Subject: Walnut Orb Weaver (Night Euro Garden Spider)
Location: Dresden, Germany
November 15, 2012 8:05 am
I couldn’t find this spider on your site so thought I would share my pictures even though they are not all that good.
I thought at first this spider is the nighttime version of what is commonly called the European Garden Spider (which despite the name is common to the Americas).
When I first became interested in spiders (which would develop into a fascination) my main observations were in the back patio of the apartment we had in Oregon. There were a couple varieties of large spiders but the ones visible during the day were often on the plants while the night ones were near the porch light (I would often turn it on so they could attract more food). They were very similar to each other but different. And while they both seemed docile (though quite efficient with their prey), the evening ones seemed bolder & more impressive somehow (though always hidden during the day). Sadly I didn’t even have a camera then.
Eventually I discovered the daytime ones are Cross spiders (apparently not to be confused with the St Andrew’s Cross Spider) because of the markings on their back (abdomen?). They are fun to watch as they get bigger and bigger. They actually become matriarchs with big webs that they will clean of debris and carcasses. It’s fun to see them become so big then almost deflate after they make their eggcase(s). It’s sad though when they disappear because that means they have likely died. They will occasionally end up on a person, or in a house (having likely hitched a ride when someone walks through one of their homes) and will build a web inside, in the same place over and over if allowed, but are easy to relocate outside being very passive. Also interesting to watch the courtship as they pluck web strings to decide whether to come closer. Oh, but you know all this.
But, the night ones remained elusive for me. So of all things, one I was most looking forward to in Europe was seeing spiders!
I was strolling alone in Dresden waiting for my SO to get out of a meeting (mid-September) when I saw a large spider moving against the wall near a restaurant. I was thrilled the restaurant let them be instead of cleaning them off which was apparent since there were several of many sizes. And so I stood observing and trying to capture them with my little snap camera (meaning the pics are not that good but it was also night — no doubt all the other tourists thought I was crazy taking close-up pictures of a white wall :D). What most interested me is that the males seem to be as big or bigger than the females and they live close to each other. But also how different the spiders seem whether viewed from top or below. It’s only the shadow of the female that made me realize they are the same.
Alas, these must not be the nighttime spiders common in the NW of the US as these, it turns out, are the Walnut Orb Weaver aka Nuctenea umbratica, which is commonly called ”Spaltenkreuzspinne” in Germany (Columns Cross/Garden Spider), and these are mainly a European species (though widespread), that does sometimes bite (though that is not common). These have dimples in their abdomens that are apparently muscles to allow them to flatten against things when hiding during the day. Cool!
So… my question to you then is; what is the night version of the common European Garden Spider found in the States that often hangs out near porch lights?
(ps, thank you for putting my wasp pics up; that was a nice surprise… I have more bugs to share/ask about and hope that is okay)
Signature: Curious Girl
Dear Curious Girl,
We are not certain of the genus or species of this German Orbweaver, but we can speculate that most likely your nocturnal Orbweaver from Oregon is in the genus Neoscona. According to BugGuide: “N. crucifera & N. domiciliorumbuild thier webs at dusk and then take the webs back down around dawn. (Kaston 1976).”
Oh, you are VERY GOOD!
That’s the one!