Jewell Spider on bean support rope
This spider appears to be a female. Males are smaller and less colourful.

Sitting on the twine that supports our broad beans in the vegetable garden was a colourful  and  (we thought) unusual looking spider.  My internet research, verified from several differnt sources, including the Museum of Victoria, tells me that this spider’s scientific name  is  Austracantha Minax.   It seems to have several common names including the Jewell Spider, the Christmas Spider (from the time of year they appear) and the Six Horned Spider, for obvious reasons, and the Spiny Spider.

Many of the photos I viewed had more yellow spots than our specimen, however, the description stated that the white and yellow could take various forms, and that some species were all black.   The white markings on our specimen were similar to all of the photos I viewed.

It turns out that these spiders are quite common, and are found all over Australia.  Apparently, the female of the species is usually 9mm in body length, and the male 3mm in body length.  They build orb shaped webs, and like to congregate with other spiders of the same species.  However, so far, we have only noticed this one specimen.

The most important fact I discovered is that they are not deadly, and that they rarely bite,  but if they do, the bite can cause some local pain and discomfort.