Tag Archives: Spiders in Spain

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 picta 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)

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?

It seems that the geographical range of Ummidia aedificatoria is very restricted but it has been confirmed present on ther Iberian peninsular as this map shows here: https://www.gbif.org/species/2163782

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 and I. barbara 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
  • Amblyocarenum walckenaeri
Iberesia
  • Iberesia arturica
  • Iberesia barbara
  • Iberesia brauni
  • Iberesia castillana
  • Iberesia machadoi
  • Iberesia valdemoriana
Nemesia
  • 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
  • Ummidia algarve
  • Ummidia picea
  • Ummidia aedificatoria (???)

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!

See information about the similar Andalucian funnel web spider here.


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Cucumber green spider – Araniella cucurbitina – Araña verde común

  • English: Cucumber green spider
  • Scientific: Araniella cucurbitina
  • Spanish: Araña verde común
  • French: Épeire concombre
  • German: Kürbisspinne
  • Italian: Ragno verde del cetriolo
  • Portuguese: Tecedeira-melancia-comum
  • Distribution: The temperate regions of Eurasia. (Although described in the Americas, is suspected to have been inadvertently introduced by humans).

Description

The cucumber green spider- Araniella cucurbitina – Araña verde común has a yellowish/green to green colour that allows it to camouflage perfectly in foliage. Its head and thorax are yellowish brown. It has a large bright red spot located on the underside of the abdomen and a pattern of 12 small black dots on the upperside (4 central and 8 lateral – divided into two lines).

They can be seen from late spring through to autumn and measure 5.0 to 5.5 mm females and males smaller at 3.5-4.0 mm.

Cucumber green spider-Araniella cucurbitina-Araña verde común
Cucumber green spider-Araniella cucurbitina-Araña verde común – Note those black dots and the hairy legs.

They Inhabit shrub-land, tall bushes, thorny borders and woodland edges building a globe shaped web among leaves, about 10 cm in diameter and 15 to 30 radius. A very patient spider, they remain quite still in the centre of the web, waiting for flying insects to be caught.

Cucumber green spider-Araniella cucurbitina-Araña verde común - Note the red dot on the underside of the abdomen
Note the red dot on the underside of the abdomen

Breeding takes place in the summer when adults reach sexual maturity. The female places her eggs in a protective bag of silk, ‘an ootheca.’ Spiderlings which hatch in the autumn are dark red, they hide in crevices and cracks or amongst dense shrubs throughout the winter.


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The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, the town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

https://grazalemaguide.com/

Spanish wolf spider – Lycosa hispanica – Araña lobo

Originally known as a tarantula (Theraphosidae family), the Spanish wolf spider – Lycosa hispanica – Araña lobo is in fact a member of the wolf spider family, the Lycosidae. It is the largest spider to be found in Spain.

Many Spanish records and websites misidentify this spider as the European wolf spider Lycosa tarantula but it is in fact the Spanish wolf spider Lycosa hispanica.

European wolf spider - Lycosa tarantula - Araña lobo - Fantastic camoflage
Spanish wolf spider – Lycosa hispanica – Araña lobo – Fantastic camoflage

Description

The shape of the body is large, robust,rounded and brownish in color. It has very long and thin legs that are somewhat lighter in color that may have white spots. Look closely and you will see six eyes (two big ones with four smaller underneath), and very large chelicerae (mouthparts). Its entire body is covered with hairs. Females can be up to 30mm in size whilst males are smaller at 19mm. Lifespan is around two years for males (who normally die after sexual maturity and mating) and four years for females.

Habits

Mostly nocturnal, this spider feeds on small invertebrates and sometimes other spiders. Rarely found indoors as they prefer wooded or landscaped areas with vegetation, their burrows are often hidden beside a stone or log. The burrows are unmistakeble with a constructed surrounding of twigs and grass. Males have burrows but tend to roam more whilst females live almost exclusively in their burrows especially whilst taking care of upwards of 100 eggs. Once hatched she leaves the nest carrying the spiderlings on her back on her back which whilst protecting the spiderlings during their first few days is also her way of dispersing her offspring.

European wolf spider - Lycosa tarantula - Araña lobo - Note the spiderlings on her back
Spanish wolf spider – Lycosa hispanica – Araña lobo – Note the spiderlings on her back

Predators

The biggest predator of the Spanish wolf spider – Lycosa hispanica – Araña lobo here in Spain is the yellow scorpion (Buthus occitanus) which actively seeks out the spiders burrow. Birds such as the hoopoe, blackbirds and woodpeckers also feed on these spiders.

Venomous (To humans no)

These spiders are not aggresive and prefer to stay out of the way of large mammals. The venom they carry is important as a means of killing prey, and secondarily, self-protection. It is designed to affect insect-like prey and is not particularly toxic to humans though some people, if bitten, have compared it to a bee sting.

