Backyard Buddies
Trapdoor Spiders

Photo: Bill & Mark Bell

Trapdoor Spiders

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A common resident of the garden, trapdoor spiders are often encountered whilst moving rocks or digging soil.

At night, shining a torch across the lawn may pick up two rows of tiny shining eyes staring up from inside a hole. These burrows can be as long as 40 cm and are lined with soft silky web.

There are many different species of trapdoor spider. Some don't actually make a hinged door, but all have one thing in common: they dig a burrow in which to lurk awaiting their next victim.

With the door open just a crack, they wait for an unsuspecting cricket or beetle to wander past. The spider leaps out at great speed, seizes its prey and hauls it back into the burrow to be devoured, all in a fraction of a second.

The female trapdoor can grow up to 3 cm long and live for as long as 20 years. She spends her entire life inside the burrow.

Males have a much shorter life. After 2 or 3 years they leave the burrow in late autumn or early winter to roam around in search of a mate. Trapdoors live between 5 to 20 years, and take several years to reach maturity.

Trapdoors are shy and usually flee from any threat (although males may rear up if startled). Trapdoors have large fangs which may cause a painful bite with some pain and swelling. However, their bite is not dangerous. But it's a good idea to always give spiders a bit of space if you can.

Did you know?

Trapdoors play an important role in controlling numbers of beetles, cockroaches, crickets, slaters and other spiders.

Tip

Trapdoor spiders look quite similar to the far more dangerous Funnel-web Spider. Both are large, dark and rather stubby with a hairy coat. If in any doubt, exercise extreme caution.

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Photo: OEH