An unusual spider that fishes for its food is found on the small islands of the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia.

Sometimes known as “queen of spinners” or “the magnificent spider,” this pretty, spotted spider is cream-colored and about three-fourths of an inch long. However, it would be difficult to find if it were not for its large cocoon, which is three to four inches long and about an inch in diameter. The cocoon hangs from a leaf or little tree branch. Inside it is a smaller cocoon where the eggs are laid. Between the two cocoons is a layer of fibers that serves as a perfect cushion.

About three months after the fishing spider’s eggs are laid, the little spiderlings hatch out and bore their way through both cocoons and the fiber cushion. Once outside, they spin their own threads, and away they go on the wind, looking like hundreds of tiny parachutes!

To obtain food, the fishing spider goes out at night and spins a thread between two branches of a tree. It hangs from this thread and lets down another thread that is fine but strong. At the end of this second thread, or “fishing line,” is a globule of sticky matter, with one or two smaller globules farther up. The spider holds this line by its front legs, then waits and watches. When a moth files by, the spider starts frantically waving its line. The moth, thinking it sees fresh food, rushes at the sticky globule and is caught fast. The spider’s odor may also attract the moth.

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney