Tag Archives: Spiders in Spain

Tent-Web Spider – Cyrtophora citricola – Araña orbitela de las chumberas

  • English: Tent-Web Spider
  • Spanish: Araña orbitela de las chumberas
  • Scientific: Cyrtophora citricola
  • French: l’Épeire de l’Opuntia
  • German: Opuntienspinne
  • Portuguese: Tecedeira-colonial
  • Distribution: Almost worldwide in warm and temperate zones covering Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and US and South America.


Remember that the Tent-Web Spider – Cyrtophora citricolaAraña orbitela de las chumberas can change its color to blend in with the environment but normally, the abdomen (opisthosoma) is brown to black in colour with varied white markings and often three pairs of spots. There are three pairs of tubercles, the last being more pronounced and creating a bifurcation at the rear of the abdomen.

Continue reading Tent-Web Spider – Cyrtophora citricola – Araña orbitela de las chumberas

trapdoor spiders – Amblyocarenum walckenaeri and Ummidia picea

Some trapdoor spiders in Spain (Araña trampera) are often mistaken for the Andalucian funnel web spider.

Firstly though, the wafer trapdoor spider – Amblyocarenum walckenaeri (and the similar Ummidia picea) can be easily differentiated from the Andalucian funnel web spider by the lack of spinerets (or very short spinerets) and a rather rounded and brownish abdomen. (see above image)

UPDATE April 2022. There is some controversy surrounding the presence or not of Ummidia aedificatoria here in Spain as many believe all have been miss identified and really are Ummidia picea. (See below).

The taxonomy of this spider can be a bit confusing though it seems that the correct scientific name is Amblyocarenum walckenaeri (Lucas, 1846), it is also known as Cyrtauchenius walckenaeri so a search for either name will result in images of this Iberian endemic spider. It seems that few studies have been made on this, or other, close species and it is logical to assume there eventually will be more species and subspecies discovered in the future.

If disturbed trapdoor spiders, understandably, can be quite defensive putting themselves in an attack position with front legs raised but despite this, they are harmless to humans.

They feed on crickets, grasshoppers and other insects that they capture from their cover of their nest and an example of their hunting technique can be seen in the below video of a captive trapdoor spider. (Amblyocarenum walckenaeri)

Ummidia picea or aedificatoria?

To confuse us a bit more there is another very similar trap door spider called Ummidia picea seen in the below image.

It is believed that U aedificatoria DOES NOT exist in Spain. (See this 2010 study here: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Currently-known-distribution-of-the-genus-Ummidia-in-the-western-Mediterranean-Region_fig8_232675176)

However, over at the famous bidiversidad virtual many people are defending that very often U picea can sometimes be U aedificatoria especially in southern coastal regions of Spain: (https://www.biodiversidadvirtual.org/insectarium/Ummidia-picea-img182963.html) These identifications have not been verified and it is probable that they are wrong.

On closer inspection the adomen of U picea is almost always a light brown and white or pale marks show at the leg segments. There also may be 4 yellowish dots on the underside of the abdomen.

Ummidia aedificatoria
Ummidia picea or aedificatoria? The answer is U picea 🙂
Ummidia aedificatoria - Notice the white markings at the segments
Ummidia picea – Notice the white/grey markings at the segments close to the body.

Oh, and, if you are in the South of Portugal then you might also find another similar species Ummidia algarve. 🙂

Oh, and, then there is the smaller Iberesia machadoi plus in 2019 a new Iberian trapdoor spider, Iberesia valdemoriana and the first records of I. brauni in the Iberian Peninsula were published.

Iberesia machadoi or similar
Iberesia machadoi or similar

List of trap door spider species In Iberia (Including islands)

The spider family Nemesiidae ( funnel-web trapdoor spiders) contains quite a few species. This is the accepted list for the Iberian Peninsula (Including the islands).

  • Amblyocarenum walckenaeri
  • Iberesia arturica
  • Iberesia brauni
  • Iberesia castillana
  • Iberesia machadoi
  • Iberesia valdemoriana
  • Nemesia angustata
  • Nemesia athiasi
  • Nemesia bacelarae
  • Nemesia bacelarae
  • Nemesia berlandi
  • Nemesia bristowei (Majorca)
  • Nemesia crassimana
  • Nemesia dorthesi
  • Nemesia dubia
  • Nemesia hispanica
  • Nemesia ibiza (Ibiza)
  • Nemesia macrocephala occidentalis
  • Nemesia randa (Majorca)
  • Nemesia raripila
  • Nemesia santeugenia (Majorca)
  • Nemesia santeulalia (Ibiza)
  • Nemesia seldeni (Majorca)
  • Nemesia simoni
  • Nemesia uncinata
  • Nemesia ungoliant
  • Nemesia valenciae
Also present but in the family of Halonoproctidae (burrowing or trap door spiders)
  • Ummidia algarve
  • Ummidia picea

Any spider experts reading this are most welcome to help out on this article with some more specific information and images! 🙂 Comments are open and very welcome! Thanks to Cristian Pertegal for some species clarification (https://www.facebook.com/nemesidae.nemesia.7)

See information about the similar Andalucian funnel web spider here.

