Students narrowly escape spider the size of Africa

Selenopidae – flattie or wall crab spider (Brian Gratwicke | CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)

Recently, our class enjoyed a relaxing weekend in the Ssese Islands of Kalangala on Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. The islands were as breathtaking as you might imagine any secluded island to be. But there was one discovery that left us breathless in a less-than-pleasant way.

There are really big spiders in Africa.

Before we boarded our ferry, we stopped at the Entebbe Botanic Gardens, where our highly educated guide pointed out a couple of uncomfortably large arachnids: a leopard spider and a dragon spider.

We were reassured that, despite their size, the leggy creatures were completely harmless to humans. But a spider a few of us encountered on the island was not part of the safe, guided garden tour.

After dinner on our first evening, some students walked back to their cabin only to see a very African-sized spider on the wall of the room.

Their natural reaction was to freeze and brainstorm plans of attack, which were limited to catching or smashing the spider, or abandoning the room altogether.

After an attempt to sneak pass the intruder, which resulted in an alarmingly quick sideways scurry from the spider and a chorus of ear-splitting screams from the students, the occupants grabbed their belongings and retreated to their classmates’ room, with four students sharing one full-sized bed.

Research the following day concluded that the visitor was appropriately named the “wall crab spider.” Although large and long-limbed, this spider is common and is harmless to humans. It is a part of the larger crab spider family, due to the sideways movements we were “privileged” to experience firsthand.

Wall crab spiders are reported to be incredibly agile, which would have made the previous catching strategy difficult, not to mention terrifying. They also are supposed to have highly effective camouflage.

From firsthand reporting experience, we concluded wall crab spiders are not difficult to see at all.