Araneus Orb Weaver: Essential Facts and Tips for Enthusiasts

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Araneus Orb Weavers are a fascinating group of spiders known for their impressive webs and intriguing appearances. These arachnids are part of the Araneidae family and can be found in various environments around the world.

Their unique features and intriguing behavior make them an excellent topic for exploration.

One of the most significant characteristics of Araneus Orb Weavers is their distinctive web-building abilities. Their webs are typically large, intricate, and efficient at catching prey.

“Blind Eyed” Orbweaver

These spiders are also known for their diverse appearances, with some species displaying vibrant colors and intricate patterns.

Some noteworthy examples of Araneus Orb Weavers include the Marbled Orbweaver Spider and the Cross Orbweaver Spider.

In the context of their environment, these creatures play a crucial role in controlling insect populations and providing a valuable source of food for other animals.

Araneus Orb Weaver Identification

Physical Characteristics

Araneus orb weaver spiders are known for their distinctive orb-shaped webs. Some key features of these spiders include:

  • Eight legs
  • Two main body parts: cephalothorax and abdomen
  • They can have up to 7 pairs of silk-producing glands

Size

Araneus orb weavers vary in size, but generally speaking:

  • Females: 9 to 20 millimeters in length
  • Males: smaller than females

Coloration

These spiders can have diverse color patterns, with some examples being:

  • Orange abdomens with brown to purple markings and pale yellow spots, as seen in marbled orbweavers
  • Yellow to brown background color with wavy or scalloped lines, like the cross orbweaver

Sexual Dimorphism

Males and females of the Araneus orb weaver species show differences in size, color, and reproductive structures. For instance:

  • Males: smaller than females, often with different color patterns
  • Females: larger, with distinctive epigyne (the female reproductive structure)

Comparison Table:

FeatureMaleFemale
SizeSmallerLarger (9 to 20 mm)
Color PatternsMay differ from femalesUnique patterns for species
Reproductive OrgansPalp (modified leg for mating)Epigyne (female structure)

Remember, when identifying Araneus orb weaver spiders, it’s helpful to consider multiple factors like size, coloration, and sexual characteristics.

Classification and Species

Taxonomy

Araneus Orb Weaver spiders belong to the family Araneidae and the genus Araneus.

They are classified under the kingdom Animalia, phylum Arthropoda, subphylum Chelicerata, class Arachnida, order Araneae and infraorder Araneomorphae.

Common Araneus Species

There are several different Araneus species, with some commonly known ones listed below:

  • Araneus marmoreus: Also known as the Marbled Orb Weaver.
  • Araneus quadratus: Common in Europe2.
  • Araneus saevus: Found in North America3.
  • Neoscona crucifera: Another orb-weaving species, known as Hentz’s Orbweaver.

Synonyms and Other Common Names

The genus Araneus is also referred to as orb-weaver spiders or, more generally, the angulate and round-shouldered orbweavers. In addition to their scientific names, some species may have region-specific common names.

Comparison of Common Araneus Species

SpeciesLocationCommon Name
Araneus marmoreusNorth AmericaMarbled Orb Weaver
Araneus quadratusEurope
Araneus saevusNorth America
Neoscona cruciferaNorth AmericaHentz’s Orbweaver

Notable Characteristics of Araneus Orb Weavers:

  • Create spiral, orb-like webs.
  • Can be found in various habitats, including gardens, forests, and grasslands.
  • They are not aggressive and rarely harmful to humans5.

Distribution and Habitat

Geographical Range

Araneus Orb Weaver spiders can be found across a vast range, including Canada, the United States, and parts of Europe.

They inhabit diverse regions in North America, from the cool climate of Alaska to the warm conditions of South Carolina.

In the United States, their presence varies. They are more common in the:

Preferred Environment

Araneus Orb Weaver spiders are highly adaptable to various environments. They favor:

  • Forests
  • Gardens
  • Wooded areas
  • Grasslands

These spiders can often be seen building their webs between trees or on tall vegetation. During late summer and early autumn, they become more visible as they construct larger webs in the surrounding landscape.

