Orb-weaver spiders are the most underrated weavers of the animal world, and much-feared upon because they’re…spiders. However, these tiny silk artisans play an important role in balancing the ecosystem by consuming insect pests. There are over 2,800 species of orb weaver spiders in the world, making it the third-largest family of spiders known behind the jumping spider family. Keep on reading to learn 40 facts about the misunderstood Orb Weaver Spider.
Fact 1: Orb-weaver spiders, or otherwise known as araneids, are members of the spider family Araneidae.
Fact 2: The word “Orb” is often used to mean circular or spherical in the English language. That’s why it’s used to describe the name of the spiders.
Fact 3: Orb Weaving spiders are the most common group of spiral wheel-shaped web builders throughout the world. Their circular webs are found in all types of environments from gardens to forests.
Fact 4: More than 2,840 species of orb weaver spiders in some 167 genera are known.
Fact 5: An Orb Weaving spider will produce a web by creating a set of nonsticky silk threads in the shape of the spokes of a wheel. Once this base structure is in place, the spider will then start secreting a stick version of the same silk and run spiral of this silk over the nonsticky spokes.
Fact 6: The oldest known Orb Weaver is the Mesozygiella dunlopi.
Fact 7: The Dunlopi was first described in 2006 from a fossil discovery in Álava, Spain. The species was dated to the Early Cretaceous period which is about 145.5 million to 99.6 million years ago.
Fact 8: Because there are so many different species of Orb Weavers, they differ in color shape and size. In some cases, they can differ vastly from each other. And you wouldn’t think they were related to each other at all. However, they all build the same type of web, and that’s what is used to define them.
Fact 9: The most commonly seen Garden Orb Weaver spiders are about 2 to 3 centimeters in length for the female, and 1.5 to 2 centimeters for the male in body length. Usually, with spiders, the male is always smaller.
Fact 10: Most Orb Weaver spiders are stout, with fat little bodies. And they usually have a reddish brown coloration which helpt to blend them into their environment.
Fact 11: Some grey orb-weaving spiders have a leaf-shaped pattern on their fat, roughly triangular abdomens, which also have two noticeable humps towards the front. Orb Weaver Spiders sometimes have a dorsal stripe which may be white or brown edged with white.
Fact 12: Some Golden Orb Weavers can grow to very large sizes. The larger specimens have been known to have a body length of 2 to 4 centimetres. That’s not even including their legs, which can easily triple their length. I wouldn’t that ginormous thing crawling all over me!
Fact 13: Orb-weaving spiders have three claws at the end of each leg that are used for grabbing and gripping.
Fact 14: One of the three claws won’t stick to their own web. When they are moving across the sticky threads on the web, they will hold on to or balance on the sticky threads with these single claws while retracting the other two.
Fact 15: The building of a web is an engineering feat, begun when the spider floats a line on the wind to another surface. The spider secures the line and then drops another line from the center, producing a ‘Y’ shape. The rest of the web is then constructed before the final sticky capture spiral is woven into place.
Fact 16: Most orb-weaving spiders will producing a new web every single day. They do this by first consuming the old spider web, yes they eat it all, and then they spin a new one in roughly the same place.
Fact 17: Some Orb Weaving spiders, oddly, do not bother to build webs. Members of the genera Mastophora in the Americas, the Ordgarius in Australia, and the Cladomelea in Africa produce sticky little balls that are perfumed in a particular type of pheromone that attracts particular species of moths. The spider then dangles these little balls below itself, and then, when an unfortunate moth slams into the balls, they get stuck, and spider heaves them into his jaws for a grim end.
Fact 18: One feature of the webs of some orb-weavers is the ‘stabilimentum’, a crisscross band of silk through the center of the web. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why some spiders create stabilimentum. However, some theories state that they are created to add structural strength to the web where the most strain is placed on it: in the center where all the spokes of the web wheel meet.
Fact 19: Crisscrossing Stabilimentum is made by a number of orb weaving genera. But Argiope, which includes the common garden spider of Europe as well as the yellow and banded garden spiders of North America, is a prime example.
Fact 20: Orb Weavers are usually very reluctant to bite, however, they can give a nasty bite if provoked. Do not try to pick one up or handle them. Just admire them from a distance.
Fact 21: Symptoms of an Orb Weaver bite is mild local pain, numbness, and swelling. Occasionally nausea and dizziness can occur after a bite.
Fact 22: The female Garden Orb Weaver lays her eggs in late summer to autumn.
Fact 23: The eggs are encased in a fluffy silken cocoon and attached to foliage. The life span is about 12 months. They mature in summer, mate, lay their eggs and die in late summer-autumn.
Fact 24: Predators of Orb Weavers include several bird species and wasps of the family Sphecidae. The wasps land on the web, lure the spider to the perimeter by imitating a struggling insects vibrations and then carry the spider away to be paralyzed and stored as live food for their young.
Fact 25: Females in some species of Orb Weavers cannibalize smaller males after mating.
Fact 26: In the cannibalistic and polyandrous orb-web spider Argiope bruennichi, the much smaller males are attacked during their first copulation and are cannibalized in up to 80% of the cases. All surviving males die after their second copulation, a pattern observed on other Argiope species.
Fact 27: Orb Weavers are very docile, non-aggressive spiders.
Fact 28: They will flee at the first sign of a threat (typically they will run or drop off the web). They are not dangerous to people & pets, and are actually quite beneficial because they will catch and eat a lot of pest-type insects.
Fact 29: Orb Weavers are typically nocturnal.
Fact 30: During the day, the spider will prefer to either sit motionless on the web or move off the web. If the spider moves off the web, she will be nearby in some cover with a trap line nearby.
Fact 31: They don’t always eat all insects that get trapped on their webs.
Fact 32: If prey becomes ensnared in the web, the trap line will vibrate, indicating a possible meal. The spider will plod on over to determine if the poor insect is a worthy meal. If it is, she will bite it to immobilize it with its toxic venom and then proceed to wrap it with silk to either eat later. Or she’ll wrap the insect up to subdue the meal while eating. How lovely. However, If the trapped insect is not meal worthy, there is hope for the little insect yet. The spider will often eject the insect from its web or the little insect will struggle free of its own accord.
Fact 33: It’s common to find Orb Weaver spiders in plants, between trees, under porch overhangs, on porch lights, on fences and in play equipment left standing in the yard.
Fact 34: Garden spiders rarely venture inside human dwellings, though occasionally one might unwittingly travel inside on a potted plant or other item.
Fact 35: Orb weaving spiders are found throughout Australia.
Fact 36: Common Garden Orb Weavers are Eriophora biapicata and E. transmarina from eastern and southern Australia.
Fact 37: Most Orb Weaver spiders can live for about 12 months. However, that’s an average. They can live for as little as a few days, or even up to a few years.
Fact 38: Most of the time, Orb weaving spiders mature in summer, mate, lay their eggs and die in late summer-autumn.
Fact 39: Spiders expel waste from the anus just like humans, as part of their digestive process.
Fact 40: In 2009, Over 100 million Orb-Weaver spiders colonized a Baltimore Wastewater treatment plant. They produced so much web that it covered over 4 acres. It seriously was the stuff of nightmares for arachnophobic’s as there were over 35,000 spiders per square meter in places!