The Spiders in Australia Series #9

Not much of a story to this one either.

10 (2)

This is the bottom side of an orb weaver spider, more commonly known as a crab spider in Australia

This is, sadly, the last post from The Spiders in Australia Series. After seeing the platypuses, Alan wanted to give me the opportunity to see one more special spider before I left. He took us to his farm, where he knew there were a few of these guys hanging around.

 

10 (4)

More of a close up and my hand for size comparison

As soon as I finished with these pictures we drove the long way to the Cairns airport, then flew to Sydney for our last few days in Australia. I didn’t see any spiders in Sydney, so this is the last of them.

 

10 (7)

He’s so spiky and cool!

While I was led to believe that I would see MANY more spiders than I did, I definitely got my fill. Thank you to Australia for such a wonderful vacation! You’re not nearly as scary as everyone says you are! Well, you kind of are…

 

Advertisements

The Spiders in Australia Series #8

OK, not much of a story, but a kick ass spider nonetheless.

9 (2)

Gotta love our guide

We had gone all over the place looking for platypuses, but we hadn’t had any luck. Alan had a place where we were pretty much guaranteed a sighting, it was just a lot further out than the other places. We headed out there after our last stop gave us just the shortest glimpse of a platypus.

It was a bit of a walk from the car, but not much, and there were lovely shrubs everywhere. I was completely focused on getting to see a platypus, so I walked right by this lovely lady without even noticing.

 

9 (3)

Close up of this lass. Look at the dimples on her abdomen.

 

My mom was behind me, though, trying to keep my sister under control. My mom is also a plant lover, so she was looking at all the shrubs fairly closely. I was just around the corner from this one when I heard my mom call my name.

I started back and she said, “Did you see this spider? Now THIS is a spider!”

9 (5)

If you look closely between her top legs on the one side, you can see her boyfriend

 

When I finally saw her I just stopped and stared. This spider was something from nightmares, but still amazingly fascinating. According to Alan, this was a mostly grown golden orb spider. At first I wouldn’t go near her because I was terrified, so Alan kindly took the following picture.

9 (6)

Picture from the other side. You can see me, my mom, and my sister in the background. Also, the golden knees which give it its name.

 

The funniest thing had happened at this point, though. Because I had been searching for spiders the whole trip, my sister, who is terrified of all bugs of any size, was saying that she liked spiders A LOT. I don’t mean to brag when I say that she adores me, but she adores me. The best part was that if we asked her if she wanted to get closer to the spider that she just LOVED, she would get this terrified look on her face and shake her head no.

 

9 (7)

All the little white things are apparently eggs…. I put my hand in the background for size comparison. You can see a few other spiders in this picture too.

 

After a bit I got over my initial horror, so I decided I wanted a picture like Alan had with my head behind her. Unfortunately we had nudged her web and that scared her up a bit, so I wasn’t tall enough to get my face behind her. I settled for my hand.

 

9 (8)

This is me trying not to freak out while putting my hand behind for the size comparison

Anyway, right after this, I slipped down a muddy hill and made it to this little pond where we saw about four platypuses. I absolutely loved them. They were so adorable and strange.

 

httpwww.allmystery.dethemenuh43048-4714

This would be an even more fully grown golden orb

The Spiders in Australia Series #7

Hahahahahahahahaha… God knows I couldn’t make it out of Australia without a good story.

8 (1)

This one has a story…

OK, so we made it to the rain forest, and we were only staying there for one night. After a day of exploring, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our lodge was really nice compared to the previous two. Let me just say that one of the others had concrete floors with an outhouse. The other didn’t have glass windows, just a screen with blinds and its only piece of furniture other than beds was a rusted fridge that didn’t work. THIS PLACE was really nice though. A fully stocked kitchen, a lovely little heater that looked like a fireplace, flat screen TV, wifi, king sized beds… I mean, super nice. Especially considering the others.

