Spiders in the Gorge

PHOTO: SuppliedSpiders of the Kloof Conservancy.
PHOTO: SuppliedSpiders of the Kloof Conservancy.

IF you walk in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, it is sometimes difficult to avoid getting entangled in a spiders web because they build their webs across the trail paths. Spiders are not what one would considered as an “attractive” species but it is important to remember that every species is important and has its own special role in the biodiversity circle of life.

Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, and chelicerae (mouth) with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms. Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica and have become established in nearly every habitat with the exception of air and sea colonization. As of 2008, approximately 40 000 spider species, and 109 families have been recorded by taxonomists.

There are numerous species of spiders in Krantzkloof but the most common and most “attractive” species are the Kite Spiders with their very brightly coloured porcelain like “wings”.

Kite spiders are diurnal orb-web spiders. Species occur mainly in the tropics and sub-tropics, with four species in South Africa. The spider is small, 8-10 mm, brightly coloured in shades of cream, yellow, red and black. The abdomen is sclerotised (porcelain-like) with four lateral and two posterior spines, the second pair longest and the first shortest.

The common species occurring in Krantzkloof are versicolor which have yellow and red abdomen. Occasionally you may come across the species sanguinolenta which have a white and red abdomen.

Kite spiders commonly build their webs across paths at a height of approximately 1,8 m and tend to inhabit areas such as woodland edges and shrubby gardens. These spiders are most common in the winter months.

Many species of Southern African spiders are threatened due to two major factors; habitat destruction and the pet trade — yes, some people like spiders as pets. Rampant housing developments are a serious threat to the species.

— Kloof Conservancy.

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