Tiger Spider: Habitat and Characteristics

The females of this species usually feed on the males who try to fertilize them, which means that the reproductive success of their suitors is very low.
Tiger Spider: Habitat and Characteristics

Last update: 06 August, 2021

The tiger spider is an arachnid characterized by its colors and striped pattern. In addition, although its size classifies it within the largest true spiders that exist, the venom it produces doesn’t represent a health risk. These invertebrates are often excellent builders, as their cobwebs feature distinctive species “decorations.”

The scientific name of this spider is Argiope bruennichi and it belongs to the Araneidae family, a group of spiders that spin webs in an orbital way. Learn more about this colorful spider in the following lines.

Tiger spider habitat

This spider is distributed throughout the Palearctic region, which includes parts of Europe, Africa, North Asia and Russia. The tiger spider was originally found only in southern Europe. However, for unknown reasons, it was able to adapt to new climates and environments. One of the most accepted hypotheses is that this invertebrate hybridized, causing its success in nature to increase.

Its habitat is made up of grasslands with small vegetation, since, although it uses some plants to form its networks, its size can harm them. In fact, in an article published by the scientific journal Basic and Applied Ecology, it was found that this organism was closely associated with the presence of hollyhocks. These herbaceous plants seem to attract prey, making their life easier.

A tiger spider on a white background.

Characteristics of the tiger spider

These spiders are among the largest true arachnids that exist, reaching 15 millimeters in length. Their bodies are divided into two areas: an upper area or prosoma and an abdomen or opisthosoma. This body segmentation is typical of the arachnid group in general.

The prosoma is the region that contains the eyes, the mouth, and the 6 pairs of appendages: a pair of chelicerae, a pair of pedipalps, and 4 pairs of motor legs. On the other hand, the abdomen is made up mostly of the reproductive organs and the glands which produce the cobwebs.

The most representative colors are exhibited by the female; it has an abdomen with patterns that alternate dark, white and yellow lines. In addition, its limbs appear to form a kind of “X”, with two pairs facing forward and two backwards, exhibiting bands or rings along each leg.

This coloring pattern is similar to that of tigers or bees, hence the common name of the species.

In contrast, the males are less showy and smaller, barely 5 millimeters long. They exhibit quite dull and unison colorations, which are barely perceptible to the human eye.

The behavior of tiger spiders

Tiger spiders are nocturnal, and they’re able to weave their web in just one hour. The web they form is an orbital type, decorated with small zig zag shapes right in the middle, something known as a stabiliment. The latter seems to be a warning for birds and larger animals, as it means that they’re more like to avoid the spider web and not destroy it.

When this predator detects or “feels” that prey has hit the web, it moves quickly to immobilize it in a silk wrap, using its paralyzing bite. The way these spiders feed is simple: they inject a paralyzing toxin or poison that, in conjunction with digestive enzymes, disintegrates the victim.

Although it sounds strange, males usually live in the shadow of the female, so they build their webs right next to her. This helps them to protect themselves, in addition to waiting for the right moment to be able to mate. In fact, the female is too aggressive, so this tactic can cost them their lives. Viewed another way, it’s a double-edged strategy.

Tiger spider bite

This invertebrate is not of medical significance, which means that its venom isn’t lethal to humans. In fact, despite its appearance, the most it can cause is severe irritation or inflammation, with mild pain. Most spiders will only attack for defense or when they’re with their young. This means that if they’re not disturbed, there should be no risk.

The way to deal with a bite of this species is to clean the wound and use cold compresses to reduce inflammation. Although most cases won’t require medical assistance, there is the possibility of an allergic reaction or secondary infection that can compromise health.

The pain usually subsides in less than a day, so if the discomfort persists, seek professional attention.

Feeding

This spider makes up its diet of various invertebrates, such as orthoptera, bees, wasps or Diptera. Since most of their prey are made up of pollinators, the vegetation in their environment plays an important role. In addition, it uses an external digestion process, with which it liquefies its victim and then sips it as if it were a drink.

Reproduction of the tiger spider

In order to mate, the male is in a real dilemma, since his life is at stake. This process takes place just after the female exoskeleton molts, since at that time her chelicerae, or fangs, aren’t hardened. In this way, her suitor can get close enough to copulate and end up fertilizing the female.

What’s more, because the female can mate with more than one male, the latter has an ace up his sleeve to avoid it. During intercourse, its genitals have a bulge that can break off to take on the function of a plug. Thanks to this, he ensures that he’ll be the only father of the 200 or 300 eggs that the new mother lays.

Current situation

Fortunately, this species isn’t in any risk category. On the contrary, it can often be considered an invasive organism, as it has colonized many different environments in a relatively short time period.

Despite this, its role within nature is important, as it regulates the populations of many species of invertebrates. Also, while it’s true that it is a small animal, it’s still an essential part of an ecosystem’s balance. Arachnids are excellent insect pest biocontrollers, so don’t kill them!

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  • Schneider, J. M., Fromhage, L., & Uhl, G. (2005). Extremely short copulations do not affect hatching success in Argiope bruennichi (Araneae, Araneidae). The Journal of Arachnology33(3), 663-669.
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