Webs and Behavior

Web Construction

Araneus Orb Weavers are known for their intricate and large webs. These orb-weaving spiders construct their webs using a combination of sticky and non-sticky silk. Key features of their webs include:

  • Spiral shape
  • Radial threads for support
  • Sticky silk to catch prey

For example, the Araneus cavaticus species builds large orb webs around twilight, which helps them catch nocturnal insects.

Feeding Habits

As opportunistic predators, Araneus Orb Weavers consume various types of insects they catch in their webs. Common prey includes:

  • Flies
  • Moths
  • Beetles
  • Grasshoppers

Araneus Orb Weavers typically immobilize their prey by wrapping it in silk, before injecting it with venom to digest it externally.

Reproduction and Egg-laying

Araneus Orb Weavers reproduce sexually, with males often being much smaller than females. After mating, females lay eggs, which are encased in a protective silken sac. Some details on their reproduction and egg-laying process:

  • Males may die after mating
  • The female produces multiple egg sacs
  • Eggs hatch in spring or summer
  • Young spiders disperse via ballooning

In the table below, you can see a comparison of two common Araneus species: the Cross Orbweaver and the Marbled Orbweaver.

FeatureCross OrbweaverMarbled Orbweaver
Web locationGardens, building exteriorsGardens, meadows, dense vegetation
Size14-20 mm (female), 5-10 mm (male)9-20 mm (female)
ColorYellow to brown with a cross patternOrange with brown to purple markings
DistributionNorth America, Europe, and AsiaNorthern and Central America, Europe, Asia

Human-Orb Weaver Interaction

Venom and Bites

Araneus orb-weaver spiders are generally not dangerous to humans. Their venom is meant for immobilizing and consuming prey rather than causing substantial harm to humans.

Bites from orb-weavers are rare but may occur if the spider feels threatened. Symptoms of a bite can include:

  • Swelling: mild to moderate swelling around the bite area
  • Pain: localized pain that may resemble a bee sting

It is important to note that individual reactions to spider bites can vary.

Natural Pest Control

Orb-weaver spiders, such as the barn spider, are beneficial as natural pest controllers. Their webs efficiently capture many insects that are considered pests, including:

  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Moths

Having orb weavers around your garden or property can help reduce the need for chemical pest control methods.

Additional Remarks

  • Identification: Orb-weaver spiders can be distinguished by their large, round abdomens and the intricate, circular webs they build.
  • Eggs: Female orb-weavers lay their eggs in a protective silken sac, usually on the ground or hidden under vegetation.
  • How to know the spiders: Observe their web patterns and body shape to identify them as orb-weavers. Some common types include marbled orb-weavers and cross-orb-weavers.
Spider TypeMarkingsWeb Location
Marbled OrbweaverOrange with brown/purple markingsTrees, tall grasses
Cross OrbweaverYellow/brown with white cross-shaped spotsFences, shrubs

Remember that orb-weaver spiders are more of a help than a hindrance and recognizing their presence can be an indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

An Araneus Orb Weaver

Conclusion

Araneus orb weavers are nature’s web designers. Yes, their bright colors might make them look scary, but they are eco-friendly pest controllers!

You must make an effort to preserve the habitats of these spiders as they catch pests like flies and mosquitoes without letting you use any chemicals or pesticides.

On top of that, the presence of these spiders in your indicates the signs of a healthy ecosystem.

Footnotes

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34618955/

  2. https://biokids.umich.edu/critters/Araneus_marmoreus/

  3. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/angulate-roundshouldered-orbweavers

  4. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/angulate-roundshouldered-orbweavers

  5. https://extension.psu.edu/marbled-orbweaver-spider

Readers’ Mail

Over the years, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Another Araneas Orb Weaver

barn spider?
Hello!
We have a few of these in our front yard in North Carolina only at night only in the Fall. They spin gigantic webs (roughly 2×2 feet )–but with a very strong anchor webbing that often goes 10-15 feet to the web itself.

The spiders are large with a big abdomen, and they have hairs on their legs (as can be seen in the picture). By morning, the webs are gone completely and the spiders can’t be found.

