Female Palystes superciliosus, photographed by Manie in Johannesburg.

RAIN SPIDERS, Palystes spp. in the family Sparassidae.

They belong to a family of spiders distributed throughout the world, commonly called huntsman spiders, the scientific name for the family is Sparassidae. Our rain spiders are in the genus Palystes with 17 species described from South Africa. The most commonly seen in and around our homes and gardens throughout the country is Palystes superciliosus and on the Cape Peninsula the other big rain spiders is Palystes castaneus. The other species are smaller and less often seen.

Rain spider range in size from 15 - 40 mm. This measurement is body length - omitting leg span. Once they unfold their legs they can span up to around 100 mm - that's a BIG spider! It is really nice to know that they are harmless to humans.

They are nocturnal wandering hunters that live in vegetation and do not build webs. They often come indoors to hunt insects attracted to our lights at night which can cause quite a stir because of their impressive size. Rain spiders do not mature for two or three years and can live for up to four years. Males are a little slimmer than females, with smaller abdomens but longer legs. Females lay between 50 and 300 eggs in a greyish cushion-like egg sac. The sac, covered with leaves and held together with silk is hung in vegetation and guarded by the mother spider. The spiderlings emerge after about three weeks and cluster together under their mother's protection before they finally disperse.

If you would like to know more about spiders, please contact The Spider Club of Southern Africa at info@spiders.co.za