Delena cancerides Walckenaer
The large harmless spider found around the Avondale area of Auckland is an Australian huntsman spider. This spider found its way to New Zealand in the early 1920s, with the first specimen found in 1924. It probably came in imported wood used for railway sleepers. It has not spread very far from Avondale, so it has received the popular name of Avondale Spider. In South Australia this species is quite common, and people encourage them to live in their houses to keep the pest insect population down.
They are nocturnal and like to hide during the day in dark, dry places. In their natural habitat, which is under loose-fitting bark of wattle trees, they live in large colonies. Around houses they hide in attics, under corrugated iron, behind pictures and bookcases, and in sheds and garages.
These spiders are fascinating to watch. They sit motionless on walls and then rush after prey. They very quickly devour prey, sucking all the juices out and discarding the hard outer pieces. Their favourite foods seem to be moths, flies, cockroaches, and earwigs.
The first reaction of most people on finding Avondale spiders is usually horror. The spiders move very fast when disturbed (as do people when frightened!). Mature spiders with legs outstretched can measure up to 200 mm across (8”).
The mature males are frequent visitors inside houses in the months January to March when they are looking for a female to mate with. Females are capable of laying up to 200 green eggs in an oval-shaped, white papery-looking egg sac about 25 mm long (1”) by 12 mm wide (1/2”). Females guard their egg sac, and after 4-6 weeks open this up to enable the spiderlings to hatch. They will look after the spiderlings for a few more months until they disperse. Spiderlings will feed communally if the prey is too big for them to manage on their own.
- Te Papa has a page about Avondale spiders in their excellent Spiders of New Zealand section of their web site.