Harmless Orbweaver: Essential Facts for Spider Enthusiasts

Orbweavers are a diverse group of spiders known for their intricate, circular webs. Often found in gardens and natural environments, these arachnids play a vital role in controlling insect populations. Although some people might find their appearance intimidating, orbweavers are generally harmless to humans, as their venom is not potent enough to cause significant harm.

There are many species of orbweaver spiders, with a wide array of colors and patterns. For instance, the furrow orbweaver has a tan, brown, or grayish abdomen adorned with a dark, zigzag-edged pattern, while the marbled orbweaver displays an orange abdomen with brown or purple markings 12. Despite their varying appearances, all orbweavers share the characteristic of spinning circular webs to catch their prey.

When encountering orbweavers in your surroundings, it’s essential to appreciate the benefits they provide. As natural predators to insects such as mosquitoes and flies, they contribute to maintaining a healthy ecosystem balance. So, instead of fearing these fascinating creatures, consider the valuable role they play in our environment.

Harmless Orbweaver Overview

Orbweaver spiders are common and harmless, known for their impressive web-building abilities. Here’s what you need to know about these fascinating creatures.

Size

  • Adult orbweavers vary in size, from 9mm to a little over 20mm in length.

Color and Shape

  • They exhibit diverse colors and patterns, ranging from orange, brown, gray, white, and sometimes reddish or olive hues, often with dark markings.
  • Orbweavers’ abdomens and carapaces can have zigzag or leaf-like patterns, while their legs are banded and can have spines.

Species and Genera

  • There are several orbweaver species in various genera, with some examples being the Marbled Orbweaver (Araneus marmoreus) and the Orchard Orbweaver (Leucauge argyrobapta and Leucauge venusta), which are common in the eastern U.S.
Genus/Species Color/Pattern Size Range (adult)
Araneus marmoreus Orange/brown/purple abdomen; yellow cephalothorax 9-20mm
Leucauge argyrobapta Attractive green/silver markings Small
Leucauge venusta Similar to L. argyrobapta Small

These harmless orbweavers can be found in various environments, and their diverse colors, shapes, and sizes make them interesting subjects for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

Habitat and Distribution

Geographical Range

Harmless Orbweaver spiders are commonly found throughout the United States, North America, and Canada. They have a wide geographical range, making them adaptable to various environments.

Common Habitats

Orbweavers are versatile spiders that mainly reside in:

  • Trees: they build their webs in branches
  • Tall grass: providing a secure base for their webs
  • Gardens: offering abundant prey in flowers and foliage
  • Forests: supplying a diverse habitat with trees and undergrowth

These spiders build their webs in different locations depending upon the particular species, but trees and foliage are common focus points. Orbweavers are not only found in natural habitats; some species are also found around human habitation, making homes near gardens, fences, and outdoor lights.

Examples of Orbweaver habitats in various regions:

  • United States: deciduous forests and grassy meadows
  • Canada: boreal forests and suburban gardens
  • North America: diverse habitat, from gardens to woods

Pros & Cons of Orbweaver Habitats:

Pros:

  • Efficient pest control in gardens
  • Contribute to biodiversity in various ecosystems

Cons:

  • Can be startling to humans due to web locations
  • May be considered a nuisance in residential areas

Comparison Table:

Habitat Examples from United States Examples from Canada Examples from North America
Trees Oak, maple Pine, spruce Oak, maple, pine, spruce
Tall grass Prairie grass Slough grass Prairie grass, slough grass
Gardens Vegetable gardens Flower gardens Vegetable and flower gardens
Forests Deciduous, mixed woods Boreal forests Deciduous, mixed, boreal forests

Behaviors and Characteristics

Web Construction

Orbweavers are known for their impressive and typical circular web constructions. Their webs are often vertically oriented and can be seen in outdoor areas, such as gardens and wooded areas. The main components of their webs include:

  • A strong frame
  • Radial threads
  • Spiral-shaped sticky capture silk

These spiders use vibration to detect the presence of prey caught in their webs. For example, they may feel the vibrations created when an insect, such as a fly, struggles in the web.

Nocturnal Nature

Orbweavers are mostly nocturnal creatures, meaning they are active during the night and rest during the day. This behavior helps them in the following ways:

  • Avoiding daytime predators
  • Increasing their chance of catching nocturnal prey

During the day, they often seek shelter in nearby foliage or debris.

Mating Behavior

Mating behavior for orbweavers involves a complex and fascinating process. Key aspects of their mating behavior include:

  • Male orbweavers seeking receptive females
  • Males initiating contact using a series of vibrations
  • Females accepting or rejecting the males based on these vibrations

After a successful mating, the female will produce an egg sac and guard it until the eggs hatch.

Comparison Table:

Feature Banana Spider Other Orbweavers
Web construction Large, strong, and circular web Varies, but usually circular web
Nocturnal behavior Yes Yes
Mating behavior Similar to other orbweavers Varies based on species

It’s important to note that orbweavers, including banana spiders, are generally harmless to humans and play a valuable role in controlling insect populations.

