One of the more un-pleasant experiences of riding a horse in the African bushveld is the web strung by the Nephila inaurata (Red-legged nephila) spider. This large web may be strung between two trees several meters apart and some 2 meters above ground. Just the ideal height for it to wrap around an un-suspecting rider enjoying their hack. The image gives you an idea just how large this web is.

Large Spider Web - Nephila sp.The strands of silk are extremely strong (some 5 times stronger than Kevlar) and remarkably sticky. A single web will host upto 5 spiders, each female spider is up to 40mm long with a leg span of up to 120mm. The male is substantially smaller with a leg span of only 25mm. Their regular prey is insects but the size of the web means that small birds have been seen to have been caught but there is no evidence that these are subsequently consumed. The species are not poisonous.

Nephila spNow - a horse will go beneath the web, but the rider will not and an un-suspecting or less vigilant rider will suddenly find himself engulfed in a very strong, sticky mass very quickly and possibly get pulled over the back of the horse. Fortunately, the webs are quite distinctive being yellow in colour and very large. They do seem to prefer Acacia species to string their webs between and are relatively easy to avoid.

Get stuck in one and you know all about it and will keep a wary eye out in the future. Knowing there are likely to be more than one spider lurking in the web is daunting.

I will admit to neglecting to advise a friend when I did see a web and she consequently rode into it. She was made of stern stuff and did not bat a eyelid so my whole nefarious scheme to see a screaming girl fell flat.

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