photo by Bryce McQuillan
Huntsman: n. a very large (some say terrifyingly large) but harmless spider. Often seen poking its legs out from behind my bathroom mirror.
If you’ve never seen one, watch this (it’s short):
Hunstman spiders of various species are found throughout Australia, and many other parts of the world. They’re considered quite harmless, though I’ve heard they can deliver a mildly painful bite, but I don’t know anyone who has bothered to find out. I personally think they are mis-named. They should be called Huntswomen, because the female of the species is the one that we mostly see and scream about. She’s a big mother (I’m not being crude here; she really is big, and she lays up to 200 eggs, which she guards without leaving them or eating for around three weeks). And she’s quite a bit larger than the male. It’s thought that she doesn’t usually eat her mate after copulating, like a lot of other spiders do, but I’m guessing he has to toe the line, just in case. (I don’t know if spiders get PMT.) They mainly eat insects, other spiders and sometimes small lizards and snakes. Big enough Hunstmen (which, by definition, would be a female) might kill and digest very small rodents. So I’d be careful if I were a male Huntsman…
As for mating, apparently, when he thinks he’s near a female, he makes a noise, described as a low, vibrating, slightly scratchy sound. I’m thinking Barry White here. Anyway, if she’s in the mood, it all happens. If not, he probably high tails it out of there pretty fast. And both male and female are fast. That’s why they are called Huntsmen—they are so quick they chase down their prey, thereby negating any need for a web, which is yet another reason to call them Huntswomen—they obviously don’t like housework.
I don’t know exactly which of the 82 genera, 1009 species frequents my house (and car), but it doesn’t really matter much. I just know ‘em when I see ‘em. I don’t mind them in the house, but I hate it when they surprise me in the car. (Visitors to Australia, Beware! Have a look at this very short video: Huntsman in the Car and you’ll see what I mean.) They can—and do—cause serious accidents, even deaths, when they appear suddenly from behind a visor, or run across your dashboard as you’re driving along. They’re notorious for that. The first time it happened to me I was driving a little mini, so my face wasn’t far from the visor when madam decided to look me in the eye… She had a distinct advantage, not just because she had eight eyes to my two, but because she knew I was there before I knew she was. There was no damage to the car.
I said I don’t mind them in the house. That is true, but there are limits to my hospitality. They mostly come out at night, from behind the pictures and mirrors, to hunt for insects, and as long as they stay up high, near the ceiling, I can happily ignore them. But I don’t like it when they come down closer to my bed or drawers or bathrobe… I just hate it when I’m stepping out of the shower and reach for a towel and there’s one of those big mothers on it… So, whenever one comes down from the ceiling area, into my space, I escort it outside. Not always an easy task, I have to say. As I mentioned, they are very fast. Here is a short, but hilarious video that illustrates the point (without humiliating me)… (Note: it isn’t over until you hear the little girl say “Daddy, I told you not to play with spiders.”) 🙂
Pigeon, bless his little heart, loves Huntsmen. I don’t think he has ever seen a mouse—he’s not allowed outside—so the Huntsmen (and the occasional scorpion) provide him with a bit of feline sport. I haven’t seen him do it, but I know he catches Huntsmen because I find their legs around the place. You know how cats eat mice, leaving the unwanted body parts lying about—that’s how Pigeon eats Huntsmen. He leaves the legs (which are about the size of a wooden toothpick) lying about. As for me, I’ve never killed one, nor will I. I hope they return the favor by staying out of my car. MM
Jaqueline Almdale said:
I am in absolute awe of you MM! I have arachnophobia to such a marked degree, my children have seen me jump six feet over the back of the sofa to escape a common black garden spider, which isn’t very big in Alaska, where I’m from. When I planned to move to Washington State I contacted the Chamber of Commerce in Cheney, WA and asked how big were their spiders and what kind, please.
I know it’s irrational for someone as big as me to be terrified to slavering spit over something as small as most spiders, but my Mum says I was born this way.
You are so brave to tolerate large spiders in your home and to pick them up. You are my new hero.
What I love best about the Alaskan wilderness is that anything interested in taking a bite out of one is big enough to hear coming. 🙂
Hi, Jaqueline. Let me just point out that it isn’t my hand in the photo… I generally try to pick them up with something like the guy in the video. I’m usually better at it than he is, though… MM