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The Bolas spider (Cladomelea longipes)
A Fatal Attraction?

Antonio Ariza Moreno <>
Additional information, modifications by Martin Overton

This spider looks very much like a very big and fat species of the cosmopolitan genus Araneus, if you imagine one with a bright orange abdomen sporting white lumps and grey/green stripes. This spider is a renegade in the sense that it does not spin an orb web like the rest of the species that are related to this family of spiders.

The Bolas spider is furthermore unique as it will hang upside down from a twig (using the fourth pair of legs to anchor itself and, obviously, a dragline to avoid falling and injuring itself) and hold a single thread of dry silk with one or several huge drops of sticky silk at its end (which is also attached to the dragline) with one of its first pair of legs.

I've seen this a few dozen times in many different documentaries over the years (in Germany, Spain and the UK), but what I remember most clearly about this is that this spider does something no other spider seems to do, it uses pheromones (chemical attractant / perfume of the female of a specific species of moth) to attract the male moths.

Like most spiders this is a nocturnal species. The spider only has to hang on its twig and wait, in the knowledge that many of the male moths of the particular species it mimics will fly towards her from several miles around, attracted by the pheromone.

I do not know whether this has been scientifically demonstrated (although I am almost certain it has), but it seems a very logical explanation, since there is no other way of explaining the success this species has in trapping male moths. A spider without the pheromone trap would hardly get as fat as these spiders do (and believe me, they get extremely fat) by hanging from a twig and trapping the few flying insects that come close enough to it (it only can trap insects that fly up to around 5 or 7 cm near the spider I would say).

This spider is a native of West and Eastern Africa. Size: Male to 5mm (hardly ever seen), Female to 18mm.

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