Trapdoor Spider: A Rare Collection of Nests, One Occupied, from Ladysmith, Natal; 1897


Origin: South African
Period: Late Nineteenth Century       
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1897
Lengths: Ranging from 2.25 inches to 7.5 inches

Comprising one spider in a small trapdoor nest, four longer and vacant nests, and three other nest sections with fourteen nest lids, and additional hand written original paper label reading; “Nest of Trapdoor Spider, Ladysmith Natal, 1897, fam. Theraphosidae, Cyrtocarenum rufidens”.

Each nest, made of soil, vegetation and silk, has its lid in tact, and the general condition of each is good. The spider specimen is firmly wedged into position in the smallest nest, and we have not tried to disturb him!

The most ancient of living spiders, the trapdoor spider can be found in warm countries such as Japan, Africa, South America and North America and is closely related to the scorpion family. The trapdoor is difficult to see when it is closed because the plant and soil materials effectively camouflage it and it is hinged on one side with silk.

The spiders, which are usually nocturnal, typically wait for prey while holding on to the underside of the door and capture insects, other arthropods, or small vertebrates when they disturb the 'trip' lines the spider lays out around its trapdoor. The spider detects the prey by vibrations and, when it comes close enough, leaps out of its burrow to make the capture. Watch a trapdoor spider in action via this video with David Attenborough:

These nests were collected just a couple of years prior to the Battle of Ladysmith which was one of the early engagements of the Second Boer War in South Africa. With the added bonus of a bona fide date, this is a very hard to find collection of fascinating natural history; truly deserving a place in any cabinet of curiosities of merit.