Man eating spiders in Japan
April 1, 2010
On a trip to Miyazaki, Japan, there were only two animals in sight: giant crows and these large spiders. A lot of them were perched at human head level on webs 2 feet tall and 5-6 feet wide between trees in a sparse forest. Poking at a web, I was frightened by both the strength of the thread and the ferocity of the spider suddenly running at me. I know the pictures aren’t great, but you can see the shape of the abdomen and the stripes on the legs. Including legs, perched on the web, you’re looking at about a 5 inch diameter, give or take.
Golden Silk Spiders in the genus Nephila, like the one in your photo, are large and scary, but they pose no threat to humans. As you observed, the webs are extremely strong, and the silk is golden in color. Golden Silk Spiders have been known to snare small birds in their webs, and the birds are eaten with the same relish the spider exhibits with a fly. The female Golden Silk Spider can reach 100 times the mass of her diminutive mate. Male Golden Silk Spiders often occupy the same web as the female. Your photo appears to document just such a pair. We believe your spider is Nephila clavata, or joro-gumo in Japan, according to the cyberoz website.