Spiders Found In New Zealand

The Avondale spider (Delena cancerides) is a kind of huntsman spider, which are typically large and flattened looking. This species is  pale fawn or grey in colour. Occasionally other species, such as the Christchurch huntsman, are found. Avondale spiders are nocturnal, and by day prefer to hide under the loose bark of wattle trees (Acacia sp.). They do not use a web to catch prey. Instead, they wait for a potential victim to come close enough to capture with their front pair of legs and pull into their fangs.These spiders featured in the movie Arachnophobia. Australian regulations prohibited their export from there as they are native wildlife. However, the New Zealand population has no such protection and staff at Landcare Research in Auckland were able to provide enough spiders for the movie.  

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The Black cobweb spider (Steatoda capensis) or false katipo spider, are shiny black or dark brown, similar in size and shape to katipo. Some individuals may have a faint red stripe. This combination of characteristics may lead to their misidentification as katipo. However, they can be distinguished by the arrangement of white markings on the abdomen, the faintness and smaller size of any red stripe, and the absence of the red hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen. Like katipo, this species is a member of the family Theridiidae (comb-footed spiders). Similar in size and general appearance, it is no surprise these species share many similar habits to katipo, such as a similar style of web construction. However, Steatoda differs in a number of ways. Unlike katipo, Steatoda produces egg sacs all year round and while it will colonize beach habitats like katipo, it is certainly not confined to them. It is  common in human-modifed environments, including inside houses. In some parts of the country (for example, around Wellington), Steatoda appears to have displaced katipo from beach habitats. It is not known if this is due to direct competition between the two species or the result of human modification of the environment in a manner that strongly favours Steatoda. Click to identify

Black tunnelweb spider (Porrhothele antipodiana) are Large spiders with dark abdomens and legs. The cephalothorax (the fused head and thorax) is leathery looking and typically red-brown in colour although darker examples are known. The spinnerets (appendages to spin silk) are quite obvious and look like two feelers that extend beyond the end of the abdomen. These spiders are often found under logs and rocks. They build a silken tunnel with a broad area at the entrance that alerts the spider to the presence of potential prey. Typical prey includes beetles and other ground-living insects. There are also accounts of these spiders capturing snails and mice. In the spring and summer, male tunnelwebs cause alarm when they stray indoors, seeking out females for mating. These spiders dry out and die rather easily, and so they may seek out a source of moisture when trapped inside. Often all that’s found in bathrooms and laundries are their shrivelled corpses. After journeying through hostile environments, and risking attack by predators, the male tunnelweb has one last great obstacle to overcome - the female tunnelweb. On the face of it, the male's chances don’t look good. The female is usually larger and stronger, and the male must enter her web in order to get close enough to mate. The female may even lunge at a courting male, yet if he manages to clasp her in his front legs, she will quickly become docile. Thus the male is able to mate and get away safely. Sometimes the male is not successful in his approach and is eaten by the female. However, the risk of predation by a prospective mate is not borne by the male alone. Scientists from Canterbury University report that occasionally, once the female has become passive in response to the male's advances, the male will kill and eat the female instead of mating with her. While males do not live long past maturity, females may live more than six years. Tunnelwebs are attacked by spider-hunting wasps of the family Pompilidae. These wasps are capable of paralysing and dragging away tunnelwebs many times their own size. Once the helpless spider has been brought to the wasp's lair, the wasp lays an egg on it. Eventually, a grub will emerge to feed on the paralysed but still living spider. Click to identify

The Christchurch huntsman (Isopedella victorialis) is large and flattened-looking, like other huntsman spiders such as the Avondale spider. The body is predominantly brown and the front two pairs of legs have black and white bands. Other huntsman species look similar in form, but can vary widely with regard colouring.​ Like most huntsman spiders, this species is an active, nocturnal hunter.  These spiders are most active around 3am so may be present in an area but go unnoticed. Typically they prefer living under the bark of loose-barked trees, but may also be found in tree stumps, fallen logs, and hollows. Human dwellings can potentially provide them with conditions similar to those they would normally seek in the wild. The habits of other huntsman spiders can vary widely between species. While there are many tropical species that would find New Zealand too cold, there are certainly a number of Australian species that would be quite comfortable living around New Zealand homes. Click to identify

Daddy long-legs spider (Pholcus phalangioides). These spiders have small slender bodies with very long legs. They usually sit upside down in their delicate but rather messy webs, which are typically constructed indoors in out-of-the-way spots such as ceiling corners and behind furniture. They also like living in basements and cellars, and this has led to them being named cellar spiders in some parts of the world.

