Motueka woman opens the trapdoor on spider hangout

One of the trapdoor spiders unearthed by Helen Morgan at her Motueka property.
Elise Vollweiler/ STUFF

One of the trapdoor spiders unearthed by Helen Morgan at her Motueka property.

Crawly? Yes. Creepy?  Well, that's a matter of opinion.

Helen Morgan was a few weeks into the overhaul of her Motueka garden when she began to unearth a clutter of resident arachnids.

The 62-year-old was steadily converting a patch of overgrown wildness back into lawn and defined garden beds at her rental property at the northern end of High Street.

At first, she noticed only a few spiders, but as she started digging more vigorously, "they just came out of the woodwork".

Morgan counted more than 20 trapdoor spiders, and clarified that while she wasn't frightened of spiders in general, she was a little wary of trapdoors and their fangs. 

However, she worked around her eight-legged lodgers as best she could, and was happy to have them stay in the garden.

"I put them on the spade and plonked them somewhere else," she said, urging other people to treat them with the same courtesy.

"If you do find one, just put it somewhere else in the garden. Don't kill them, because they've all got a part in our environment."

Meanwhile, her 26-year-old son, Devon Phipps, has decided to adopt one  - "she's a big mumma" - as a pet.

Te Papa spider expert Dr Phil Sirvid agreed that they would probably make good pets if kept in a terrarium, with an opportunity to dig their characteristic silk-lined tunnel.

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He said that although trapdoors were not aggressive towards humans, "they are large, and if they did decide to bite, you would definitely feel it".

The spiders are more visible at the moment, because in spring and autumn the males roam about looking for a mate. If they accidentally wander indoors, they should just be gently removed using a glass and a piece of cardboard.

If their habitat needed to be disrupted, he suggested moving them with their burrows if possible, although he warned that these could go quite deep into the earth.  

The trapdoor is one of New Zealand's biggest spiders -Sirvid confirmed that their bodies can grow to more than 3cm in length.

They can live for more than 20 years, with most species found in the South Island.

 - Stuff

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