Natural Enemies

Predators

Orbweaver spiders play important roles in controlling population of pests, but they too have natural enemies. Some common predators of orbweaver spiders include:

  • Birds: They often prey on orbweavers for nutrition.
  • Lizards: These reptiles are known to eat insects and arachnids, including orbweaver spiders.
  • Praying mantises: These ambush predators can catch and consume orbweavers.

Prevention

To prevent orbweaver spiders from becoming too numerous around your home, consider these measures:

  • Regularly trim plants and maintain cleanliness in your garden to keep spider populations in check.
  • Remove any existing webs to discourage orbweavers from establishing their habitat.
  • Install screens on windows to prevent spiders from entering indoors.

Pest Control

Though orbweaver spiders are generally harmless and helpful in controlling pest populations, overpopulation may lead to unwanted encounters. If you feel the need for professional assistance, consider contacting a pest control company to safely manage the spider population.

Method Pros Cons
Prevention Chemical-free; cost-efficient Requires regular maintenance
Pest control company Expert assistance; guaranteed results Potentially expensive; possible use of chemicals

Remember, orbweaver spiders are beneficial members of the ecosystem, keeping populations of pests in check. However, by being mindful of their natural predators, taking proactive steps for prevention, and seeking professional pest control help when necessary, you can maintain a balanced ecosystem around your home.

Benefits and Importance

Gardens and Agriculture

  • Orbweaver spiders are beneficial in gardens and agricultural fields because they help maintain balance in ecosystems.
  • They consume pests, like:
    • Flies
    • Mosquitoes
    • Aphids
    • Moths
    • Grasshoppers

Their diverse diet aids in pest control for plants, helping gardeners and farmers maintain healthy crops.

A comparison table for gardens with and without orb weaver spiders:

Gardens With Orb Weavers Gardens Without Orb Weavers
Reduced pests Increased pests
Healthier plants Weaker plants
More natural approach Reliance on pesticides

Natural Pest Control

  • Orbweaver spiders provide natural pest control around homes by eating insects, decreasing the need for chemical treatments.
  • They seldom enter homes, so they usually stay outdoors, focusing on outdoor pests.
  • Their presence in gardens near homes can keep pests from entering.

Orbweaver features:

  • Large, often colorful abdomens
  • Commonly found in gardens, fields, and forests
  • Their webs are designed to catch a variety of flying insects

Orbweaver Bites and Human Interaction

Are They Dangerous?

Orbweaver spiders are mostly harmless to humans. They are non-aggressive and tend to avoid confrontation. The venom of most orbweaver species is not considered dangerous to humans, and their fangs are typically too short to penetrate our skin easily.

  • For comparison:
    • Black Widow Spiders: Highly venomous
    • Brown Recluse Spiders: Highly venomous
    • Wolf Spiders: Venomous, but not life-threatening
    • Orbweaver Spiders: Harmless to humans

Bite Symptoms and Treatment

In the rare event of an orbweaver spider bite, the symptoms are generally mild and include:

  • Mild pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Possible numbness

These symptoms usually fade on their own. However, some people may experience more severe reactions due to an allergic reaction. In such cases, symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing

If you suspect an allergic reaction to an orbweaver bite, seek medical attention immediately.

For an orbweaver bite, treatment usually involves:

  1. Cleaning the bite area with soap and water
  2. Applying a cold compress to reduce swelling
  3. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers if needed
  4. Monitoring for any signs of an allergic reaction

In summary, orbweaver spiders are generally harmless to humans and pets. Their bites are rare and symptoms are typically mild, but it’s important to be aware of the possibility of an allergic reaction and seek medical help if needed.

Interesting Orbweaver Species

Golden Orb Weaver

The Golden Orb Weaver is a fascinating spider species, commonly found in tropical areas. This spider is known for its large size and the golden hue of their silk. Here are some characteristics of the Golden Orb Weaver:

  • Females are considerably larger than males
  • Known to occasionally catch small birds or mammals
  • Creates impressive, strong, and large webs

The strength and size of the Golden Orb Weaver’s web allow trapping insects, with the golden color of the web reflecting UV light to attract insect prey, like bees1.

Spiny Orb Weaver

Another interesting species is the Spiny Orb Weaver spider, easily identifiable by the distinct spines on their abdomen. They are mostly harmless and common in various habitats. Key features include:

  • Bright colors and spines act as a warning to predators
  • Can have a variety of abdomen shapes
  • Males are often smaller and lack spines

The Spiny Orb Weaver creates circular webs to catch its prey and is an efficient hunter. Although their appearance might be intimidating, they pose no harm to humans2.

Other Unique Species

In addition to the Golden and Spiny Orb Weavers, there are numerous other intriguing species:

  • The Arrowhead Spider stands out with its distinctive triangular-shaped abdomen3.
  • Furrow Orbweavers have a dark, zigzag-edged pattern on their abdomens that resemble furrows made by a plow4.
  • The Featherlegged Orbweaver has a unique V-shaped twig-like appearance when holding its forelegs apart5.

