August 29th, 2006
Yesterday, while checking the garden for insect and spider activity, I spotted this pair of mating Funnel Web spiders (Agelenopsis sp.) on one of the rugosa rose bushes. The male is the smaller spider that is resting atop the much larger female. All that you can see of her is the abdomen and the spinnerets which extend well beyond its tip. The spinnerets are where silk is released when a spider is spinning its web.
In this case, you can distinguish the male from the female as he is quite a bit smaller, but also because he has enlarged pedipalps — the short, curved pair of appendages that are positioned between the front pair of legs and the jaws of the spider (click on both of these images for larger views). While the pedipalps of the female are usually thin and of the same diameter along their length, on most species of spiders, the males have pedipalps that appear to have swollen ends, rather like they’re wearing mittens. I believe that should be visible in the top photo.
When mating, the male spider uses the tips of this pedipalps to deposit semen on the female’s genital area which is on the underside of her abdomen. In order to avoid being eaten by the female, he will ususally attempt to mate by staying atop the female’s back.
Funnel Web Spiders (Family Agelenidae) are recognized by the type of webs that they build — a sheet of silk with a funnel or tube-shaped retreat where the spider hides while waiting for prey to wander near. Last summer, I photographed a particularly nice funnel web and spider on another of the rugosa rose bushes in the garden. Here’s a post and photos that I wrote about that spider.