In the forests of Singapore lives a spider that must be an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare. Most species are solitary hunters subdue their prey with venomous fangs, sticky silken webs or a combination of the two. But Scytodes uses a third trick – it spits a sticky, venomous fluid from its fangs that both traps its victims and poisons them (see video of related species). And it does this in packs – after hatching, spiderlings spend their early lives on their home web and they spit at, bite and devour prey en masse.
There are actually about 200 species of spitting spiders belonging to the genus Scytodes, and the specific species I’m talking about here was previously classified as Scytodes pallida. But Laura Yap, a student from the National University of Singapore, believes that it may be a new species entirely. For the moment, she refers to it simply as “Scytodes sp“, and she has provided the first thorough description of its behaviour.
But Scytodes also has a tender side, with mothers caring for their spiderlings before and after hatching. By collecting colonies throughout Singapore, Yap found that the vast majority consisted of either single adults or a mother and her young brood. After laying her eggs in a silken case, the mother carries them around in two of her limbs until they hatch (see below). That process depends on her, for the babies can’t break out of the tough egg sac unless he makes a cut in it first. Once they’ve emerged, they stay with her for several weeks, and finally leave the web just before they mature.