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


Sheetweb spider (Cambridgea spp)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Suborder: Araneomorphae
Superfamily: Lycosoidea
Family: Stiphidiidae
Genus: Cambridgea
Species: Cambridgea spp.
Common name: Sheet-web spider.

The genus Cambridgea has about 29 species in New Zealand. They vary greatly in both size and colouration. In New Zealand 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).
The Cambridgea spiders occur throughout New Zealand, and are particularly abundant in native forest. It builds a horizontal web with fine vertical threads above that act as knockdown threads.
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. At night the spider waits under the web and immobilises the prey by biting through the web. It can grab prey trapped in a web by the sideways movement of its chelicerae (the appendages near its mouth).
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.
Males will wander in to houses and get trapped in baths and sinks. Many males have hard ridges on their waist which they rub together to make a sound which we cannot hear. There are different ridge patterns for different species hence they have a different sound.

Sheet-web spider hanging under its web.

A large male sheetweb found wandering at night

Waiting for a meal



 
Photo of the fangs folded


Fangs extended




A spider of the Cambridgea species

Web of a species of the Sheet-web spider
 
A web after light rain.