My brother Ryan and I even had our own lodge next door to the rest of our family. After investigating the place, we decided that Ryan would get the king sized bed in the bedroom, and I would take the twin in the living area by the heater. We were both showered and ready for bed, so I kicked him away from the TV so I could get some sleep. Before he left he asked if I had checked my bed for bugs, so I threw back the covers and gave the all clear. Since we began the trip we had been checking our beds for bugs and hadn’t found any, even in the seedier places. The internet really leads you to believe that you will be battling giant spiders and centipedes to the death for bed space in Australia.

Ryan walked out and closed his bedroom door as I turned out the lights. It was pitch black, so I turned the brightness up on my kindle and used it as a flashlight to get to my bed. I jumped into bed, ready to get a fabulous night’s sleep, and threw the blankets back over me. Before I turned over to sleep, I made (what I consider to be) a life saving decision. I decided that I would check beside and behind the bed for any bugs since it was in the corner. I turned my kindle over to shine it down the side of the bed and saw the BIGGEST SPIDER I HAD EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE SPRINTING UP THE SIDE OF THE BED RIGHT AT MY FACE.

I don’t remember how I extricated myself from the covers so quickly, but it was something like a horizontal roundhouse kick out of the bed. I flew about ten feet across the room screaming, “OOOOOOH SHIT!!!”

Of course, my brother came blasting out of his room ready for battle, but all I could yell was, “SPIIIIIDER.”

We turned on the lights and I crept around the bottom of the bed to look between the bed and the wall. And there it was. It was, at least, the size of my hand splayed out. It was near the top, still between the wall and bed. I called my brother over and his eyes just got really big as he said, “That’s a spider.”

We stared for a moment as it was perfectly still and Ryan said, “Let me find a shoe or something to kill it…”

I replied, “Ok, just let me get a picture for my blog first.” <—— Not a joke, I actually said that.

Ryan rolled his eyes, but came over with a shoe as I turned around with my camera… and it was gone. Completely disappeared. I told him that I could not sleep there unless we killed that spider, so we started to shove the bed away from the wall by giving it little shoves with our feet, then jumping back a few steps. We got the bed pretty far away from the wall, but we didn’t see that gigantic spider. What we DID see was ANOTHER SPIDER clinging to the side of the bed. I took a few pictures of that one…

8 (2)

Not sure what type it was…

After that, all I could really think was that the spiders needed to die. So, I grabbed the shoe and swung at the little spider. I missed. I swung again. I missed again. It was at this point that Ryan said, “Megan, you’re not missing, it’s dodging the shoe.”

And sure enough, that spider was so fast that it was able to dodge the shoe every time! On my final swing it got smart and ran into the sheets… And that is when we noped the nope out of there.

Well, actually, it was a little more complicated than that.

We looked under and around the bed, but couldn’t find the big spider, and there was no way I was digging through the pile of sheets to find the small one. We then decided that we would share the king bed in the bedroom. Well, we checked and THERE WAS A FREAKING SPIDER THERE DO YOU HEAR ME THERE WAS A SPIDER THERE TOO!

8 (3)

Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope

We then decided that our only option was to sleep in the van we rented. But we realized a problem… The van keys were with our family next door, who were all asleep. Now, if you happen to live in a family with a small child, you know that if said child is asleep and you wake her up, you will die.

I told Ryan to pack his things while I tried to wake someone up next door. I thought that my sister was sleeping on the bed in the living area (like my bed), so to wake up my mom or stepdad, I took a flashlight and shined it into their room while flashing my hand in front of it. This did not work.

I went back to our lodge to check on Ryan and I saw ANOTHER SPIDER crawling out from under the fridge. I stomped the crap out of that spider and kept on moving. Since our bathroom was on the other side of my parents’ bedroom, I had Ryan bang on the wall while I went back outside and did some flashlight flashing. Eventually it worked and my stepdad came and opened the door.

“What’s wrong?”

“I need the van keys.”

“Why?”

“Spiders.” And I held out my hand. He rolled his eyes, gave me the keys, and went back to bed. (Side note: It turns out that my sister was in bed with my parents because HER bed had ants in it. Luckily she’s a heavy sleeper and didn’t wake up during all of this)

I ran back to our lodge, victorious, and we grabbed all of our stuff and ran out to the van. It was a pretty horrible night’s sleep because I was freezing and Ryan was cramped, but it was better than being anywhere near those monster spiders.

