Gathan Beaga

the spider that launched an obsession

I like spiders. I don’t know why. Maybe it started because I knew my mother hated and feared them beyond almost anything else… and to a small boy that’s a pretty good recommendation.

The variety of spider I remember the most from the farm were flat and grey and lived in the cracks in the old and weathered fence posts between the lawn and the cow paddock. They were always there when I went to look for them, especially on sunny days, but they were sufficiently cryptic to escape the notice of anyone else. I felt like they were all mine.

A Holoplatys on our deckSo you’ll be pleased to know they’re up here in Wellington (and further north too), not that they’re super-easy to spot. They’re called Holoplatys, according to my spider book, and I took a blurry photo of one, like an eight legged bigfoot, late last year on the fence around our deck. It was perfectly camouflaged, and it darted away before I could get a better shot. I hadn’t seen any here before, and I hadn’t seen any more… until today.

Later this afternoon it actually got warm, as the southerly died down and the sun shone. I opened a window, and there it was: a Holoplatys. I caught it and put it into lid of a plastic bowl. Which it tried to get out of immediately.

holoplatys (4)

As you can see (also here and here), they have dark bodies, but in addition their camouflage is provided by a thick covering of grey fur that renders them the same colour as weathered wood.

And according to Forster & Forster, these spiders exhibit a behaviour called thigmotaxis, an urge to have both upper and lower body surfaces in contact with with something. In other words, they like to sidle into cracks. So if you pick one up, it’ll try and squeeze between your fingers:

holoplatys (3)

How cool is that?

Next thing would be to look for the brown variety that lives in the flax. Apparently.

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