Also known as netcasting spider, stick spider, ogre-faced spider
The world of spiders is filled with amazing critters. The net-casting spider is no exception.
Net-casting spiders spin a little web that looks like a fishing net. The photo above shows this male netcasting spider just starting to create silk for his net. The bluish-tinted net is a rectangular shape and has a lot of stretch. It can stretch to 5 times its size if necessary.
Typically, netcasting spiders hang at about an 80-90 degree angle with their head down and their legs outstretched. If they are ready to hunt, their legs may take roughly an X shape. The spider at right is about to start building his net, and he is getting one of his back legs ready to take strands of silk, which he will pass up to his front legs.
When the net is made, he will hold it with his front legs, and will get ready to toss it over any insect that strays into his target area. The target area is not always guesswork, for he will often makes a target spot out of white poo on the surface below.
Master of psychology
Net-casting spiders don't study psychology at university, but they know the psychology of small insects.
Insects on leaves tend to look down or forward, not up. Knowing this, the netcasting spider hangs from underneath a leaf, then drops a splash of white poo on a leaf directly below (see photo at left, that shows the spider at top and the poo target about 20 centimetres (8 inches) below — marked with yellow arrow).
When an insect wanders on to the target, he throws the net over it, then quickly drops down to bite it, and then eats it.
This spider did not have a net when we took this photo in the daytime. Netcasting spiders tend to be fairly inactive in the daytime, but he will have his net ready by sunset.
The target area
The photo at right shows a close-up of the white target area that the net-casting spider has made. Target areas can be various sizes, and there was a smaller one than this on another leaf a few centimetres below this one.
“They look like sticks!”
Net-casting spiders can look like small sticks or dead twigs, and that is why they are also called stick spiders. The one in the photo above was almost invisible — even when we were very close — on the side of a potplant that had numerous dead fern stems.
You can also see in the photos above and at left that this net-casting stick spider has huge eyes that stick out like giant periscopes.
It has other eyes as well, but these two headlights give it the reputation of having the largest eyes of any spider in Australia. It relies heavily on its excellent eyesight, because it does a lot of its hunting leading up to dawn and from sunset.
What do they eat?
Net-casting spiders eat pretty much any small insect they can capture — small crickets and grasshoppers, large ants, bugs and beetles …
They also catch moths and other flying insects that come close enough for them to get their net into action.
House walls and doors
Netcasting spiders are common in many areas of Australia. The reason most people don't see them is because they don't often look under low shrubs and ferns. But these spiders are common in Australian gardens.
They also wander on to the outside of houses, and this is probably the time most people are likely to see them. The one here sat on this screen door for a long time, resting for a large part of the day.
Are they dangerous?
There doesn't seem to be any record in Australia of anyone being bitten by a netcasting spider.
This either means its bite has never worried anyone or it bites people so rarely that no records of it can be found.
Children sometimes pick them up, and there are photos of net-casting spiders in people's hands.
In our experience they don't seem interested in biting people, obviously preferring to keep their bite for something they can eat for supper.