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Natural Highlights: Spiny Orb Weaver

   

Spiny Orb Weaver Spider (Gasteracantha cancriformis)

Walk through the woods in early fall around here and you're likely to see - or run into - numerous spider webs stretched across the trail and between the trees.  Most of these are constructed by the orb weaver spiders (Family Araneidae), perhaps our most familiar group of spiders, well-known by people of all ages for their intricate and beautiful wheel-shaped webs.  The famous Charlotte of Charlotte's Web by E.B.White is an orb weaver, as is the dramatic Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia), which constructs a huge web with a white zigzag down the middle.

During a field trip and service project at Lovitt Woods in late Sept. and early Oct., Rhodes students encountered many female Spiny Orb Weavers, genus Gasteracantha, sitting in the middle of their large webs, showing off their striking spikes and colors, and waiting for both prey to eat and male spiders to mate with.  Fortunately, orb weavers are not at all aggressive, fleeing from danger if they can, and biting only if forced to, i.e. if they are handled (apparently the bite feels a bit like a bee sting and isn't dangerous for most people).  Female spiny orb weavers will leave an egg sac on the underside of a nearby leaf before the first frost of the season, which marks the end of their short lives.  The young spiders must hatch and survive the winter on their own, dispersing in the spring, maturing in 2-5 weeks, and continuing the cycle.

Learn more about the Spiny Orb Weaver Spider:   http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Gasteracantha_cancriformis/

                                                                                 https://bugguide.net/node/view/2026

Learn more about the Orb Weaver Family:  https://bugguide.net/node/view/1972

Posted by Cathy Justis at 12:10 PM