The name ‘daddy longlegs’ is also sometimes applied to craneflies and the European harvestman Phalangium opilio. But while both these have long legs, they are quite different animals. Craneflies have wings and the European harvestman, while an arachnid, is not a spider - it has a one-part body and does not make a web. The daddy longlegs spider has a two-part body and is almost always found in a web. Very little entering the web of a daddy longlegs spider escapes its notice. If the interloper is regarded as prey, the spider will swiftly fling out lengths of silk from a safe distance to bind it. Once the prey is helpless, the spider then wraps it further, turning it into a food parcel that can be eaten at the spider’s leisure. This strategy allows these spiders to easily deal with prey many times their own size, as well as quite dangerous prey such as other spiders. Click to identify

Jumping spider (Family Salticidae). More than 150 species of jumping spiders are thought to live in New Zealand, with most of them yet to be described and classified by scientists. These spiders are small to medium-sized, with most having bodies less than a centimetre long. With so many species, this family includes quite a range of colour schemes. Jumping spiders are readily identified by the presence of a very large pair of eyes right at the front of the cephalothorax (the combined head and thorax). At Te Papa they most often get asked about the black-headed jumping spider (Trite planiceps). The front half of the body and first pair of legs are predominantly jet-black. The abdomen is brownish-grey with a yellow-green stripe running along the upper side. The rest of the legs are light brown. The body is around a centimetre long, but the powerful front legs make the spider look longer. Jumping spiders certainly live up to their name, literally jumping on their prey to catch it. The black-headed jumping spider can jump about half a metre. The large front legs of species like Trite planiceps are actually used to grab prey, rather than for jumping. The hind legs give the spider its ability to leap. Most spiders don't need good eyesight, relying instead on other cues such as vibration to locate prey. However, the jumping spiders is an exception. It has two big central eyes to help it identify targets and estimate distance - important abilities for an animal that pounces on its prey. With its other eyes, it can detect movement virtually all around itself. Work by scientists at Canterbury University shows jumping spiders put their superior eyesight to good use and are capable of quite complex behaviour for such tiny creatures. These spiders can be readily observed carefully stalking flies before leaping on them. Interactions between jumping spiders are also highly visual, with lots of leg waving not unlike semaphore signals. Click to identify

Katipo spider (Latrodectus katipo). The adult female of katipo is a small spider with a pea-sized abdomen. It is black and may sometimes have white markings both at the front of the abdomen and also bordering a pronounced red stripe. This stripe starts in the middle of the abdomen and runs towards the rear end of the spider. There is also a a red hourglass shape on the underside of the abdomen. In the northern half of the North Island, a black form of katipo exists. It lacks the red stripe but is otherwise similar in size and appearance. This black form was previously known as Latrodectus atritus but both the red stripe and black forms are now regarded as the same species. Males and juveniles of both forms have a lot of white that gives way to black as the spiders moult. Males go through fewer moults than females and they never attain the females' size or dark colour. Indeed, they still look very much like juveniles despite being fully grown. Katipo spiders make webs at the base of beach grasses and other vegetation, but are also known to make their homes amongst driftwood and debris. They typically catch ground-crawling insects such as beetles. Egg sacs are produced towards the end of the year and are guarded by the female in her lair. Click to identify

Nelson cave spider (Spelungula cavernicola). New Zealand's largest spider in terms of leg span, which can be up to fifteen centimetres. These spiders are mottled light brown in colour with very long legs. The first two pairs of legs each bear a very long claw. Not only is Spelungula cavernicola one of New Zealand's largest spiders. Because of its rarity and restricted habitat, it became the first species of spider to be protected under the Wildlife Act. These spiders are hunters and are known to feed on cave wētā (Gymnoplectron sp.). Once the spider has located its prey, it drops on top of it. The spider remains secured to the wall via a drag line, and uses this to carry its prey away. With its feet off the ground, the wētā is unable to jump away to safety. Spelungula cavernicola produces large, almost spherical, egg sacs that are suspended from cave ceilings on a thread. Click to identify

Nurseryweb spiders and water spiders (Dolomedes spp.). Large fast-moving spiders with a leg span of six centimetres or more in adult females. Males are somewhat smaller. These spiders are typically pale brown or grayish in colour with yellow bordering around the cephalothorax (the frontal portion of the spider that bears the legs, fangs, and eyes). D. minor typically has a substantial yellowish stripe running lengthwise from the front to the middle of the abdomen (the rear portion of the spider). The stripe is much less extensive and is often absent in D. aquaticus. Nursery web spiders are known for their webs, yet they do not use them to catch prey. The webs of these spiders are a common sight on gorse and other shrubs and are, as the name suggests, literally nurseries for young spiderlings. During summer, the female nursery web spider can be seen roaming about carrying a large white ball underneath her. This is her egg sac and she carries it everywhere in her fangs until her young are ready to emerge. When this time comes, she takes the egg sac to the top of a tree or shrub and constructs the nurseryweb. The mother stays close, and during the day can often be found near the base of the plant where she has deposited her young. Secure inside the nurseryweb, the young spiderlings emerge from the eggsac and remain here for about a week or so before dispersing by ballooning. The giant Dolomedes schauinslandi is unique to the Chatham Islands. It also builds a nursery web and is believed to have similar habits to D. minor. Female water spiders are also attentive mothers and construct a protective web for their young. However, this is in amongst river bed rocks and stones instead of the top of shrubs. Water spiders are remarkable for another reason. Instead of hunting on land, they catch their prey in rivers and streams, and are able to move about freely on the water's surface. They are also more than capable of going underwater. The hairs on the abdomen trap air, allowing the water spider to carry its own oxygen supply when it submerges. Click to identify