They seem somewhat like barn spiders, but the fine-scale concentric web weaving seems different. Let us know what you think they are.
–Zab

Hi Zab,
The Barn Spider, Araneas cavaticus, is just one of a large genus known collectively as Orb Weavers. Most have the behavior you describe, including building a large web nightly and hiding by day. I can’t commit to an exact species in your case.

Letter 2 – Araneas Orb Weaver

spider
Greetings-
This spider has been building a spectacular web outside my parent’s house for the last 2 weeks. Its body is about 1 inch long (head to tail), and about 2 inches from the tip of the front legs to the tip of the back legs.

It has spots on its back that aren’t obvious in this photo- it builds its web each night and hides during the day so we have had trouble taking its picture!

It is a magnificent spider, but we haven’t seen anything like this before (in Cupertino, California) and we are wondering if it is introduced from somewhere else.
your help will be much appreciated!
cheers,
Karah

Hi Karah,
Your Orb Weaver, Araneas species, is a common spider in the United States as well as other parts of the world. The spiders spin a new web each night.

Letter 3 – Araneus cingulatus

Electric Green Spider
Hi;
Attached are 2 macro photos of a small spider, 1/4″ max. which I photographed on the door of my daughter’s car last week.

The spider seemed to have an almost “electric” or “International Orange” type yellow/green glow to its abdomen, the photo doesn’t do it justice. My daughter says you may be able to help identify it.

Thank You
Jim Pollister
PS-I told my daughter to stop playing with those radioactive materials!!!
PPS: I saw your note about the number of requests you getting. No rush but I really would like to get an answer sometime.

Hi Jim,
If we don’t answer a letter shortly after its arrival, chances are very good it will just get lost in the black hole of our mailbox and get deleted after time. The constant influx of new mail quickly replaces older unanswered mail.

We found your spider on BugGuide. This is Araneus cingulatus, and there is no common name.

Letter 4 – Araneus Orb Weaver

id question
Hi, I photographed this spider on my deck in NC. He moved from screen door to window to eaves. Could it be a garden orb?
Thanks,
Bill McDearmon

Hi Bill,
You definitely have an Araneus Orb Weaver spider.

Letter 5 – Araneus Orb Weaver

need help to identify spider
I looked through the collection of spider pictures on your site and could not find one that resembles the spider living in the corner of our patio cover. It is yellowish-orange and has a protrusion on each side of the top of its abdomen.

Attached are some photos. Please help identify it and let us know whether or not it is poisonous.

Thanks,
Sean
Albuquerque NM

Hi Sean,
This is an Araneus Orb Weaver. It is often very difficult to identify exact species as there is so much variation within individual species. Though all spiders are poisonous, this group does not pose a threat to humans.

Letter 6 – Araneus Orb Weaver

Beautiful spider
Greetings, and thank you for a truly wonderful site. I have attached photos of a gorgeous orb weaver who has graced my garden all season.

She is BIG (the size of a sweet cherry), has an orange abdomen with white spots, a scarlet stripe up the underside, legs alternating transparent and brown, and fine hairs all over.

She takes down substantial prey – June bugs, large grasshoppers and moths, etc. Her web is small – about the size of a salad plate. She is unusual in that she only sits in the middle of her web after dark.

She built a hut out of curled peony leaves, and she shelters there throughout the daylight hours and during rainstorms (doesn’t even drop into her web if she snags an insect – she waits until dusk to emerge).

The hut-building behavior has me stumped, as well as her rather spectacular coloring. Can you help? Thanks!
Lynn Erickson

Hi Lynn,
This is one of the Araneus Orb Weavers. The species in this genus have variable coloration and we often have problems with exact species identification.

The shelter building behavior and coloration tend to indicate either the Marbled Araneus, Araneus marmoreus, or the Shamrock Spider, Araneus trifolium. Petoskey, Michigan

Letter 7 – Araneus Orb Weaver

Charlotte-Our beautiful family member
Hi Bugman,
This picture was taken in August 2006 at my home in Nevada City, CA. It is now January 2007 and Charlotte is still living under our eaves. In fact, she laid a large egg sack this morning.

What a great spider to have around for the last 6 months. We will be sad to see her pass on but look forward to the new arrivals (Spring?). I sincerely hope you can find space on your site for this beautiful family member! Cheers,
Kris Crabtree

Hi Kris,
Charlotte is some species of Araneus Orb Weaver.

