Sunday, September 25, 2005

More on those giant spiders....

Pagebao, an Italian blog that blogs on Taiwan, also shares an interest in the local spiders. In Ragni di Taiwan, which I assume is Italian for "Badass Critters that are likely to scare the shit out of you in Taiwan" amongst the Italian descriptions of these awesome arachnids I found this gem in English:

"Mostly harmless, but they have inadvertently killed some 20 people over the years. The people died either from fright or tripping over as they tried to avoid or escape from their rather strong webs."

You didn't know it, but you were near death, Jason....

Pagebao also provided some good links, including this one on the Golden Orb Spider and also a link to another page that calls it a Giant Wood Spider. He also links to an Aussie forum discussion.


Anonymous said...

Not only i (am trying to) blog on Taiwan, but i actually blog from Taichung.

My interest on local spiders is based on a slight phobia :)), we are fascinated by the things that scare us, is it the same for you?

We definively do not have so big spiders in Italy.

Thanks a lot for your kind words, Michael, it is quite rewarding to have my post reviewed in one of the best blogs about Taiwan!

This is a poor english translation of my post about these spiders:
The last weekend it seemed a further typhoon was coming, instead the typhoon changed its path and now is going to China, to Shangai actually.
We took advantage of the nice and not too hot weather and both on Saturday and Sunday we had wonderful hikes in the area around Daken, a few kms from Taichung.
One of the good things in Taiwan is that the mountains, the nature are never too far from the big cities.
We found, with my big pleasure, dozens of giant spiders at the left and the right of the footpath and often also over our heads. We shoot some pictures to these giant spiders (but also quite beautiful ones).

I did my homework on the Internet. The spiders belongs almost for sure to the species Nephila Maculata. In English is called "Golden Orb Web Spider”, but some scholars from Tunghai University in their publications call it "Giant Wood Spider" (so this could be the English translation of the local name). This kind of spider is widespread from Taiwan to Japan to South East Asia. Similar spiders live from America to Australia to South America. The body reach 5 centimeters but with the legs it is bigger than a hand (having seen these spiders, i think the man in this picture has a very big hand probably ..). The Giant Wood Spiders and its cousins are able to make a extremely resistant silk, with outstanding tensile strenght (nowadays several research centers around the world are trying in different ways, breeding those spiders or with genetic engineering techniques, to produce considerable amounts of their silk).

The Giant Wood Spider is not aggressive and rather harmless (even if the bite has been described as quite painful, due to the big size of the fangs) anyway an Aussie says that it is "Mostly harmless, but they have inadvertently killed some 20 people over the years. The people died either from fright or tripping over as they tried to avoid or escape from their rather strong webs.".
We took great care to avoid this danger :))) (even if the problems concerns me more, my wife is not scared at all by spiders, the close up photos have been taken by her indeed ... ).
In Taiwan there are only 2 species of spiders dangerous to people, one is called Latrodectus Hasselti (Redback Spider), the other is represented by the genre Macrothele. The first one is similar to our italian Malmignatta and to the Black Widow, the second one is close to the notorious Australian funnel spiders.
Anyway deaths caused by spiders have never been recorded in Taiwan.

Michael Turton said...

Hey! That's a great English translation. Wish my Italian was so good -- I am embarrassed to admit that my mother's family is from Italy but I can't speak a word. Although they are all Gieg(?) originally from Albania in the early 19th century. My grandfather is surnamed Camino, and comes from a village called Ururi, which I think is in Apulia. My grandmother is Calvetti but I don't know where they are from.

Yes, I think the phobia is what makes spiders so fascinating. by the way, the man in the picture actually has a great Taiwan blog called Wandering to Tamshui and knows everything about Taiwan, plus stuff that nobody has found out yet.

Thanks for the translation! I think in my next life I am definitely going to study spiders!

Chris said...

Nephila pilipes or Nephila maculata (different names for the same species). The Chinese call it the Human-Faced Spider (ren mian zhizhu).

Anonymous said...

Hate to burst your bubble. These
spiders can grow a lot larger than
2 inches (or 50 mm). In Taiwan on a tour of the island, we went to see the sunset on a mountain, I saw one in a web in a tree that had a body length without the legs lengthwise about 5 inches (or 127 mm). With the legs, it was maybe a foot.

If that blows your mind, I have seen pictures of giant crickets in the jungles of Vietnam about 18 inches (or 457 mm). It took two grown men to carry it. I kid you not.