The Tunnelweb Spider
Story circa December 15th, 2003 | Back to Blog Listing
I had an encounter with a New Zealand Tunnelweb Spider. To anyone who knows me, it's a well known fact that I am more or less terrified by most anything of the arachnid variety. It's entirely an irrational fear, this I know, but I can't seem to get over it for whatever reason. Thankfully, I think spiders are about the only things that I am afraid of.

Of course I also think most anyone would be afraid of a tunnelweb.

The Tunnelweb

A tossed a quarter next to the spider to give it some perspective
The other day while still living in my flat in Dunedin, I strolled into my bathroom (or toilet) for a quick pee break. So far there was nothing unusual about this sudden urge to urinate. I began peeing and as I looked down to my left, just near the upright shower, was a GIANT New Zealand Tunnelweb spider. Now that I was in a state of complete terror, not to mention mid-stream, instinct kicked in and I immediately stopped my flow and jumped about 6 feet to my left far, far out of harms way.

Once I calmed down a bit, I ran to get my camera and though I usually get pretty close to the subject in my nature pics, I kept my distance for this one. These were zoom lens all the way. I tossed an American Quarter on the ground near the spider to give it some perspective. FYI: an American Quarter is just under an inch in diameter. This spider clearly spawned about 2.25 of them.

A Peaceful Spider?

Is there such a thing? Though the Tunnelweb is about the size of a Tarantula, like the Tarantula, it is not poisonous. Don't confuse it's name with the Australian Funnelweb spider. The Funnelweb, on the other hand, is quite deadly. Also like our Tarantula, however, this spider can inflict a very painful bite if provoked to do so. If you look between the small front two legs, you can see the very large black fangs touching the ground below.

After this whole encounter (with death itself), I did a bunch of research on the particular spider. Though I had seen them around outside, I had not seen one in my bathroom, but that is apparently somewhat normal. As I read, every so often a Tunnelweb spider will find his way into a house and when it does, it becomes severely dehydrated (usually to the point of death). The spider will immediately seek out a source of water with it's sensing tools and this usually lands it either in the bathroom or the laundry room. Apparently sometimes they are able to sustain themselves for awhile in the bathroom as they can live off of the leftover humidity from showers, and drops of water on the floor. Usually though, they wither and die pretty quickly. This one was obviously somewhat resourceful.