We were woken up by my stepdad, who took the following lovely pictures, because we needed to get ready for our second tour and trek to find a platypus.

I had two jackets on and used a third to cover my legs but I was still cold. It's not like I could get a blanket from inside.

I had two jackets on and used a third to cover my legs but I was still cold. It’s not like I could get a spider infested blanket from inside.

P1070565

So cramped and so sleepy.

Ryan and I went back to our lodge to go over it and be sure we hadn’t left anything. We grabbed a few odds and ends and on our way out, I noticed something odd. The spider I smashed was gone. The spider that I had smashed when I came in the night before was gone becAUSE SOMETHING ATE IT. The smudge was still on the floor, but the spider was completely gone. And no, it didn’t live through the squashing. I am 100% sure of this. SOMETHING ATE THE SPIDER DURING THE NIGHT. Luckily, that is where the horror ends. We made it out of the lodges without further incident.

 

The Spiders in Australia Series #6

I don't remember what spider Alan said made this, but it was gross

I don’t remember what spider Alan said made this, but it was gross

I was lucky enough to meet two people who were outrageously interesting during our trip. We traveled VERY FAR from Chillagoe and went to the rain forest region of Australia. We only had two days there, so as soon as we made it we met up with our rain forest guide, Alan. He was a hoot, and another person who knew a lot about everything.

When I mentioned my search for spiders, he was very eager to help me find some. Though it had been raining and it was difficult to find webs, we stumbled across this little picnic area that had become a spider haven.

 

This one is commonly known as a Saint Andrew's Cross spider

This one is commonly known as a Saint Andrew’s Cross spider

Alan told us little tidbits about all the spiders we saw there, and I stood on a picnic table to get pictures…

Below is a golden orb spider, and she seemed huge at the time. Alan quickly corrected me, though, telling me that she was actually quite a young and small golden orb.

6 (1)

This spider was introduced to me by our rain forest guide, Alan

I would say she was about 4-5  inches long including legs.

httpwww.allmystery.dethemenuh43048-4714 (2)

The Spiders in Australia Series #5

5 (1)

I was actually surprised at how pretty this spider was

After our night of watching the sky and finding spiders in the dark, we went on a guided tour of a cave at the same place we had been before. I believe it was called the Diana Cave.

It was a lovely cave that had a lot of interesting formations, but I didn’t see any of the spiders I hoped to. I did get a good few minutes with this oddball as soon as we left the cave, though. She was on the gate and a bit camera shy, but I got as many pictures as I could.

 

5 (2)

She would not hold still. I guess that’s why they’re called jumping spiders

 

I actually thought she was kinda cute…

 

5 (3)

Had a heck of a time keeping her still

 

The Spiders in Australia Series #4

My favorite/least favorite thing about these pictures is that it’s kind of like a creepier “Where’s Waldo” when you look for the spiders.

Wolf spider hunting

Wolf spider hunting

We were still in Chillagoe for this post. The main reason we went out to Chillagoe was to see the stars and use an observatory that they had at the place we were staying. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was remote.

The stars were absolutely gorgeous. I was actually able to see the dusting of stars that is the Milky Way. I’ve never seen stars like that before.

We had a bit of a lecture about stars, planets, etc. from a local scientist who showed us how to use the telescopes. He used a laser pointer to draw our attention to certain planets and constellations and had so many random facts about the universe. We thought he was super interesting then, but we found out he was also very knowledgeable about pretty much everything. He’s discovered several species of spiders and ants, and his “pet project” is microbiology. I could have listened to this man talk for days.

When he finished his presentation at the observatory he stuck around and answered questions that everyone had. I didn’t have any questions for him because I was too eager to use a spider finding trick my friend Stephanie taught me. She is a bit of an inspiration for this blog as I would always tell her my stories and she would be upset that they always ended with the spider dying.

