This story from the local paper in New Zealand, where I grew up, had me cringing. I really, really do not like large spiders. If I found one of this size in my yard, whether it was harmless or not, would probably put an end to my gardening. Shiverrrrrr!!!!
By DAN HUTCHINSON - The Press | Saturday, 28 April 2007
A large Australian spider is setting up home in New Zealand in increasing numbers.
Lorrie Griebel's Marlborough backyard is home to a golden orbweb spider – the latest found in New Zealand in recent months.
Eleven discoveries of the tropical spider have been reported to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry this year. The Marlborough spider is one of just three confirmed sightings in the South Island since 1975.
Measuring over 5cm in length, the spider was thriving on a generous diet of bumblebees and other garden insects. The spiders are known to catch small birds.
Griebel discovered "Charlotte" in the garden of her Wairau Valley home two months ago, initially a lot smaller but with what she described as freakishly long legs.
Her children, Alicia, seven, and Hayley, five, named the spider after the main character in the book Charlotte's Web. In this case the web consists of 1 sq m of strong, golden silk.
"The first thing we noticed was these strange-looking legs and my main concern was the kids running through it. I left it well alone and gave it a wide berth. I got more interested when it started to change and I thought `this is definitely not a common everyday spider'," Griebel said.
Ministry entomologist Maurice O'Donnell said the spiders were thought to migrate to New Zealand from Queensland when they were as small as dust specks, blown across the Tasman in high-altitude winds.
They had been sighted in 1975, 1989, 1990, 1995 and 1997, but this year a record number had been spotted, all but one in the North Island.
O'Donnell said the spiders' migration was not well understood but the increase in sightings was probably weather-related.
The spiders were neither aggressive nor venomous, although since they were large " it would probably be undesirable to be bitten".