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Andalusian Funnel-Web Spider – Macrothele calpeiana – La araña negra de los alcornocales

In Andalucia there is a fairly large, black burrowing spider belonging to the venomous funnel-web tarantula family. Its scientific name is Macrothele calpeiana and it belongs to the Macrothelidae family, and most species occur in Asia, from India to Japan, and Java, with four found in Africa, and two in Europe

There is one species known for the Mediterranean region. (Walckenaer, 1805). The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek makro meaning big and thele which refers to the spinnerets. The origin of the name calpeiana is from “Calpe” a name that the Phoenicians (mistakenly) gave to Gibraltar.

It is known in Spanish as “La araña negra de los alcornocales”, as within the Los Alcornocales Natural Park (Cadiz province) the largest populations are found. “Los Alcornocales” is a forest of evergreen oak trees, mainly Cork Oaks (Quercus suber) with a vast shady canopy creating an almost tropical feel. The temperatures and humidity levels in that area are more suited to these spiders’ requirements with a deep leaf litter for ease of burrowing.

Sometimes the Andalucian funnel web spider is confused with one of the trapdoor spiders. (Usually a male Amblyocarenum walckenaeri) See information about the similar trap door spiders here.

Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)
Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)

The first sign of their location is a silken white, sheet-like web anchored firmly to twigs, rocks, plants etc. This narrows to a tube near the centre, the entrance to the tunnel, which often leads to cooler depths underground.

Video of the funnel web spider in Andalucia

Thanks to Jori Vermoesen for this great video that shows the unmistakable “thele” of this Macrothele calpeiana…. “Macro” means big and “thele” which refers to the spinnerets. Once you see those sticking out at the back, it is impossible to confuse with a similar species called Amblyocarenum walckenaeri which is a trap door spider.

There may be a labyrinth of several entrances to the one tunnel and the range of sites for these webs can be a simple scrape under a rock, vegetated banks, under logs, crevices in dry-stone walls, tree trunk bases and even tree hollows up to 2metres above ground level. The underground portion can be to a depth of 80cm, the upper part of which has a non-sticky web lining and the rest is left bare. The day-time temperature at the burrow end can be 3 to 5 degrees centigrade cooler than at the entrance.

Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)
Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)

The Andalucian funnel-web spider is considered to be the largest in Europe and is easily recognized. They are jet black with a glossy carapace and fine hairs on their legs and abdomen. The 1.5cm long spinnerets, at the rear, almost look like extra legs. The body can be up to 3.5cm long and the stretched legs reaching a span of 8cm.When under threat it can raise up its front legs into an attack position, exposing its fangs.

They are found mostly in Cádiz and Málaga provinces with smaller numbers in scattered enclaves discovered in Huelva, Sevilla, Granada, Jaén, Gibraltar and the furthest north Badajoz, Extremadura.

Two smaller communities found in North Africa are thought to be accidental imports from Spain. Further reports of their existence on the French side of the Pyrenees have been put down to their being carried with Olive trees and such, but they are unlikely to survive cold winter temperatures.

Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)
Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)

These spiders are most active at night when they will wait at the tunnel entrance for prey to become glued onto the silken web. Their diet consists of small insects such as beetles, woodlouse, millipedes and crickets. When they feel the vibration of a trapped insect they will carefully approach, then bite the ill-fated prey with venom which will begin to liquefy it as they wrap it in silk. The venom is injected into their prey through openings in the tips of the pair of fangs. The glands that produce this venom are located in the two segments of the chelicerae. (The parts to which the fangs are attached).

“Dinner” is then taken into the private and protected retreat area behind the web to be devoured. After eating they are fastidious cleaners. Any food debris will be discarded away from the web and around an hour of thorough grooming will follow. Mites are often seen on the carapace of these spiders and this cleaning will minimize their numbers.

Andalusian Funnel-Web Spider – Macrothele calpeiana – La araña negra de los alcornocales. Close up showing the mites on a females back.

Around April-May males will wander around at night in search of one or more female with which to breed. It is thought that there are pheromones in the silk of a female’s web that attract a mate. A gentle courtship ensues, as the male does not want to become the next meal. The female will eat more over the ensuing weeks, then in early July seal herself into the retreat in order to produce the egg sac.

The females care for the egg sac by carrying it with them, maneuvering to different parts of the tunnel to maintain the right levels of temperature and humidity. The young have their first moult within the sac and she then helps to release them using her fangs. Possibly 100 to 250 eggs will hatch into spiderlings. They will accompany the female to the outer web after dark and are thought to feed on smaller prey. At some point cannibalism amongst the young may occur triggering dispersal of the survivors. At this point many of the young will fall prey to other animals.

As they prefer little disturbed areas and are active at night you will not normally encounter these spiders. Be cautious if you are moving logs, rocks etc and see a sheet like web. If provoked these spiders will rear up in a threatening manner and can even give an audible hiss. unlike its famous close relative is the Australian funnel-web (Atrax robustus) whose bites can be fatal, Macrothele calpeiana venom is mild in comparison giving a localized but painful swelling.

Sometimes the Andalucian funnel web spider is confused with one of the trapdoor spiders. (Usually a male Amblyocarenum walckenaeri) See information about the similar trap door spiders here.

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