A Surprise in the Orchard


It was a crisp November morning when a citrus farmer, Li Wenhua stepped into his orchard preparing for a long day’s work ahead. Living outside of the Chengdu province in Southwest China, Wenhua could have never expected the strange turn his day would take.

It was supposed to be a routine work day, but what he got was so much more…

A Prevalent Farmer in China

Image: Moersuo

Li Wenhua was just your typical Chinese farmer with one of the most popular surnames in China that is shared with over 100 million people across the globe. Charting back all the way to the Tang Dynasty, Li, unfortunately, had no claim to the royal bloodline. Therefore, he spent his days toiling away on his citrus farm.

The Struggles of Citrus Farming

Image: Health Benefits Times

It was a rough time for citrus farmers in China that season. The orchards across the country had been plagued by greening disease, which had drastically reduced the expected yields for the season. On that morning, Li was inspecting his trees, hoping they were healthy and showing no signs of sickness.

However, he was about to find something else…and let’s just say it is quite unexpected.

The Garden of Chengdu

Image: BenBen

Living in Pujiang County, also known as “the garden of Chengdu,” Li was not overly concerned with his trees succumbing to greening disease. The area was known for its fertile ecosystem, with over 50% of the land being covered in trees. However, the farmer had to be cautious, especially due to the fact that one bad crop could be disastrous to his livelihood.

Living in Poverty

Image: Tibetan Review

The annual income in China for over 40 million people is less than $350 per year. Even worse, over 500 million people in the nation are forced to live on a daily income of $5.50. Since Li was no stranger to poverty, what he was about to find would change his life in more ways than one.

An Unusual Object

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While Li was out examining his orange trees, he discovered an object within the orchard. Standing out among the orange and green of the orchard, he determined it was a man-made item of some sort. What could it be?

Cultural Artifact?

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At first, the farmer believed he had found a medallion or pendant that had belonged to a dynasty long gone. It was common to find such relics every now and then in the area. However, as he moved closer he realized it could be something so much more valuable.

The Qin Kingdom

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The possibility of the object being an artifact was actually quite plausible. Pujiang County’s history went back over 2,500 years and was partially shaped by the area being conquered by the Qin Kingdom.

Could it really be a coin from that era?

Man-made or Alive?

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Finally reaching the strange object, Li had just about convinced himself he had found a piece of his area’s history when the object moved. Yep, it began to squirm. Getting closer, Li realized he had stumbled upon one of the strangest spiders he had ever come across.

The Common Spider

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China, specifically Pujiang County is known for an abundance of spiders. In fact, China is home to over 3,000 different species of arachnid. However, this spider was quite unlike anything Li had seen before.

Curious Neighbors

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Quickly, Li rushed back to his home and placed the spider in a plastic bottle. Meanwhile, his curious neighbors decided to drop by and check out the strange spider for themselves. Intrigued by his discovery, they helped Li search the internet for any clues on what type of spider it was.

Finally, Li was able to identify it and he was quite shocked by the truth.

Chinese Hourglass Spider

Image: Underbar DK

It seemed Li had found a very rare species of spider known as the Chinese Hourglass Spider, a species that had been thought to go instinct. In the last 18 years, there have been only five sightings of the rare spider with the first ever recorded back in the 5th century.

Unique Anatomy

Image: XKR

The spider is best known for its unique body shape, which is distinguished by a hard, flat disc at the end of its abdomen. Overall, it resembles half of an hourglass. The spider is a murky brown color, which allows for it to blend in with its surroundings.

First Records

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The first official record of the Chinese Hourglass Spider was in the Erya, which is the oldest known Chinese dictionary. It’s within the ancient text’s 15th chapter that the creature is described. Although Li hadn’t found an artifact, he did find something just as valuable–a living relic thought long dead.

Code Name: Trapdoor

Image: SDSU Biology

After more research, Li discovered that the spider is also known as the “trapdoor spider.” These particular species like to live underground in a burrow and use its hard abdominal disc to close the entrance and protect itself. Pretty ingenious, right? The spider has its own built-in door.

“Cyclocosmia ricketti”

Image: Jason Bond

“The spider is of extreme scientific value,” entomologist Zhao Li told People’s Daily. “And it is definitely a rare species in Sichuan province.” The spider is also known by its scientific name, Cyclocosmia ricketti.

Rare Location

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Another remarkable fact about Li’s find was that the Hourglass spider is usually found in the Zhejiang province and not the Sichuan. And while the spider could tolerate cold winters, the Sichuan province as known for being much harsher than other areas of China. The fact that Li had found one of these spiders adapting to harsher weather meant a great deal for the scientific community and helped advance the knowledge of this particular species.

Calm Temperament

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One interesting fact about this spider is its calm temperament. Many people keep various genus in the Hourglass spider family as pets. However, Li is not interested in getting into collecting spiders anytime soon. He is quite happy sticking to citrus.

The Anatomy of the Female

Image: Arachnoboards

When it comes to growth size, the average female spider is one inch in length and half an inch in diameter. While they may be small, there worth is not. You won’t believe the market value of this unique arachnid.

An Expensive Discovery

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After doing some research on the spider market in China, Li discovered he could sell the Hourglass for 12,000 Yuan, which is roughly $1,900. With no need for the spider, he sold it to someone interested in having one as a pet. It’s amazing how one small discovery led Li to make more than what some people in his country make in a year. Isn’t mother nature grand?