European wolf spider - Lycosa tarantula - Araña lobo - Waiting in her burrow
Spanish wolf spider – Lycosa hispanica – Araña lobo – Waiting in her burrow

Similar species

Lycosa fasciiventris, Hogna radiata, and Hogna ferox because their size and markings are similar.

Lycosa fasciiventris seems to have the same distribution in Spain but roams rather than makes a burrow (so if you find one in a burrow its probably Lycosa hispanica and a female)and also if you look closely the gap between the lower (middle) set of eyes is very narrow.

It is also easily confused with the wolf spider Hogna radiata but, in theory, it is differentiated because Hogna radiata has a radiated design on the prosoma/cephalothorax. (The juicy bit at the back behind the main body.) Hogna radiata is also a roaming spider not found in burrows. Same goes for Hogna ferox which is also smaller in size.

So, basically, if it is in a burrow as in the images above it is Lycosa hispanica

The dance of the spider

The wolf spider – Lycosa tarantula – Araña lobo was once very common in the Apulia region of Italy and near the city of Taranto, from which it gets its name. Historical superstition has it that the spider’s bite could produce severe symptoms called “tarantism” is the basis of the dance known as the Tarantella.

Also known as “the dance of the spider,” the Tarantella is derived from the Italian word tarantola, meaning tarantula. The tarantola gets its name from the town of Taranto in Puglia, where the bite of the local wolf spider (thought once to be a tarantula) was widely believed to be highly poisonous and if bitten a person would succumb to an illness known as tarantism.

European wolf spider - Lycosa tarantula - Araña lobo - Dance of the Spider
European wolf spider – Lycosa tarantula – Araña lobo – Dance of the Spider

The tarantism epidemic was common through Taranto and other parts of Italy between the 15th and 17th centuries. According to legend, once bitten by a tarantula, the victim (almost always a woman) referred to as the tarantata would fall into a fit and “plagued by heightened excitability and restlessness“. Eventually, if not treated, she would succumb to the condition and die.

The only cure, it seemed, was to engage in the frenzied dancing ritual of the Tarantella. Townspeople would surround the tarantata whilst musicians would play instruments such as mandolins, guitars, and tambourines in different tempos in search of the correct healing rhythm. Each varied beat would affect the tarantata, leading her to move in erratic ways in line with the tempo. Once the correct rhythm was found, the victim continued dancing the Tarantella until exhausted and cured, having “sweated out” the venom! Read more here: https://www.eataly.com/us_en/magazine/culture/dancing-the-tarantella/


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Giant crab spider (Huntsman)

  • English: Giant Crab Spider
  • Spanish: Araña cangrejo gigante
  • Scientific: Eusparassus dufouri
  • Distribution: Iberian Peninsular, Italy and Greece.
  • Size: Males up to up to 8 cm with a body length of up to 2 cm. Females up to 9 cm with a body length up to 3 cm

Description

The giant crab spider, also referred to as a huntsman spider, is quite common and one of the largest to be found on the Iberian Peninsula. It has a base colour of grey to light brown, the colours and patterns vary greatly. In general the thorax has a fine, pale central line and the abdomen has a brown central streak flanked by a darker margin. The underside of the abdomen has two characteristic dark stripes.

The very long legs tend to be held sideways, grouped closely in a crab-like stance. They are the same as the base colour of the body with marked dark rings. They are fast, agile climbers and can jump.

Giant crab spider (Huntsman)

These are terrestrial spiders which do not build webs,. They do, however, build a shelter pocket of strong silk in which they remain during the day.

These pockets are also used for moulting and for reproduction. They are usually attached to a flat surface such as under rocks, in soil cavities and in old walls, with a preference for sunny areas. They leave their shelter at night to hunt.

Eusparassus dufouri web pocket and shed exoskeleton
Eusparassus dufouri web pocket and shed exoskeleton. This one was located in the folds of a curtain.

Similar species

Eusparassus levantinus is also present in the Iberian peninsular and diferentiating the two can be difficult which is why many people on spain wildlife forums and groups identify these spiders simply as Eusparassus Sp (ie “it’s one of the giant crab spiders”)

(Eusparassus walckenaeri or the Eastern huntsman crab spider is not present in iberia and can be found in areas such as Cyprus, Greece and Turkey).

Further reading

There is an excelent study of both species available in PDF format that does include some text in English but is mostly in Spanish.

Data for a better knowledge of the genus Eusparassus in the Iberian Peninsula are presented. Diagnostic and morphological characters for distinguishing the genus are given. The type species, Eusparassus dufouri Simon, 1932, is reported, and the male is illustrated for the first time.

Eusparassus levantinus (male and female) is described from Spain.

Summarized information on taxonomy, phenology, habitat and geographical distribution is presented for both species.
http://sea-entomologia.org/gia/ria_12_99_115.html

The insectarium virtual also has an excellent search system for many species of insect present in Spain. The following link has an excellent image of Eusparassus levantinus
https://www.biodiversidadvirtual.org/insectarium/Eusparassus-levantinus-img427950.html

See more bugs and beasties in Spain here.


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