Recently a large orb weaver spider in Atherton, North Queensland captured a full-grown finch in its web, as these spectacular pictures show. Just a week later Townsville residents Tom and Judy Phillips took photos of a giant golden orb weaver spider eating a double-barred finch in their backyard. The finch was just over four inches long.
This got me to wondering what was the largest animal ever to be caught in a spider’s web? The tensile polymer is, after all, stronger than steel and kevlar.
In 2004 a 12-inch snake of unknown species was captured in the web of a Chinese house spider in Qingyuan county in the eastern Zhejiang province. After an 80 minute struggle, the spider managed to bite the snake in the neck and kill it. Though this was only a tiny snake the odds were still very much against the spider.
The same year Tania Robertson, a receptionist from Bloemfontein in South Africa, saw and photographed a brown button spider capturing, killing and partially eating an Aurora snake just under 6 inches long (see photograph).
- The spider had been nesting in the air-conditioning unit in her office.
- Both creatures are now in the National Museum.
- Once again the snake is a youngster but still much bigger and stronger than the spider.
- In 2006 Lisa Parsonage from England snapped a picture of a red back spider killing a snake in a bush toilet at Henbury Meteorite Craters in the Northern Territory.
- Again the snake is a small one. It seems to be that the snake gets its head tangled in webbing, giving the spider a chance to bite it then retreat to a safe distance.
On youtube there are a number of films of spiders subduing vertebrate prey. These include several films of a live mouse been fed to a tarantula who swiftly subdues it without the aid of a web, as well as one eating a small lizard. All of these were filmed in captivity.
- There is an impressive (and natural) film of a goliath tarantula killing and eating a young lance head snake http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjgRFONRwJ4
- A black widow with a small snake or legless lizard (the film is blurred) in its web
- Here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sLI0uHa-To and here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXHDa26BwiE&feature=related we can see a spider of indeterminate species, subduing a small snake and a tarantula carrying a small dead coral snake http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjgRFONRwJ4
A big factor is who gets the drop on whom. Giant centipedes often kill large spiders but here the centipede is killed by a tiny snake. http://www.youtube.com/watchv=FZFMhjTvWBI&feature=fvw
Small bats also fall foul of spider’s webs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRQaCvCZeTo