There’s a Leaf in the Web!


DO YOU see the dried and tightly curled leaf? Notice that it is suspended in a spiderweb. At first glance it might appear to have been blown into the web by the wind. But there is something special about that leaf.

What you’re looking at is the unique home of the leaf-curling spider​—a truly amazing creature. It is the only spider known to make its home by curling up a leaf and lining it with silk, the same material it uses to make its web. But does the spider just use a leaf that has been blown into the web by accident? It may look that way. But closer examination makes it evident that definite design is involved. The spider carefully selects a leaf, perhaps from among those lying on the ground below. Once it has curled the leaf into a spiral, the spider secures it with strands of silk to keep it from unraveling.

These spiders, however, are not restricted to using a leaf for a home. In suburban backyards they often use scraps of newspaper, light cardboard, or discarded admission tickets. Remarkably, they may even choose an empty snail shell. In one such case, the shell weighed six times as much as the spider that hauled it up to the web and lived in it!

Imagine that we are checking to see if our spider is at home inside its leaf right now. We give the leaf a gentle tap. There! You see? A small, beautifully colored spider is leaving the leaf and is dropping down on its silk lifeline to the ground. Don’t worry! We’re quite safe. This type of spider is harmless to man, although you may get a nip on the finger if you handle it roughly.

During the day, the leaf-curling spider usually spends its time resting inside its leaf dwelling. But at night, when there are more insects about, you will see it crouched at the entrance of its leaf. From that vantage point, it carefully monitors its web by resting one of its feet on a ‘telegraph line’​—a special thread of silk running from the leaf to the hub of the web. Should an insect strike the web, the spider will immediately rush over, immobilize it, and eat it.

This ingenious little builder is just one of the many fascinating creatures of the Australian bush.