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Wasp Spider

This is a big spider. And females full of eggs may even look much bigger than they actually are. Full grown females measure op to 17 millimeters. The males are considerably smaller reaching a length of 4 to 6 millimeters only. One look is enough to identify the female: a yellow abdomen with black and white stripes or patches and a silvry grey head. The legs are brown decorated with black rings. The male has white or grey hairs on the head, sometimes a little bit silvry. There are two dark lines on the side of the head. The abdomen is white, with orange yellow markings, completely different from the stripes of the female. The legs are brown and not ringed.

The Wasp Spider doesn't like wasps at all. She is not named after a prey, but after her colours. She builds a very firm web only some 10 to 20 centimeters above the ground's surface. It is mainly grasshoppers and damsel flies she catches. Among her favourites is the Large Red Damsel Fly. Given his size, the male catches much smaller prey, of course.

While mating the female very often consumes the male. If he is clever he approaches her immediately after her final moulding, for then her jaws are still soft and she is incapable killing the male. He can mate twice in his life, if he is extremely lucky that is. When mating he loses a palp. And since he has only two, he can mate only twice. But if he gets a second chance it is not important whether she eats him or not, he will die very soon anyway. When it is time to lay eggs, the female makes a big brownish cocoon in which she deposits the eggs. The cocoons may be as big as a golf ball and often are seen in clusters together. The female guards the cocoon untill it is too cold and then she dies. In spring the spiderlings leave the cocoon.

The Wasp Spider originates from the Mediterranean. From 2000 onwards it was seen in northern countries regularly. It is now a rather common species in Holland, and not unusual in Belgium. In Germany it is seen in and near Berlin. First seen in Britain 1940, it remained very rare untill the year 2000. The numbers rose sharply and in Surrey and Wiltshire for instance this now is a common species.