Bowl and Doily Spider: Quick Facts Guide for the Curious Minds

The bowl and doily spider is an intriguing and unique species that has captivated the interest of many arachnid enthusiasts.

These spiders, scientifically known as Frontinella communis or Frontinella pyramitela, are named for their distinct and intricate webs, which resemble a bowl shape with a decorative doily-like layer covering them.

These webs not only display the spider’s artistic craftsmanship but also serve as a highly effective tool for capturing prey.

File:Frontinella pyramitela P1280751b.jpg

Source: xpdaCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Found in various regions of North America, the bowl and doily spiders are relatively small, with females being slightly larger than males.

They are skilled architects, constructing their elaborate webs by connecting a “bowl” made of silk threads to a “doily” beneath it.

The spider typically resides between these layers, waiting for insects to fly into the doily.

Once the prey is ensnared, the spider quickly pulls it down into the bowl, immobilizes it, and saves it for future consumption.

Some of the fascinating characteristics of the bowl and doily spider include their ability to create multiple, closely-spaced webs for better prey capture.

They are also known to be harmless to humans, so there’s no need to be alarmed if you happen to stumble across one in the wild or your backyard.

Bowl and Doily Spider Overview

Species and Classification

The Bowl and Doily Spider, scientifically known as Frontinella communis, belongs to the Infraorder Araneomorphae.

Also known as the Bowl and Doily Weaver Spider, it is a unique species with interesting web-building behaviors.

Classification table:

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
SubphylumChelicerata
ClassArachnida
OrderAraneae
FamilyLinyphiidae
GenusFrontinella
SpeciesF. communis
InfraorderAraneomorphae

Basic Identification

Main Physical Characteristics

Bowl and doily spiders, scientifically known as Frontinella pyramitela, are small spiders with a size range of 2-8 millimeters. The females are larger than the males.

Females are generally larger than males, with reddish-brown cephalothorax and legs and a dark abdomen characterized by white dots and markings.

These spiders can be observed more frequently in the summer season, when they spin their unique sheet webs in various habitats.

File:Bowl and Doily Spider - Frontinella pyramitela ♀ (40639605243).jpg

Source: Christina Butler from Georgia, United StatesCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Distinguishing Features

One of the most remarkable features of the bowl and doily spider is its sheet web, which consists of a horizontal sheet and a smaller bowl-shaped web above it.

Although the bite of a bowl and doily spider is not venomous nor harmful to humans, it is used to immobilize its prey.

When identifying these spiders, one should focus on their unique web structure, size, and the distinctive white dots on their abdomen.

Comparing with other spiders:

FeaturesBowl and Doily SpiderOther Spiders
Size2-8 mmVaries
Web StructureHorizontal sheet + bowl aboveOrb, funnel, no web (varies)
Harmful to HumansNoSome (e.g. brown recluse)
Abdomen MarkingsWhite dotsVaries

In conclusion, Frontinella pyramitela or bowl and doily spiders can be easily recognized by their size, unique web structure, and colored markings on their abdomen.

Geographical Distribution

North America

Bowl and doily spiders are found throughout North America, including the United States and Canada. They inhabit various environments, such as:

  • Temperate woods: Deciduous and mixed forests with moderate temperatures
  • Shrubs: Dense, woody vegetation that provides hiding spots and ample web-building opportunities

Some specific habitats include alpine forests and humid areas.

Web Design and Functionality

Inverted Dome-Shaped Web

The Bowl and Doily Spider constructs an intricate web design with two primary components: the inverted dome-shaped web and the horizontal sheet web.

The inverted dome-shaped web serves as the spider’s main hunting structure.

The spider typically hangs from the bowl-shaped web, waiting for prey to become trapped in the sheet below.

Some features of this web design are:

  • Unique bowl-like shape
  • Supported by multiple anchor threads
  • Cone-like appearance due to inclined radii

Examples of benefits of the inverted dome-shaped web:

  • Can trap a variety of small flying insects
  • Offers protection against predators

Bowl and Doily Weaver Web. Source: Flickr, Username: Katja Schulz

Horizontal Sheet Web

The horizontal sheet web, on the other hand, lies right beneath the inverted dome-shaped web.

This sheet web system plays a vital role in the spider’s daily life. Some characteristics of the horizontal sheet web include:

  • Flat, horizontal surface
  • Criss-cross pattern of silk threads
  • Positioned close to the dome web

Here’s a comparison table between the two web structures:

Web StructureFunctionBenefits
Inverted Dome-ShapedMain hunting mechanism for flying insectsTraps various insects, protection
Horizontal Sheet WebSupports the dome, acts as spider’s living spaceConnects to the dome, provides stability

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The reproduction and life cycle of the Bowl and Doily Spider, Frontinella communis, is a captivating process that showcases the intricacies of arachnid behavior and development.

Mating Rituals:

The courtship and mating rituals of the Bowl and Doily Spider are characterized by unique vibratory signals.

The male spider approaches the female’s web and produces specific vibrations to signal his intent.

These vibrations are essential as they help the female differentiate between a potential mate and prey.

If the female is receptive, she allows the male to approach, leading to mating.

Egg Laying and Protection:

After successful mating, the female spider lays her eggs in a protective sac made of silk.