Orb web spiders (Family Araneidae). This group is highly variable in size and colour. The most common species in New Zealand is the garden orb web spider Eriophora pustulosa. This species has a tremendous range of colour, although most commonly individuals are shaded with browns and greys. Despite the variability in colour pattern, this species can be readily identified by the presence of five small knobs at the end of the abdomen. Some other New Zealand species are brilliant shades of yellow, green, orange, and other colours. Like the two-spined spider, also a member of this family, these spiders are renowned for their cartwheel-like webs. This web shape is probably the one most commonly associated with spiders. A typical orb web spider will construct or repair its snare by night, then sit in the centre. This central portion of the web is dry, but the spiral of silk a little further out from the centre is sticky. This is the part of the web that actually traps prey. By day, the spider usually hides outside the web, but will rest a leg on a thread that runs to the centre. This allows the spider to remain out of sight of predators while still being aware of any prey that gets caught in the web. The egg sac of Eriophora pustulosa resembles a messy tuft of wiry threads and is usually grey-green in colour. These spiders have a number of enemies. Both German wasps and mason wasps will attack them, although each wasp has quite a different goal. The German wasp will feed directly on orb web spiders. The female mason wasp has another objective. Using her stinger, she will paralyse the spider, then take it back to her lair. There she will place the spider in a mud-walled chamber she has built as a nursery. She then lays an egg. A grub hatches from the egg and consumes the helpless but still living spider. Click to identify

Two-spine spider (Poecilopachys australasia). Small spiders, less than one centimetre across. The upper surface of the female's abdomen is yellow and olive with two white horn-like ‘spines' that give this spider its common name. Yellow and white bands and some red-brown markings are also visible. Males are much smaller and lack the distinctive ‘spines' of the female. The two-spined spider is often found in citrus trees. By day, the spider will hide under leaves, emerging at night to construct a cart wheel-shaped web. Despite its small size, the spider is capable of capturing moths and other insects several times its own size. As night draws to a close, the spider will recycle its web by eating it. The egg sacs are a distinctive spindle shape. Click to identify

Sheetweb spiders (Cambridgea spp.). There are about thirty species in the genus Cambridgea. They vary greatly in both size and colouration. The smallest species may be less than a centimetre in length, whereas the largest species, Cambridgea foliata may have a palm-sized leg span. Typically these spiders have longish legs relative to their body size and the males of some species may have very large chelicerae (these are the structures that include the fangs). Anyone tramping through areas of native bush will almost certainly have come across the sheetwebs of these spiders, but rarely will they have seen the spiders themselves. By day, Cambridgea will hide out of sight in a tubular retreat, only emerging once darkness falls. At night, the spider will hang from the underside of the sheetweb, waiting for insects to fall in. The size of the web is related to the size of the spider, with our largest species Cambridgea foliata known to produce a snare that is almost a metre across. Occasionally, male Cambridgea spiders wander into homes, much as the black tunnelweb spider does. Click to identify

Slater spider (Dysdera crocata). The body is about one to one-and-a-half centimetres long (excluding the legs). The cephalothorax (the fused head and thorax) and legs are red-orange and the abdomen is cream to pale coffee-coloured. These spiders only have six eyes rather than the usual eight. The chelicerae (the structures that bear the fangs) project forward and are quite large relative to the size of the spider. While this spider is capable of capturing other prey, it has earned its common name because of accounts documenting its feeding on the common slater (also known as the common woodlouse), Porcellio scaber. It doesn't build a web to capture its prey. Rather, it seizes its victim in its very large chelicerae. Click to identify

Vagrant spiders (Uliodon spp.) are usually dark brown to almost black, with a five-centimetre leg span. However, there are a number of species in this group and this description may not apply to all of them. There are probably about twenty species of vagrant spider in New Zealand, the majority of which have yet to be documented by scientists. These spiders seek shelter by day and hunt at night. They are capable of moving very rapidly in pursuit of their prey. Like tunnelweb spiders, vagrant spiders are attacked by spider-hunting wasps. Male vagrant spiders may also wander indoors when seeking females to mate with. In Wellington, this typically happens around autumn. Click to identfy

White-tailed spiders (Lampona cylindrata and L. murina). Slender looking spiders, typically greyish in colour with banded legs and usually with a distinct cream-white marking on the tip of the tail. Males and juveniles may have additional white markings on the abdomen. The leg span of a fully grown specimen is a little over 3cm. These spiders do not build a web to catch their prey as they are active hunters. They are rather unusual in that they specialize in catching other spiders, particularly the common and well established Australian species the grey house spider (Badumna longinqua). The white-tailed spider will cautiously enter the web of its intended victim and mimic the struggles of a trapped insect by plucking at the web. This may trick the resident spider into investigating the disturbance and so instead of gaining a meal, it becomes one when the white-tail strikes. Click to identify