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Taxonomy terms

LEAF-CURLING SPIDER

These are one of the most common garden spiders in Australia, but they rarely show their faces. These spiders hide in mid-air, cunningly using leaves, snail shells, or scraps of paper. Would you be able to recognise a leaf-curling spider?

 

Common name: Leaf-curling Spider

Scientific name(s): Phonognatha graeffei, in the Araneidae (Orbweaving Spiders). Formerly placed in the Tetragnathidae (Long-jawed Spiders).

Geographic distribution: Common in northeastern, eastern and southern Australian states.

Description: Adult males measure 5 mm long, and females approx. 8 mm. Both look very similar, with long, slender reddish-brown legs, and a reddish-brown oval body with a cream coloured pattern on the back.

Unlike most other orb weavers, leaf-curling spider webs are not complete circles, being open at the top and fanning out from the spider’s refuge. The refuge is constructed by the spider lifting a dead leaf into the web, and using tightening silk to curl the leaf into a rough cylinder. If no suitable leaf is available they may use a snail shell or scrap of paper.

The spider will wait at the entrance to the refuge, only the legs exposed and touching the web, waiting for the vibrations of a flying insect stuck in the web.

 

Leaf curling spider
Leaf-curling spider, Phonognatha graeffei

 

Habitat: The spider is found in open woodland and forest habitats, as well as urban and suburban gardens. The web is most frequently built among shrubs and other vegetation.

Life-cycle: Unusually for spiders, males and females often share a web before reaching adulthood, living at opposite ends of the refuge. Eggs are hidden in a folded leaf, concealed among foliage away from the web.

Pest status: The spiders are also predators of flying insects and generally not considered a pest. Bites may cause localised pain and reddening, but are very rare and not considered medically important. 

Treatment: No specific treatment is required. Clean and apply ice to bite site.

Other types of spiders.

 

Daniel Heald, technician and entomologist (image credit: Daniel Heald)