Slater spider. Photographed by Norm Heke. 2001, Te Papa

Slater spider 

Dysdera crocata

What do they look like?

The body is about one to one-and-a-half centimetres long (excluding the legs). The cephalothorax (the fused head and thorax) and legs are red-orange and the abdomen is cream to pale coffee-coloured. These spiders only have six eyes rather than the usual eight. The chelicerae (the structures that bear the fangs) project forward and are quite large relative to the size of the spider.

Where are they found?

These spiders originate in Europe but are now common throughout much of the world. They may be found throughout New Zealand and are common in suburban gardens.

What are their habits?

While this spider is capable of capturing other prey, it has earned its common name because of accounts documenting its feeding on the common slater (also known as the common woodlouse), Porcellio scaber. It doesn't build a web to capture its prey. Rather, it seizes its victim in its very large chelicerae.

What is their bite like?

With its large fangs, this species is capable of delivering a sharp bite. Symptoms include local swelling and pain. However, bites are rare, and only a handful of bites by this species have been recorded from New Zealand even though these spiders are very common.

On display at Te Papa?

NatureSpace has a resin embedded specimen available for viewing on request.