Communal spider, social spider, colonial spider
Most spiders are anti-social creatures, happiest when left alone to hunt; but these spiders live in communes of up to 1500 individuals, catching prey and sharing it like lions at a kill.
These spiders are small and stripy.
They inhabit rainforests in Africa.
They feed on insects.
These spiders live and work in a huge communal web. Each web is made of a cluster of leaves and branches, held together by silk. The web is arranged in a network of horizontal sheets (the web trap) and a vertical scaffolding, which serves to knock prey onto the web trap. The webs will often extend up into the rain forest canopy, and often, groups of webs are connected to each other by scaffolding or part of the web sheet and individuals move freely between them.
The key reason for this unusual social group is that in the rain forest, webs often get destroyed by rain or the movements of large animals. By teaming together, the spiders maintain a good web, and capture large numbers of prey. All individuals share the reconstruction and prey-gathering tasks, although it is usually the smaller spiders that mend, whilst the larger spiders (generally females) deal with prey in the web. They are most actively engaged in web building and maintenance activities at night but will capture and consume prey at any hour.
When recovering prey the females literally keep in touch. Communication as to whether a single female can handle a prey item by herself is accomplished through abdomen pats transmitted through the web. Though cooperation occurs in the capture of larger prey items, fighting may be observed between individuals as to which one pulls the prey into the web retreat. Once captured the prey is shared among the members of the colony.
They breed during the dry season, when less energy is needed for repairing their webs.
They are not listed in the IUCN Red List or CITES.