Well, I am home on the couch, still sick and running fever. It was a miserable night. I don’t really feel much like reading or watching TV or anything. If I lie down to try and sleep, my nose gets so stuffy I can’t breathe. If you have a few minutes, I will share something fascinating about one of the cool spiders I’m reading about in Chapter 1 of my book, The Spider by John Crompton.
John admits in his book that taxonomy isn’t really his thing. His focus is on behaviors. The behaviors of invertebrates is truly intriguing to me. I will forever be curious about these creatures, how they live, what their lives are like, and such. I’m having to work a bit, googling as I read, as the scientific names of many of these spiders have changed over the years – with reclassifications and updates that will sort of make you crazy trying to figure out what they might be called NOW.
The spider I want to share about is an Australian Orb Weaver spider, formerly called Dicrostichus magnificus, now re-named Ordgarius magnificus. The common name for this spider is the Magnificent spider or Bolas spider, a very suitable common name indeed. Keep reading and you’ll see why!
During the daytime, this spider hangs out in cryptic retreats. Usually these are little tents constructed from silk-tied leaves of eucalyptus trees. At night, the spider will come out to hunt and this is where things become fascinating.
At dusk, the Bolas spider sits on a twig and gathers her tools or perhaps more appropriately, her tackle. She spins a short silk threat about 2 inches long and at the end of this “line” attaches a sticky globule. The name Bolas actually comes from a South American throwing weapon with a weight on the end.
When everything is ready, Ms. Bolas sits with this line dangling from one of her front legs and waits. Amazingly, she also has coated the “lure” of her line with a pheromone mimicking her intended prey. The pheromone is said to replicate the scent of a certain female moth in the Noctuid group, attracting unsuspecting males of the species into range.
Ms. Bolas is triggered into action when she senses the wing beats of unwary moths nearing her line. According to Crompton, she actually lifts her weighted line and whirls it around her head. As the moth comes closer, into lassooing distance, she casts her line. If luck has it, the lure (globule) sticks to the target.
Even more incredible is the discovery of yet another spider species) Cladomelea akermaini, an African species of Orbweaver who also hunts using a bolas. Crompton states that this species is able to cut off her lure and replace it with a fresh one when, during a fishing expedition similar to the Australian Ordgarius magnificus, the lure dries out.
I will leave you to read more of Crompton’s account of these spiders on your own. It is truly fascinating – the idea of spiders creating and using tools. We underestimate what we cannot see. For in observing these creatures, our eyes are opened and we are amazed.
Bolas. The Miriam Webster Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bola
Crompton, J. 1950. The Spider. Nick Lyons Books. New York, NY https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/the-life-of-the-spider_john-crompton/1083347/item/3090892/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAgribBhDkARIsAASA5btRoz_KVLeu3mpSXWq-9UNK_-UgB3V1Hmcyy5Pa3-p_FIeEXTqoV7gaAgwMEALw_wcB#idiq=3090892&edition=4180835
Haslam, M. 2022. Bolas spider (family Araneidae) web slinging. 1903 California USA. Twig Technology. https://twig.technology/blog/bolas-spider-web-slinging
1903. Hutchinson, C.E. A bolas-throwing spider. Sci. Amer., vol.89,no.10,p.172,figs.
Magnificent spider (Ordgarius magnificus). Australian Museum. https://australian.museum/learn/animals/spiders/magnificent-spider/
Observation.org. Cladomelea akermani. https://observation.org/species/562419/