Arachnopolis Now: ‘Perfect conditions’ prompt a boom in Sydney redbacks, huntsmen and golden orbs

Peter Hannam
Published: March 7, 2016 – 12:52PM

Sydney is in the midst of a spider boom, with “perfect conditions” leading to more offspring than usual surviving and resulting in many plants and other objects being draped with silken webs, according to the Australian Museum.

David Bock, who manages the museum’s Search and Discovery section, said the warm, moist start to summer had triggered a surge in many insect numbers – such as moths and butterflies – which were now providing abundant food for spiders and other predators.

While female spiders often lay 50-100 eggs with only a few offspring surviving, many more were doing so, producing second and third generations in the season, Mr Bock said.

If the level of public inquiries are any guide, redbacks, huntsmen, golden orbs and St Andrews Cross spiders are in particular abundance.

“With the golden orb spiders, they can colonise whole trees,” Mr Bock said.

While all spiders have venom, few have any impact on humans, and the public should not be overly worried, he said.

“We might not appreciate the spiders but they are eating the other pests,” Mr Bock said, noting mosquitoes and cockroaches as among their favourite foods.

Record warmth rolls on

Meanwhile, Sydney’s record run of warm, dry weather shows little sign of breaking up.

The city on Monday passed 26 degrees for the 32nd day in a row, On the current forecasts, it will exceed that level for at least another six days – doubling the previous record stint of 19 such days.

If anything, temperatures and humidity will pick up this week, as a big blocking high pressure in the Tasman Sea keeps cold fronts at bay, Rob Sharpe, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said.

“This week will probably be one of the warmest weeks of the past four months,” Mr Sharpe said.

Sydney can expect temperatures to nudge 30 degrees each day this week, with western suburbs likely to reach the low- to mid-30s.

A redback shot at Belmore on the weekend.A redback shot at Belmore on the weekend.

Peter McCarthy, a senior operations manager at pest controllers Rentokil, said it was currently a peak time for insects in Sydney.

While there has been “nothing drastically different” this year compared with a year ago, staff have been active.

“It’s the season for pests,” Mr McCarthy said. “It will come down to the end of this month – that’s when he’ll tell whether it’s unusual or not.”

A redback captured among children's outdoor toys at West Ryde at the weekend. A redback captured among children’s outdoor toys at West Ryde at the weekend.

If the insects like mild, dry conditions, then those times are likely to linger well into next week at least, Weatherzone’s Mr Sharpe said.

“We’ll probably see a cool change of some sort around Tuesday,” he said, adding that the temperature may only dip briefly below the 26-degree mark before warming up again.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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