The spiders in The Gambia are much like anywhere else in the world. I have never come across any poisonous ones like the kind you hear about in Australia. Whenever I think of spiders I’m reminded of a poem my Mum used to sing to me.
“The incy wincy spider climbed up the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain and the incy wincy spider climbed up the spout again.”
The origins of incy wincy spider are unknown. But we do know it was first published in 1920 as a song for adults. It was 27 years later in 1947 when it made its first appearance as a nursery rhyme. I wonder if the associated finger play and tickling are responsible for the fear we feel whenever we see spiders.
The Golden Orb Weaving Spider
This is one of our spiders in The Gambia and he looks quite frightening, doesn’t he? Perhaps its because almost all known spider species are predators. Preying on insects and cannibalistically on other spiders. Some species will also eat small vertebrates such as frogs, lizards, fish, and even birds and bats. Their digestive system is too narrow to take solids, so they liquidize their food by flooding it with digestive enzymes and grinding it with the bases of their pedipalps, as they do not have jaws to speak of. Source Wikipedia
Although some spiders do eat plant food, most are exclusively carnivorous.
Nice legs & I’ve got eight of them
I find the spiders in The Gambia to be very beautiful. The photo on the left shows a female Golden Orb which is considerably bigger than her male counterpart. In fact as much as ten times bigger.
The most common explanation is that the larger size in females is because of female fecundity. This would favour bigger females as they can produce more eggs and hence more young. With a high mortality rate, the production of more spiderlings is crucial for their survival. Also, large females can provide better protection for their young as well as being more effective predators.
They live approximately 12 months and while they are venomous, they could not harm a human. Their venom is only effective on their smaller prey, so no need to be afraid of this eight legged beauty.
Interesting Spiders In The Gambia Factoid
Their webbing has been farmed for use in parachute webbing because of their immense strength. Its said their webs can sustain even a hurricane!
Thought from the author.
If like me your Mum managed to pass on an unhealthy fear of spiders never fear. They deliver many benefits to both our ecosystem and inside our homes. For example, spiders like to eat other insects, like mosquitos, cockroaches, aphids, moths, and earwigs. This can help prevent the spread of diseases and in some cases the destruction of crops.
Next time you see one, give him some space, don’t stamp on him, he likes you and wants to be a friend in any way he can! 🕷