Creepy- crawly fun
NEIGHBOURS objected to the choking fumes of insecticide constantly emanating from a house down the road from where I lived in Western Australia.
The owner claimed to have been bitten by a white- tailed spider and would show the persistent sore on her arm as proof.
This was despite the generally muttered agreement that the woman’s venom was more than a match for that of a little spider.
John Douglas enters the debate about the Lamponidae by asserting that while they may cause some unpleasant symptoms, necrotic ulcers are highly unlikely.
The author has had many parallel lives as a designer, a graphics teacher, a photographer of Australian wildlife and well as being a dedicated arachnophile.
Spiders with their instinct to scurry into dark recesses require much patience and perseverance when it comes to obtaining their image. Douglas nevertheless has compiled a visual record of all known members of the arachnid family that exist in Tasmania.
Besides the introduction there is little text. The format is to present photographs that show one or two sub- species per page.
Underneath is information about a particular spider’s name followed by brief facts pertaining to body size, habitat and toxicity.
Spiders poisonous to humans are few in Tasmania although two do earn places on the highly dangerous list. These are the funnel- web which is found in damp logs in the forests while rubbish in backyards could be occupied by the raggedy- webbed red- back.
Douglas also warns that all trapdoor spiders, the cave spider and aggressive forest hunter are to be treated with caution, while garden wolf spiders are poisonous to cats and dogs.
A magnifying glass might be necessary but a study of spiders reveals that many have attractive appearances such as the peacock jumping spiders. There are several colour variations in the enamelled- back spider that is found around Hobart but if your tastes veer towards black and white there is the spotted swift spider and the water spider.
Cleverness abounds in the arachnid family but few can match the ingenuity of the net- casting spider or the camouflaging ability of the wrap- around sub- species.
This book will be of interest to those who like more precise identifications of living creatures, as well as adults wishing to instil a respect in children for nature’s tapestry as a means of instruction. It would be heartening to know that young people were learning to appreciate the vital role spiders play in the ecology and to kill them is a reprehensible act.
To end on a “bookend”, when it comes to mythology being debunked in Webs, the Pholcidae, alias daddy long- legs, is not only harmless to humans but is definitely not the world’s deadliest spider.