This spider is not for the faint hearted. It is the Huntsman or Cape Rain Spider. “They are among the biggest non-tarantula spiders in the world,”
They can have a leg-span of up to 7 cm and a head to abdomen measurement of about 3 cm. They are spread from Cape Town in the south to Kosi Bay in the north and appear to like bushed areas with grass and gardens. They like to live among leaves and take two to three years to grow to adults, with the female fatter than the male, who is brighter with longer legs.The size of these spiders, combined with the yellow and black banding on the underside of the legs exposed when the spider is in threat pose, give them a fearsome appearance.
In humans the bite is no more dangerous than a bee sting. It causes a burning sensation, and swelling which lasts for a few days. Recovery is spontaneous and complete.
The Huntsman are also commonly seen paralysed, being dragged by a large wasp called a Pompilid wasp. Sometimes the wasp will not be present. Pompilid wasps only hunt spiders, which they paralyse by stinging them. They then drag the spider back to their nest where they lay an egg on the spider, then seal the spider and the egg in. When the egg hatches, the larva eats the paralysed spider, keeping the spider alive as long as possible by eating peripheral flesh first, and saving the vital organs till last. By doing this, the spider stays fresh long enough for the wasp larva to mature and pupate.
After mating in the early summer, the female constructs a round egg sac about 60–100 mm in size made of silk, with twigs and leaves woven into it. These egg sacs are commonly seen from about November to April. The female constructs the sac over 3–5 hours, then aggressively guards it until the spiderlings, who hatch inside the protective sac, chew their way out about three weeks later. Females will construct about three of these egg sacs over their two-year lives. Many gardeners are bitten by protective Palystes mothers during this period.
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Pictures of the spiderlings hatching