‘You Know Nothing, Jon Spider.’

(Supremely dorky title.  Forgive me.  Or don’t.)

We know nothing about spiders.

Okay fine. It’s only me.

I know nothing about spiders. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’m a nature guide. It’s how I roll. Or it should be how I roll.

Some people know a great deal about spiders, but as it turns out. I am not one of them. I don’t like being bad at things. I don’t like learning that I’m bad at things. If there’s a skill I don’t have, I hack at it with everything I’ve got until something sparks. But these past few weeks, I have learned that I have zero ability to identify spiders, no matter how hard I try. What gives?

Even with the best spider resources at my disposal, I’ve been failing to identify any of the spiders I’ve seen on safari recently. There’s a growing collection of spider photos in my collection that remain totally nameless. Birds, reef fishes, flowers, butterflies… I figure that stuff out. Spiders? No. Not going to happen.

I suppose I have my excuses. There are more than 2020 different species of spider in South Africa. And each year, we (and by ‘we’ I mean other people) discover at least another 30 new ones. There are probably thousands more to be found. Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I’m just finding all of those ones? Not likely.

I know a few spiders. I know that jumping spiders have some of the cutest multi-eyed faces in nature and I can identify many of the orb web spiders and all of the ‘medically important ones.’ Did you know that of our 2000+ spider species, only six even have the potential to hurt you in some way? Six. So you can stop worrying. Or not. Because violin, sac and button spiders are in that ‘Big 6’ and they’re in your house. Right now. I promise. And yet, they leave you alone. You probably didn’t even know they were there (until now, sorry).

So while I’ve been banging my head on the wall and staying up until midnight trying and failing to identify spiders, I’ve been falling wildly in love at the same time. I love their diversity, even though it drives me to madness. I love that they don’t make it easy for me. I love that they’re teaching me something new or nothing at all.

This blog post then, is a somewhat pointless photographic tribute to the spiders I’ve seen over these past couple of weeks. The spiders I love. The ones I love because I can actually identify them, and the ones I love because they’re beautiful and they confuse the heck out of me and they’ll be mysteries forever. Because I give up.

I’m also treasuring these spiders while they last. Many of the spiders below are literally on their last legs. Most only live for a year and once their egg sacs are carefully laid, they check out. Forever. Exceptions being some of the mygalomorphs (ground dwellers) who can stay with us for nearly twenty years. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those.

So anyway, here they are in all their beauty… my greatest spiders of 2016.


what is this? no . darn. clue. that spot on the side should be diagnostic, right? it’s not.


this one landed on my car’s dashboard after I accidentally drove through its web. what is it? nope.


facebook thinks this is a type of huntsman spider. i may or may not agree.


on my bedroom wall. i’m confident it’s a jumping spider. but there are more than 240 species of jumping spider here. see how hard this is?


this one i know. and love. she’s a brown button spider and as of today she’s lovingly protecting five egg sacs.


i know this one too. she’s a common garden orb web spider. big and intimidating, but totally harmless.


red legged nephula who lives at the lodge.


this one is lovely. flowers are all infested with spiders if you look hard enough.


and finally, ive learned that having a big fancy spider book is just like having a big fancy camera. you really need to know how to use it…

So that’s that. Let me know if you know any of these spiders. I am here to be enlightened.

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