Local insects and animals – St Andrews Cross spider

A lot of people seem to be frightened by spiders, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the way they move or the fact that a small (really small) proportion of them are poisonous? These don’t seem like good reasons; after all a small (really small) proportion of people are murderous, and we still keep talking to them…
On my recent trip to my mother’s garden I managed to snap a picture of a really pretty spider, so I thought I would try to identify it.

X marks the spot

After a little bit of internet searching I discovered that this is a St Andrews Cross spider (as you probably guessed from the post title). I also discovered some amazing facts about Australian spiders (as is the way with internet searches);

  • Spiders have eyes like ours; not segmented or faceted like an insects.
  • The funnel web and red back are the only really venomous species in Australia, the bites of other spiders can be irritating but not dangerous (unless you are operating heavy machinery, but that’s another story).
  • Mating is very dangerous for some male spiders; females may not even wait to mate before eating him.
  • There are some killer knit and crochet patterns out there for spiders and spider webs (I got distracted, OK?)
As for the St Andrews Cross spider specifically;
  • They are a species of orb spider; known for their beautiful web spinning.
  • There are at least three sub species of St Andrews Cross; Argiope keyserlingi and Argiope picta and Argiope mangal (based on our geographical location, the one above is a Argiope keyserlingi).
  • They make that beautiful cross that they sit on from a special UV reflective web which they use to attract insects to their web.
  •  The spider gets it’s name from the shape of the cross it makes in it’s web. In short; St Andrew was a Christian priest in Turkey or Greece who convinced a Roman commander’s wife to give up sex, the commander had him crucified for it (Freud would be right onto that one) but he requested that he be tied to a saltire (an X rather than a +) as he was not worthy of being crucified in the same way as his Christ.
They are certainly beautiful little spiders. They are not venomous, they catch insects for a living and they build art in the garden, what’s not to like?

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