Buggin with Bridgey – May 2024

Buggin with Bridgey is a Monthly report of sightings from the Let’s Go Buggin Cairns Nature & Photography Tour in the Cairns Botanical Gardens.  As the months roll by, subtle changes in the seasons bring sightings of new creatures and this report aims to give people a wrap up of the current animals seen as well as provide an ongoing citizen science account of our wonderful critters that can be seen in the Wet Tropics of Queensland.

Huntsman Spiders in the Cairns Botanical Gardens

and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.

Grey Banded Huntsman Spider

Grey Huntsman Spider (Holconia immanis)

Known for their impressive size and agility, these spiders evoke a mix of awe and apprehension. However, beneath their intimidating exterior lies a creature that plays a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance of this vibrant ecosystem.

In this blog, we will embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of the Huntsman spiders that call the Cairns Botanic Gardens home. We will delve into their unique behaviors, habitats, and the vital functions they perform within this tropical paradise.  These gangly giants are the rockstars of the arachnid universe, known for their impressive size and their tendency to pop up in the most unexpected places.  They’re the silent guardians, the watchful protectors, and the pest control experts that keep the balance in this green paradise.  Whether you are an arachnid enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply curious about these intriguing creatures, join us as we explore the captivating world of Huntsman Spiders.

Jungle Huntsman Spider

99% of the Huntsman Spiders seen on Let’s Go Buggin Night Walks are these brown spotted Huntsmans.  Unfortunately, the spider expert’s will not confirm an ID and an identification of these fighters as they can’t see the underside. However, I believe they’re the same species, or at least very closely related to the Jungle Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda jugulans).  We will see upwards of 50 or more on any given night walk. They are docile and will often hang on tree trunks, quite low, allowing me to get a nice simple Focus Stack to demonstrate the capability of the OM1 to night walk participants.

Jungle Huntsman

Most likely Jungle Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda jugulans)

Grey Huntsman Spider (Holconia immanis)

I have a soft spot for this species.   Thanks the Henrietta the Huntsman who in the first year of Let’s Go Buggin Night Walks became a regular sighting on a very large tree on our route through the Cairns Botanic Gardens.   The Grey Huntsman Spider is a large species, reaching almost ‘dinner plate’ size of 16cm.  They have a flat body, allowing them to shelter in loose bark on tree trunks.

Grey Huntsman Spider

Grey Huntsman Spider (Holconia immanis)

Fireback Huntsman Spider (Beregama cordata)

Probably the most impressive of all of the Huntsman spiders that we see is the Fireback Huntsman Spider.  Mostly they are a bright orange, however occasionally there is a brown colour morph as well. I’ve had a number of resident Fireback Huntsman Spiders in the Cairns Botanic Gardens over the years.  They are always a standout for participants as they have mostly never heard of, or seen this species. The lightning bolt down their abdomen is a beautiful design feature to point out to those interested.

Fireback Huntsman Spider

Fireback Huntsman Spider (Beregama cordata)

Australian Lichen Spider (Pandercetes gracilis)

Arguably some of the best camouflage in the rainforest goes to the Australian Lichen Huntsman Spider that we regularly see in the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Only a trained eye can see this species during the day but on the Let’s Go Buggin Night Walks eye-shine definitely helps us spot them. These are very common but seldom seen.   Their super flat bodies and abundant long fine hairs around its body and legs help it blend completely into a tree trunk.

Various individual Australian Lichen Spider (Pandercetes gracilis) showing their ability to blend and camouflage themselves on tree trunks

Northern Badge Huntsman (Neosparassus salacius)

Certainly one of the rarer species in my experience, so it’s always really nice to see them. Northern Badge Huntsmans are very graceful looking.  When you compare them to other huntsman spiders, you could say they are quite elegant.   They are named for their very distinct badge or shield formation on the underside of their abdomen.

Northern Badge Huntsman

Northern Badge Huntsman (Neosparassus salacius)

Undescribed ‘Sunburst’ Huntsman Spider

The Sunburst Huntsman is a beautiful Undescribed Huntsman Spider species.  I’ve seen them a couple of times at one of my goto photography spots in Cairns.   Another elegant looking species in my opinion, with beautiful ‘golden-hour’ or sunset hues and distinct spots on their orange abdomen.  They are very docile and a treat to photograph.  Aren’t they stunning?!

Undescribed 'Sunburst' Huntsman

Undescribed ‘Sunburst’ Huntsman Spider

Undescribed species in Speewah

Spider taxonomists are in a little bit of a tizz over this Undescribed Huntsman Spider species I found in a Speewah rainforest. This was the first and only sighting for me. A very small huntsman, about the size of a 20c piece.  (2.5cm or 1 inch).    Pretty cute I reckon with its trapezoid shaped abdomen.  This individual seems to be a male with those fat pedipalps in front of his face.

Undescribed Huntsman Spider in Speewah, Queensland

Huntsman Spider Behaviour

Over the years I’ve witnessed some incredible behaviours of Huntsman predation.  These two are just a small sample of observations.  Firstly, this Jungle Huntsman (probably)  having a very large meal of a skink.  This surprising encounter was witnessed by lucky participants that night, and I know there are a few people who have a very similar photo.  Huntsman Spiders are not beyond cannibalism as this second photo shows.  I’ve witnessed it in both the Jungle Huntsman and also the Grey Huntsman.

Jungle Huntsman (probably) with Skink, Jungle Huntsman (probably) cannibalism.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the examples of the Huntsman Spiders in the Cairns Botanical Gardens and the Wet Tropics of Queensland. If you would like to take a deeper dive into some other encounters you can check out my Let’s Go Buggin Project on iNaturalist here.

Keen for a Let’s Go Buggin Tour? Use ‘BRIDGEYBLOG’ as the coupon code for 15% discount on your tour booking here.

Next Blog in late June.

🕷 📸 💚

Bridgette

Bridgette uses a variety of Olympus OM SYSTEM Cameras and Lenses