Spider Sunday: Steatoda bipunctata

It always fascinates me why people give a certain name to a particular creature. This sunday’s spider’s name is no exception. The common english name is rabbit hutch spider, after its tendency to build a web in the vicinity of rabbit hutches. The common dutch name is koffieboonspin (coffee bean spider), after its looks. The latin species name, bipunctata, means two spots, probably after the two dimples on the abdomen. I couldn’t figure out what steatoda means, but spiders of this genus are often called false widows, because they look like the highly venomous black widow spiders. So, lots of different names for a small spider!

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When I encountered this little fellow, I didn’t think I was able to identify it. The spider was hanging upside down in a small web just a few millimeters above the ground. I thought it would be impossible to identify a spider when its upside down, but this species has a distinctive mark on the bottom of the abdomen that resembles an α-sign or an infinity symbol ∞. And because hanging upside down is its favourite position, there are loads of pictures for comparison.

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In the pictures, part of the web is visible. Spiders in the Theridiidae (tangle-web/cobweb spiders) family make an irregular 3D web with sticky silk (as opposed to other spider families which use fine, woolly silk). The threads are loosely weaved and the web looks messy.

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I was also able to determine that my spider model is a female. There are no club-shaped palps and the epigyne (in the middle above the legs) is clearly visible. In addition, females are found year-round, males only in summer/autumn when it is time to mate. I photographed this spider beginning of March. Males live for breeding only, whereas females live for a couple of years. To court a female, males produce sounds by vibrating and stridulation. Who knew spiders could be musical?

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