattened egg case below her body.  The young stay on her for a short time, and then disperse.  If you are raising this species, be sure to cover the terrarium’s screening with an extra layer of mosquito netting, lest the hatchlings escape – a colony established in the home is not to everyone’s liking!

Further Reading

Huntsman and other spiders produce a range of sounds.  An interesting article on this topic, which includes photos of males in breeding condition, is posted here.

A video showing this species’ speed and hunting style is posted


Huntsman Spider image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Ed g2s and Saperaud

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