Redback Spider

After a bit of an unplanned hiatus from photography due to life events, I decided that a good way to get inspired again would be to try something a little different. Since I had a day off I had intended to test out some of the Tamron Adaptall lenses I’ve picked up recently, but the weather was kind of ugly (overcast and very windy), so instead I decided that I would do a “studio” style shoot of a redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti) I’d caught out at our local service station a couple weeks ago. I’ve been meaning to get some nice photos of a redback ever since I started shooting spiders, but I’ve never been able to find a nice sized one to shoot. Until now.

Redback spiders are quite an interesting little spider, in particular I’ve been fascinated by the way they build their webs. Typically they’ll construct a rough framework above a horizontal surface, and then string vertical lines of sticky silk from this framework and pin them onto the surface below with tension from the scaffold keeping them taught. These vertical trip lines are incredibly sticky, and are spaced in such a way that navigating between them to escape is near impossible. The silk in the trip lines is also very strong, except for right near the attachment to the lower surface. As a result, when a prey item becomes stuck to a strand, the struggles of it will often snap the silk just above ground level, and, depending on the size of the prey, the tension built into the web can lift it off the ground completely. Often the flailing prey animal will then come into contact with more of the trip lines, making escaping more difficult. I have also observed my redback deliberately touching prey with its front legs to scare them into the strands, which was a little surprising.

So, here’s the results of studio shooting a redback spider:

These were all shot on my Canon EOS 60D, with an EF 100mm 1:2.8 Macro, and an off-camera 430EXII with a Rogue Flashbender reflector/diffuser. The spider itself was in a little enclosure I picked up on clearance with removal perspex sides. Here’s an Instagram shot of the setup:

One of these days I’m looking forward to doing a video clip of her actually catching prey, but I’ve still got to practice with video a bit first.

Shannon Walters

An amateur photographer who also spends time making chainmaille and doing too many other things to mention.

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