What lives in here?
There are funnel shaped webs low down in the dense vegetation of the park’s hedges and edges; what lives in them?
A labyrinth spider (Agelena labyrinthica), a British native, lives there. Labyrinth spiders build sheet webs in dense vegetation; the webs lead into intricate, labyrinthine, systems of tunnels.
The spider, well hidden, waits in the central chamber until something blunders into the web; it then rushes out, overcomes its prey and retires with it, back into the labyrinth to eat.
At this time of year the female will already have been mated and in the central chamber of her labyrinth will be busy constructing a large white egg sac that will eventually contain 50 – 130 eggs. She will suspend the sac in the chamber with many radiating threads of silk and begin to camouflage the outer part of her web with leaves and grass.
The spiderlings, when they hatch, will stay in the central chamber through the coming winter until the temperature rises in the spring. They will live off the egg yolk stored in their abdomens. The female will remain with her young until they are ready to leave the web. If she dies before they go, the spiderlings will eat her corpse.
Because of the shape of the labyrinth spider’s web, people sometimes confuse the species with the Australian funnel web spiders, a family of arachnids some members of which can be highly venomous to humans. Agelena labyrinthica belongs to an entirely different family and its venom will not harm you.
A message from Joanne Furniss, a reader from Guernsey: “If you’re brave enough, tickle the outer web with a human hair… she comes shooting out!”