 

3 (3)

Hard to get a good picture while holding a flashlight and a camera

 

The trick is fairly simple. All you need is darkness, the outdoors, and a flashlight. If you hold the flashlight up at eye level and point it at the ground, you can see spider eyes glowing back at you!!!!! Really the rule is to look straight down the flashlight beam, but holding it at eye level just makes it easier. The hardest part was seeing the actual spider once you got to the place where you saw the glowing eyes. They are so well camouflaged that it usually took me a while to spot them. It’s so neat and creepy and I loved it. Stephanie told me about it forever ago and  I immediately decided that it was something I would NEVER  try. I guess I was wrong.

While I was running around the campground finding wolf spiders everywhere, the scientist called out and asked what I was doing. I told him, and he said, “Here, let me help, I have a better flashlight for this.” He then proceeded to find about fifteen spiders, explaining all the while that these ones would be relatively small because the older, larger ones had already come out and gone back to their dens for the night.

My brother had joined the search with his own flashlight at this point, and the scientist told us some stories in addition to all the amazing facts he had stored away. He had stories about police encounters while looking for spiders in the exact way we were doing, he had stories about how people thought he had superhuman eyes because he could tell them where spiders were from really far away… Like I said, he was the most interesting person ever.

After he went home, my brother and I continued to find spiders, all about the same size as the spiders in the above pictures. Once we took some more time to stare at the sky with our mom, we all headed back to our lodge. On the way we still looked for spiders with the flashlights. About halfway there my brother said, “Oh wow, that’s a really big shiny spot over there.” We all went to investigate and found THIS monster.

3 (5)

My brother spotted this one, and he was HUGE

He was easily three times the size of the biggest spider we had seen so far. I had my brother hold up the flashlight while I took some pictures, and on the last one I accidentally used flash… When the flash went off he came shooting out of his den and scurried away, making all three of us jump back and yell. Since I was crouched I just pushed myself backwards and landed on my butt. It was hilarious.

But it was like the manager said, you find the big ones under rocks. Luckily for me I didn’t have to turn that one over.

 

This picture reminds me of Harry Potter.

 

The Spiders in Australia Series #3

 

The legs were so spindly I couldn't get a good picture

The legs were so spindly I couldn’t get a good picture

In my last post I talked about getting to a place in the middle of nowhere called Chillagoe. On our way there from the coffee plantation we went further and further into the outback. Soon we were driving through free range cattle ranch type things with these silly, droopy looking cattle all on the road and beside it.

 

Picture found at the Royal Hobart Show website (http://www.hobartshowground.com.au/show/)

Picture found at the Royal Hobart Show website (http://www.hobartshowground.com.au/show/)

 

There were signs everywhere warning drivers that the cows could and would tip your car if you weren’t careful. Which I thought was absolutely hilarious.

 

Anyway, once we got to where we were staying in Chillagoe, I knew that I would be able to find a few neat spiders there. The paperweight on the outside kitchen counter was a huge clear stone with a gigantic spider in it. It turns out it was a redback, which is the equivalent of a black widow but bigger. I found this out from the man who ran the place. When I asked about spiders he showed me the redback and said, “Oh yeah, you could find some really big ones out here if you went and turned over some rocks. You’d probably find death adders too, though, so you don’t want to do that. If one bit you, you’d be dead before you took a step.”

Needless to say, I did not go turning over rocks. We did go explore a few caves, though.

To get to the caves we had to walk up a pretty steep, rocky hill. On the way we saw several locked up caves that required a guide to enter, but we came across one you could explore on your own named, “Pompeii.” The name didn’t sound too promising, but we went anyway. It didn’t have walkways or anything, it was just a bunch of downward sloping rocks that you could climb down to the actual cave. We scared up a few bats and could hear them squeaking in places we couldn’t get to. I found the spiders in the crevices of the jagged rocks on the way down.

There were a ton of these throughout the cave

There were a ton of these throughout the cave

I don’t think I could say that they are special cave spiders because they were near the mouth of the cave and there was a small opening in the ceiling that let in light, but the second one is still really cool looking. I believe that the second one’s scientific name is Argiope ocyaloides. I didn’t get close enough or a good enough picture of the first one to try to identify it. It’s creepy as hell to me, though.