If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.
~American Quaker Saying
Black Velvet Spider - pencil sketch and watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour Sketch-book
This black Velvet Spider has lived in the bark of an old log in my garden for approximately 2 years now and she lets me coax her out for photographic sessions every now and then. These spiders are robust and deliberate in the way that they walk and she even allows me to gently stroke her abdomen and thorax, which is covered in thick, smooth, velvety hairs.
The velvet spiders (family Eresidae) are a small group (about 100 species in 10 genera) of almost totally Old World spiders (exception: a few species are known from Brazil).
Velvet spiders are found under rocks or bark resting in a sheet of dense white silk and are often confused with baboon spiders. They can live up to 5 years. Free living but rarely leave the safety of their webs.
Description: 12mm to 15mm in length. These robust spiders colouration may be from black, grey or a rich red. Body covered with hairs which give them a velvety appearance, hence their name. The abdomen is often lighter in colour than the rest of the spider. Abdomen may have 4 dimples on the top. The eyes are close together and the mouthparts are very robust looking for a spider that size. Legs are short and strong and they are widespread throughout Southern Africa.
Web: These spiders build their webs under rocks, under loose bark. Their retreats consist of flat candy floss like dry sheets of silk. The silk is tough and has interwoven prey remains. Their nest-like webs are attached to the ground using silken anchor lines. Silken lines radiate from the entrance to their shelters. These lines are used to detect prey.
Venom: Even though these spiders can be large in size they very rarely bite. Not much is known about the affects of their venom. It is highly unlikely that this spider’s venom is of importance to humans.
Notes: Females seldom leave their webs in order to hunt. Instead, they prefer to wait for prey to wander into their webs and radiating silken lines. They prey upon tough skinned insects and other large prey items.