Orbweaver spiders, in general, contribute to controlling insect populations and can be a fascinating topic of study for both amateur enthusiasts and professional researchers.

Footnotes

  1. (https://education.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/furrow-orbweavers) 2

  2. (https://extension.psu.edu/marbled-orbweaver-spider) 2

  3. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/arrowhead-spider-triangle-orbweaver

  4. https://education.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/furrow-orbweavers

  5. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/featherlegged-orbweaver

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 – Harmless Orbweaver “was huge”

 

Subject:  What kind of spider
Geographic location of the bug:  Orange County, California
Date: 10/01/2017
Time: 03:17 AM EDT
This spider was huge. Big web right outside our house. Any idea what it is? Poisonous?
How you want your letter signed:  Scared of spiders guy

Orbweaver Corpse

Dear Scared of spiders guy,
We are deducing that because of your use of the past tense “This spider was huge” and by the contorted appearance of the harmless Orbweaver in your image, that your fear led to Unnecessary Carnage.

Letter 2 – Harmless Orbweaver

 

Subject: What’s this bug?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!??!
Location: Western North Dakota
October 25, 2012 10:06 pm
Hi Bugman! We are putting our best efforts into classifying this spider. We are having a hard time deciding which one it is!
PLEASE HELP! Found in garage, really scary looking!
Signature: Scared of spiders 🙁

Orbweaver

Dear Scared of spiders,
This is a harmless Orbweaver.  Though they might look scary, they are not aggressive.  Orbweavers spend their lives snaring prey from a classic orb spiderweb that they seldom leave.  We believe they frequently become victims of Unnecessary Carnage.

Hi Daniel! We just captured it in a jar. We weren’t sure if it was harmful or not and have a 7 month old daughter so we wanted to be safe! There was no carnage involved 🙂
Now we will free it!

Good to know.  Our mistake but it looked dead.

Orbweaver, mistaken for dead

Letter 3 – Harmless Orbweaver “Prayed” to death in Texas

 

Subject: What is this?
Location: El Paso, Texas – blocks away from the Rio Grande River
August 16, 2014 2:31 am
I live in the southwest. El Paso, Texas to be exact. i was walking up to my house which is very dark at night, i was dressed very lightly and immediately felt a web all over the front of my body. It was very thick. the thickest that i have ever felt in my life, more thick than that of a black widow. i quickly started pulling the web off of me which was very thick and sticky, was very worried it was a black widow which is very common in el paso. i used the light of my phone to light up a gourd vine that i walked under to find a large gray spider that i have never seen before. unfortunately i have elder people and children that would be walking through there shortly so i had no choice but to pray the spider which was the last thing that i wanted to do 🙁 i am worried that this spider is dangerous. please can you identify this spider for me. it was larger than a black widow and had a huge web taller then me. i am 5-11.
Signature: Nathan D

Orbweaver Carnage
Orbweaver Carnage

Dear Nathan,
We are awed that you chose to “pray” in an effort to dispatch this harmless Orbweaver in the family Araneidae.  See BugGuide for more information on these beneficial spiders.  Orbweavers build orb-shaped webs and a member of this family was the inspiration for the classic children’s tale “Charlotte’s Web”.
  Orbweavers are rarely found outside of their webs, and they tend to build webs in the same locations day after day.  Orbweavers snare many harmful insects in their webs, and noctural species undoubtedly kill numerous mosquitoes which we believe you will agree is a positive attribute.  Try to educate your visitors about the presence of Orbweavers on your property and let them know that these are harmless and beneficial spiders.  For the record, Black Widows do not spin such organized webs and they do not spin out in the open.  Because we believe this harmless Orbweaver was unnecessarily killed, albeit with prayer, we are tagging this as Unnecessary Carnage.

Authors

    by
  • 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

4 thoughts on “Harmless Orbweaver: Essential Facts for Spider Enthusiasts”

  1. Please erase this photo. I am the one who sent this in, we did not kill the spider… We kept it in a jar in case it could harm our 7 month old daughter. I’m offended that my photo was posted and associated with this part of your site.

    I had no intentions of killing the spider, I was just looking for further information, and not to be falsely accused of “unnecessary carnage.”

    Thank you for your understanding, and your help.

    Reply
    • We apologize for the mistake. It did look dead. Also, we totally understand the protective instincts a mother has toward her young. We did not judge your actions, and we posted your letter right before leaving for a very long, end of the week work day, or we would have made the correction sooner. Thank you so much for making What’s That Bug an interactive experience. We spent some time trying to identify the species, and we wonder if it might be a Barn Spider.

      Reply
  2. Bawwwww it was huge. So it was how many times larger than you? Oh, wait, it was proportionally way smaller than you? Oh dear. Then I guess you’re just a b. As in the -itch variety.

    Reply
  3. Sooo many people fear so many insects. I am only afraid of those whose ignorance sways every move in their life. People need to educate themselves on the things around them. I’m trying not to write a book about it but this pic and question are prime examples.

    Reply

Leave a Comment