Letter 8 – Araneus Orb Weaver

Red-Back Spider ID
While visiting my daughter last week in Cotati, CA, we went to a beach just North of Bodega Bay (which is about 50+ miles north of San Francisco). While walking near the edge of the grassy area and the sand, my daughter spotted this spider.

We’ve looked online and looked again and again and can’t find any information about it. Can you tell us what type of spider it is? It was among some larger rocks and really stood out because of its red back.

I’m sorry the quality of the photos is not good. All I took with me that day with a small 3-pixel camera. I left the good 6-pixel at home (and I’ll not do that again). Thanks!!
Lois Sauer
Rainbow City, AL

Hi Lois,
This is one of the Araneus Orb Weaver spiders. We have problems differentiating the various species. They are harmless spiders.

Letter 9 – Araneus Orb Weaver

orange spider
I found this in my backyard near Dayton, Oh. I was amazed at how fluorescent the orange coloring was. Is it a type of Araneus? cool website!! Thanks
Brian Tesmer
Dayton Oh

Hi Brian,
Indeed, this is an Araneus Orb Weaver, but we have given up trying to identify most specimens to the species level as there is so much variation within the species. Eric Eaton wrote in to clarify:

“The Araneus orb weaver is an emaciated marbled orb weaver, Araneus marmoreus.”

Letter 10 – Araneus species

Hello,
I found this on my patio wall and it looks like one that I stepped on last month in Scottsdale, AZ. Any ideas?
Thanks,
Kelli Benne

Hi Kelli,
It is one of the Araneus species of Orb Weavers. Harmless.

Letter 11 – Araneus species

New Visitor
Greetings,
I was wondering if you recognize this spider that has recently appeared around my house. It is about one and a half inches from the end of one leg to another and is currently residing in New Hampshire.

Thanks for any info!
John

Hi John,
You have an Orb Weaving Spider from the genus Araneus. Sorry, I can’t give you an exact species name. She is a female and will probably be laying eggs soon if she hasn’t already. She is harmless.

Letter 12 – Barn Spider, Araneas cavaticus

COOL SITE!!!!
Don’t really have a question. I took this picture outside my sliding glass door. Sadly, this little guy build his web right where my head would go if I were to go through the doorway.

Therefore, he and all his creepy-crawly friends are going to have to go (I’ve called an exterminator). He still made for a good photo.
Ted S.
Austin, TX

Hi Ted,
Thanks for the nice photo of what looks like a Barn Spider, Araneas cavaticus. Sorry to hear she is a goner.

Letter 13 – Orb Weaver: Araneus cingulatus

(Image attached!) Tiny green spider with interesting markings! Georgetown, Ohio
(If you have already opened and read my first message, I offer my sincerest apologies. I did not attach the image in the previous message.)
Hello,
I found this spider on a tomato plant in my backyard today. I realize the photograph is not as high-resolution as it could be, but this spider was only half the size of a grain of rice so it was somewhat difficult to get a good shot with my six-megapixel camera.

It was like nothing I’d seen before, and the yellow and red pattern on its back was astounding in its symmetry and seemed unusually detailed for an insect of this size.

The closest thing I could find to it on your site was a spider referred to as Araneus Cingulatus, but, while somewhat similar in color and markings, varies in its size, shape, and type of pattern.

Any info on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Alan K.

Hi Alan,
People are always sending us emails and forgetting to attach the images. This is an Orb Weaver, and it looks to be Araneus cingulatus based on an image posted to BugGuide.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Spider catches Snail

 

our spider
Thank you for your info on the interesting spider…I’d never seen a spider “catch” a snail…thought you might like this: Thanks for such a wonderful website.
Jen



Hi Jen,
Not only do we love your photo, we want some of the offspring of your Araneus Orb Weaver in our garden where the snails are currently devouring our sprouting lettuce.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Orb Weaver Spiders

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • I found an Araneus Orb Weaver Spider in amongst my rose bushes. Looked just like a rose hip. Wouldn’t have known the difference if it hadn’t moved.

    Reply

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