The Huntsman spider
Just the other day on my walk from Manly to the Spit Bridge I was marvelling at the wonders of Australian spiders. When sitting there in their own habitat, at a reasonable distance, I find them fascinating - especially the large ones that live over here. However last night the situation was reversed as one of them came into my habitat to look at me. I turned on the light of my room, and sitting there on the opposite wall was the biggest spider I've ever seen. It was a Huntsman, about the size of my hand, with a grey/brown body and eight splayed legs each the thickness of a pencil. I kid you not.
What is it about spiders? What is it about them that makes people scared? The fangs? The webs? The legs? They do have a sinister quality about them, as if any moment they will spring at you and start biting. Huntsmen are certainly fast and agile - and their characteristic crab-like shape has a latent threat to it. But the one on my wall was content to quietly sit there and watch me whimper as I blundered into the numerous small webs it had been busy hanging from my ceiling.
I wish I could say I conquered my fear - which until I saw my visitor wasn't as big as I had thought - but I didn't. With a broom for protection I quickly took a couple of pictures (thank heavens for zoom lenses) and meekly woke my flatmate Gerard to dispose of it. With the typical Australian attitude of someone used to dealing with massive slavering insects, he cheerfully plonked a large jug over it and scooped it out of the door. Hunstmen are not dangerous to humans - in fact they eat cockroaches and poisonous spiders - but if you get surprised by one at night you certainly know about it. Thankfully they don't hunt in packs, and after checking every corner of my bed (and underneath), I eventually managed to get to sleep...