Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Spiders And Shongololos

When I was in the north last year in November, the first rains of the season fell and these shiny velvet Christmas 'Spiders' appeared.

I don't know where the name comes from - maybe it's because they look like little red-suited Santas ... I'm not sure that they're true spiders either, I only count six legs and two 'feelers'.

There were also thousands of Millipedes, commonly known as the 'Shongololo' - (try say that out loud, it's not so hard ... shon-go-lo-lo).

The common variety of Shongololo, shown in the pic below with a Christmas Spider, is about 7cm long:

I also saw the rarer Giant African Millipede - Archispirostreptus gigas - and managed to get a pic with it's 'normal' cousin for a size comparison:

This specimen was probably about 25cm long:

I don't know whether either Christmas Spiders or Shongololos are eaten by predators but, while the Christmas Spiders look delicious in their shiny velvet suits, the Shongololos look positively unappetizing ... I'm not about to try and find out either ... :)

Related Posts:
Some Bugs In My World
More Things That Bug Me



  1. Fascinating. The "christmas spider" looks like a giant mite or tick. What do they eat, I wonder?

  2. Hi lgsquirrel - I think you're right in that it might be a mite ... I'm guessing but I think they probably feed on decaying vegetable matter ...

    ... best wishes for the New Year ...

  3. wow..the spider is beautiful, as for the Shongololo..I think I'd scream if I came across one on the back porch..that size

    Happy New south africans drink alot on the last eve ?

  4. Hey Monica - yeah, the spiders are gorgeous especially when the sun shines on them, they look like velvet ... shongololos are harmless, despite their appearance ...

    ... yeah, there's a lot of partying on New Years eve ... and a lot of drinking ... as a rule, I don't touch alcohol, so I won't be joining in any festivities ...

    Best wishes for the new year to you - may it be filled with good things :)

  5. Graham I am more than happy with Shongololos, but the spiders you can keep, I have never been a fan. As for predators, I am certainly not one LOL. I have tried flying ants, although the idea did not appeal they were cooked and tasted like crunchy nuts. I still have Mopani worms to sample! Have a food New year. Diane

  6. Think I said have a food New Year, saw it just as I pressed publish HeHe, meant to be good but maybe food is not a bad idea :) Diane

  7. I'm certainly not a fan of real spiders either Diane - I'd rather deal with snakes anytime ...

    Yeah, I've eaten flying ants and Mopani worms but to be blunt ... I think they taste like sh*t ... if I was starving though, I wouldn't care about the taste ...:)

    A food year's good too ... I could do with picking up a bit of weight ...

    Here's wishing you and Nigel a great 2010

  8. Aargh - I'm trying to be brave but can't help instinctively looking at these pictures through the chinks in my fingers... A typical pathetic female reaction, I know.

    On a long visit to South Africa in 1984-5 I was bitten (stung?) by a scorpion while staying in a rondavel in Kruger Park (I wince to remember I padded around the room barefoot!). The numbness progressed up my leg over the next 10 minutes or so while my parents scrambled to get me up to the rangers and my (even more pathetic, now ex) husband stood on the bed. I'm afraid I thought I'd had it, until a ranger up at the main camp shook me, asked me what the colour of the scorpion was, and when I said brown, told me to calm down, I wasn't going to die... and that the best thing I could have done was pee on my foot to take the pain away... I had a high temperature for 12 hours, and it took about two whole weeks for the discomfort to go.

    I'm rambling again - the little red creature is fascinating, but if David Attemborough was showing it on the telly I'd still be watching it from behind the sofa.

    Happy New Year, whether wet or dry!

  9. Hehe Caroline - thanks for your comment and sharing your scorpion memory - the mental image of your ex hiding on the bed made me laugh out loud - I've also been stung by a scorpion but, luckily, a mildly venomous one ...

    thanks for your new year's greeting - here's wishing you a great New Year too ...

  10. Beautiful photos as always. Isn't nature so wildly beautiful? It seems there is never an end to the things we could see and learn so thanks for sharing these photos with us.

    The photo of the shongololo reminds me of some candy the children eat here. The candy is rubbery and sweet. My guess is that a shongololo tastes nothing like the candy, lol.

    Have a Happy New Year!

  11. Thanks Penny - having seen what Shongololos look like when they're squashed I'd rather not speculate as to what they taste like - to me, the most beautiful aspect of these creatures is the way that their legs move in waves ... all completely synchronized ...

    Best wishes for the new year to you too.

  12. I've never seen a Christmas spider, Graham. And never seen such giant Shongololo. We don't get them here in the Free State. Have a wonderful and prosperous New Year. Greetings from Jo

  13. Thanks for your greeting Jo - I've only seen the Christmas spiders near Tsumeb in northern Nam - and the giant shongolos are not very common ...

    Best wishes for the New Year to you and your loved ones.

  14. there is no reason anything needs that many legs. Are they not poisonous? The red spider or whatever is very interesting.

  15. Hehe good point lisleman ... it's a good thing they don't wear shoes - they're not poisonous but, when touched, they roll up into a spiral and sometimes excrete a foul liquid ...

  16. Happy 2011 to you and Africa...we have chiggers in the USA that are a type of mite (and look very much like the christmas spider) that burrow into the skin and cause intense itching for weeks on end! Check this URL for chigger pics: I always thought Shongololos were interesting too, the way they walk and curl up when provoked!

  17. A foot long millipede? That's tonights nightmares booked.

    Happy 2011 to one and all...

  18. Hi Theanne - thank you for your greeting ...

    ... wow! ... the chigger pic you referred me to looks almost exactly like our Christmas Spider but I've never known ours to bite ... thanks for that ...

    Best wishes to you for 2011

  19. Hehe Dave ... yeah, they're kind of scary the first time you encounter one ...

    In Afrikaans they're called 'Duisendpoot' - thousand feet ...

    Best wishes to you and Hazel for 2011 - and thanks for your continued visits and comments this last year.

  20. Wow, they are really wearing Santa's suit. And the millipede is a handsome creature. I really think so. The ones we got at home are a little red and smaller. They are kulum-kulum. Can you do it, ku-lum-ku-lum.

    Happy New Year my friend.

  21. Sure, I can say kulum-kulum - rolls off the tongue like shongololo ... :)

    Thank you Fazlisa - a Happy New Year to you too ...

  22. I have a gazillion of the songololos at the moment - the giant ones. In a month or so they start mating then all you see is songololo porn all over the place! I have not seen any red spiders like that before - it's beautiful.

  23. Thanks for the visits and comments slowvelder - the Giant shongololos are not very common here and the Christmas spiders aren't that common either ...

  24. An English friend was visiting us in Durban, and said to me, "There's a ballpoint pen with legs on walking across the floor."

  25. Hehe Steve - that's a good description - best wishes for the new year to you.