Lilly Ollerenshaw, of Balclutha Primary School, asks :-

Why does a daddy spider kill himself and how does he do it?

Cor Vink, an entomologist at Canterbury Museum, responded.

Most male spiders do die after mating with a female but it is usually because they run out of food.

Once a male spider completes its final moult and becomes an adult all it is interested in doing is finding a female spider to mate with. The males of many species do not feed anymore once they become adults. Male spiders will drink water and some unusual jumping spiders from the tropics will even drink nectar from flowers.

Many people think that female spiders kill male spiders after they have mated but this is not usually the case. In fact in some species, such as Porrhothele antipodiana (the black tunnelweb spider, also known in Dunedin as the Anderson Bay spider), the male is more likely to kill the female. The American black widow spider, Latrodectus mactans, was so named because it was thought that the female ate the male once he had mated with her; however, this is not usually the case and the male usually escapes. It is thought that this misunderstanding came about because early arachnologists observed black widows in webs built inside cages, which did not give the males the chance to run off the web and escape, so they were always killed.

There are some spiders, however, in which the male is eaten by the female. Males of the redback spider, Latrodectus hasseltii, offer their abdomens to the female while they mate and she then feeds on him. The male can survive and escape partially eaten after one mating, but once he mates a second time he dies.