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When customs don’t translate

November 9, 2022

The mating rituals of spiders are quite complex. For web-based spiders such as Orb-weavers it consists of the male spider tapping the web and seeing what response it gets from the female in the centre. For creatures such as Jumping Spiders it is trickier. With its front pair of legs the male spider has to reach over the front of the female and tap it gently on the ‘head’ to see if a favourable response is forthcoming. Sometimes it has to do this a number of times. This is fraught with risk for the male spider. One false move or misinterpretation of the response could mean the male spider becomes dinner.

I was fortunate enough this week to witness such a display between two Threatening Jumping Spiders (Helpis minitabanda). Pictured above is the male spider (right) tapping on the web that the female was sitting under. It took a number of minutes before the female spider came out. What followed was a series of ‘body-taps’ where the male moved in, tapped and then quickly retreated (pictured right) to assess the reaction to his advances. Unfortunately both spiders got annoyed with my watching and jumped away, hopefully to mate in privacy.

After taking a leaf out of the male spider’s ‘How to romance those of the opposite sex’ book I have subsequently found that female humans, particularly complete strangers, respond badly to someone reaching out and tapping them on the head.

P.S. The mating rituals of spiders and other arachnid facts will be the topic of a Strath Creek Landcare Group presentation after the AGM on November 27.

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