If the cold weather isn’t scary enough, enter the orb weaver spider

Quick Notes:

  • They are everywhere.

  • They’re more interesting than they are terrifying.

  • They could be your garden’s best friend.

Arachnophobia is rampant and for good reason. Creepy crawly spiders are usually considered more pest than pet, but the orb weaver spider is more than just a nightmare for people afraid of bugs. The common araneids can be found in most places all over the world and chances are, you’ve run into one.

The little eight-legged insects are near the top of the best little builders of spiral webs and come in a variety of colors and species. The orb weaver spider may be a decoration at Halloween, but the way they help the ecosystem and spin beautiful silk-like webs, they should be highly regarded as much more than freaky decor.

Could an orb weaver be your neighbor?

If you’ve seen a spider weaving its web on your front porch anywhere in the US, there’s a good chance that was an orb weaver. They are found in locations all over the world and they are very common in gardens, fields, and forests. They aren’t anything to fear, but if you dislike creepy crawlies, chances are you’ve been creeped out by one of these.

Jeroen Bosch / Unsplash

The intricacy of their web allows them to catch other bugs that may be looking to infiltrate your fall vegetable supply.  A lot of bugs frequent areas where there’s food for them to steal, and the orb weaver lays in wait to help keep that garden bug free.

Their webs are delicate and functional

The spiderweb that these little spiders weave is flat, sticky and silk-like. They engineer these designs off instinct alone and end up creating the wheel-shaped webs that have become popularly known. They do this by using a set of three claws. The first two claws are designed to help the spider take a line of their web and wind it to another before securing it.

Once secured, another line of the web is dropped. This non-sticky part of the web is shaped into a ‘Y’, and then followed up with a spiral of the sticky webs hikers find themselves caught in on a walk through the woods. Aside from the fact that orb weavers are nature’s little engineers, their biological make-up makes navigating their webs that much easier. Once their first two claws spin their magic, the third claw walks effortlessly across the web allowing them to finish the job.

The way they create and catch prey is enviable

Once the web is finished, the prey will stumble into the web unaware of what they’re getting themselves into. The sticky web will trap them while the spider goes in for a bite to stun the insect. They then use their web skills to wrap up their dinner and once that is done, the hard part of catching lunch for the orb weaver is over.

The orb weaver tends to build a new web every day, after spending the majority of daylight hours hiding from predators.

They eat their old web, whip up another one in the same area as the last, and spend the rest of the day waiting to catch another unsuspecting insect. Although some orb weavers don’t build webs at all, such as the Mastaphora, most need to weave to survive.

They’re real-life superheroes

The orb weaver is harmless to humans but the prey they catch tends to become a headache to people if left to its own devices, or someone’s garden. They eat twice their weight in other bugs that could destroy an herb garden in no time at all.

They can keep themselves and their webs practically invisible during the day by using their stabilimentum, a band of silk in the center of the web, so not only do they save gardens, but they can also disappear if they need to.

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