This egg sac is typically attached to vegetation or concealed in a safe location to protect it from potential predators.

The female guards this sac diligently, ensuring the safety of her offspring.

Development:

Once the eggs hatch, the young spiders, known as spiderlings, emerge. These spiderlings are miniature versions of the adults but will go through several molting stages before reaching full maturity.

Each molting phase allows the spiderling to grow, shedding its old exoskeleton and forming a new one.

File:Male Bowl-and-Doily Weaver (Frontinella communis) (26261174010).jpg

Web Construction:

Even in their early stages, the young spiders begin to exhibit the characteristic behavior of constructing webs.

Initially, these webs are smaller and less intricate than those of mature spiders, but they serve as practice for the spiderlings, honing their web-building skills.

Adulthood:

After several molts, the spiderlings reach adulthood and are ready to reproduce, thus continuing the cycle.

Adult Bowl and Doily Spiders focus on maintaining and repairing their webs, capturing prey, and participating in mating rituals when the season arrives.

Lifespan:

The exact lifespan of the Bowl and Doily Spider can vary based on factors like environmental conditions and predation.

However, like many spider species, they typically live for about a year, with some exceptions.

Females often live longer than males, especially after successful reproduction, as they invest time in guarding their egg sacs.

Predators and Defense Mechanisms

Bowl and doily spiders, like other species, have various predators, including birds, wasps, and larger spiders.

They employ defense mechanisms to protect themselves from these threats.

These spiders rely on their inconspicuous appearance and hiding within their webs to avoid detection.

  • Predators: Birds, wasps, and larger spiders
  • Defense: Camouflage and hiding in webs
FeaturesBowl and Doily Spider
FoodMainly flying insects
Web DesignBowl and doily
Life Cycle StagesEgg, hatchling, molts, adult
PredatorsBirds, wasps, larger spiders
Defense MechanismsCamouflage, hiding in webs

Interactions with Humans

Bite and Venomous Nature

Bowl and doily spiders (Frontinella communis) are not considered dangerous to humans.

Their bite may cause mild discomfort but is typically less painful than a bee sting. Symptoms may include:

  • Itching or rash
  • Pain radiating from the bite site

Importance in Nature and Ecosystems

Bowl and doily spiders play beneficial roles in nature and ecosystems as they help to:

  • Control insect populations
  • Serve as a food source for birds and other predators

By maintaining a balance in insect populations, these spiders indirectly support plant health and contribute to the overall well-being of their habitats.

Their intricate, sheet-like webs are also of interest for their unique design and construction.

Bowl and doily spider web. Source: Judy GallagherCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Terminology and Synonyms

Alternative Names

The Bowl and Doily Spider is also known as a Sheet Weaver.

This name comes from its unique web structure, which consists of an inverted bowl-shaped web attached to a flat, doily-like sheet below it.

The spider’s binomial name is Frontinella communis, given to it by Walckenaer in 1841.

Terms

  • Synonyms: Sheet Weaver, Frontinella communis
  • Inverted commas: This term refers to the unique shape of the spider’s web, which looks like an upside-down bowl.
  • Yellowish color: Bowl and Doily Spiders have a yellowish hue on their body, making them easier to identify.
  • Binomial name: The scientific name of the species, Frontinella communis
  • Walckenaer: Charles Athanase Walckenaer, the French naturalist who first described the Bowl and Doily Spider in 1841.

Conclusion

The Bowl and Doily Spider, scientifically known as Frontinella communis, is a fascinating species renowned for its unique web structure.

Native to North America, this spider’s web resembles a bowl with a doily-like layer, serving as an efficient trap for prey.

Harmless to humans, these spiders play a pivotal role in controlling insect populations, contributing to the ecological balance.

Their distinctive appearance, behavior, and web design make them a subject of interest for arachnid enthusiasts.

Footnotes

  1. Wellesley – Species Description 2

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Bowl and Doily Spiders Mating

Spider couple
Dear WTB,
These upside down basket weaving spiders (my attempt at describing their web shape) are very common in this part of the B.C. Interior.

A charming characteristic is their extended courtship and mating which seems to last for days. Can you recommend a spider identification web site?
Thanks!
Pat Teti
Williams Lake BC Canada

Hi Pat,
We double checked with Eric Eaton who writes: “those are most definitely bowl-and-doily spiders, Frontinella pyramitela (formerly F. communis). Great images, indeed!” We love BugGuide for identification.

Letter 2 – Bowl and Doily Spiders or Filmy Dome Spiders Mating

Spider couple
Dear WTB,
These upside down basket weaving spiders (my attempt at describing their web shape) are very common in this part of the B.C. Interior.

A charming characteristic is their extended courtship and mating which seems to last for days. Can you recommend a spider identification web site?
Thanks!
Pat Teti
Williams Lake BC Canada

Hi Pat,
We double checked with Eric Eaton who writes: “those are most definitely bowl-and-doily spiders, Frontinella pyramitela (formerly F. communis). Great images, indeed!” We love BugGuide for identification.

Update (01/10/2006):
“I’m wrong, I think I think I jumped the gun on the bowl and doily spiders. I didn’t read very carefully the submitter’s narrative.

If the web was DOME-shaped, then the spiders are probably specimens of the filmy dome spider, Neriene radiata. Neat spiders. Eric”

Authors

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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