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Is it true that female spiders bite and male spiders dont bite? How can you tell the difference between a male spider and a female spider?

It is not true - All spiders can bite, both male and female, but not all are large enough to cause harm, and some species are hardly venomous at all.

In a number of species though, the female spider is much larger than the male - perhaps because she needs the extra food to produce all the eggs. A good example is the American black widow - and its close cousin called the REDBACK SPIDER in Australia. In both the male is a tiny, insignificant thing, rarely much bigger than the head of a match. The female on the other hand can have an abdomen as large as 12mm (half an inch) and can be very dangerous to young people and the old or frail. A strong fit adult will usually get sick, but rarely dies these days.

And the only sure way to tell the difference between a male and a female spider is to refer to an identification chart, and even then it can be difficult in some species. I would keep well away from any spider I wasn't sure about, but at the same time treat them with respect. Without spiders we would very soon all be up to our ankles in flies and other insects. Spiders are very important in keeping insect numbers under control.

Nigel Skelton

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