T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Avondale spider (Delena cancerides) Huntsman

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Family: Sparassidae
Genus: Delena
Species: D. cancerides
Binomial name: Delena cancerides
Synonyms: Delena impressa, Thomisus cancerides
Common names: Avondale spider, Australian huntsman spider, Flat huntsman spider, Social huntsman spider

Delena cancerides is a large, harmless, brown huntsman spider native to Australia. It was introduced to New Zealand in the early 1920s and is now commonly found in the suburb of Avondale, Auckland. It has slowly spread to other areas of Auckland.
Delena cancerides is highly unusual among spiders as it is a social species; it even shares its prey. They are nocturnal and usually hide during the day in dark, dry places. In their natural habitat, is under the loose-fitting bark of wattle trees (their flat shape is an adaptation for this). Around houses they hide in attics, under corrugated iron, behind pictures and bookcases, and in sheds and garages.
They live in large colonies up to 300, but they are highly aggressive and commonly cannibalistic toward members from other colonies. They hunt their food rather than spin webs for it. When hunting they sit motionless and then rush after prey. They quickly devour their prey leaving only the exoskeleton. Moths, flies, cockroaches, and earwigs are their preferred prey.

The male D. cancerides have a body length of 20–25 millimetres, while females are larger, with a body length of 25–32 mm. The body is light brown and covered in dense, fine hairs. The legs are also hairy, and can have a span up to 20 centimetres when the legs are spread.  They are timid towards humans and bites are infrequent, and when they occur, symptoms are usually very minor.

During January to March the mature males are frequent visitors inside houses looking for a female to mate with. Females are capable of laying up to 200 green eggs in an oval-shaped, white papery-looking egg sac about 25 mm long by 12 mm wide. Females guard their egg sac, and after 4-6 weeks they open the sac to enable the spiderlings to hatch. Females will look after the spiderlings for a few months until they disperse.

 

The Avondale Spider Sculpture in Avondale, Auckland