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My Little Orb Weaver

I was outside and walked into a spider web the other day. I turned around and managed to get the web wrapped across my mouth and draped through my hair. I spit and frantically batted at it, imagining the spider heading right into some facial orifice. Somehow I was able to extricate myself, and I fortunately never saw the spider. Poor spider. She was probably more distressed than I was.

Have you noticed how many more spider webs there are in the fall? That's because immature spiders usually come out of their egg sacks in the spring, then take most of the summer to grow up. When they mature, they concentrate on reproducing. Females need lots of energy to produce eggs, so they eat a lot. Thus, lots of spider webs to catch their food. While male spiders will spin webs to catch prey when they are young, upon maturity they usually abandon the practice to concentrate on mating.

I was fortunate to see the next spider web before I walked into it. It seemed to be a large web for such a small spider. I think the spider was just getting started:

Here is a close-up of the spider. She is very interesting!

I looked up my spider on line and easily identified it as a spiny-back orb weaver, Gasteracantha cancriformis. These distinctive crab-shaped spiders have spines along their sides. They have color variations of red, white, yellow and black, depending on their region. They are very small. The male is only up to 1/18 inch, while the female is larger at about 3/8 inch. They are short-lived spiders, living from 2 to 5 months. The male dies only 8 days after mating and the female dies soon after laying her eggs.

These orb weavers are garden spiders. They do not invade the house, and they are not dangerous. They are good guys, preying on flies, mosquitos, beetles, and many flying insects that are harmful to crops and ornamental plants in our gardens. They are susceptible to insecticides, so use of artificial pesticides should be minimized.

There are many species of orb weavers across the world. The famous little spider in Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White, was a kind of orb weaver. Next time I see a spider web in my garden, I will think twice about knocking it down!


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Reader Comments (18)

Ha! I enjoyed your story about walking into the spider's web. I would do the same thing--it's a natural reaction. Thanks for all the information about spiders. I don't mind them much unless the block a path traveled by humans, hummingbirds, or other favorite creatures. The thing that sometimes becomes difficult is discerning whether a web is from spider mites (bad) or a spider (good). I loved Charlotte's Web!

September 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPlantPostings

It's spider season in my garden too. They particularly love to build webs across a narrow dirt "gardener's path" that runs between the shrubs bordering the street and the shrubs along an interior stacked wall - I have to avoid the area entirely to prevent the very same predicament you faced. Though I know they cause no harm, running into a web still causes me heebie-jeebies!

September 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

We are covered in spider webs too. I've never seen a little spider like that! How interesting!

September 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristi {Jealous Hands}

I've not seen that spider either but it doesn't mean it isn't here. Interesting about why there are so many more webs in autumn, I've often wondered.

September 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

There are webs here too, it's so difficult trying to avoid walking into them. The spiders use up so much energy making the protein to make their web, I feel so guilty when I destroy one by accident. I am fascinated by them and love seeing them spangled with dew drops first thing in the morning.

September 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpauline

We have developed a consensus the spiders and I. During this time a year I watch for their webs and I’m carful not disturb them; I am try to walk around them giving humble respect…They are such amazing pieces of art. The one exception is that they have to leave the front door and back door free. Unfortunately we are still discussing that a bit, trying to come to an agreement.

September 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie@Seattle Trekker

I enjoyed your little anecdote! Loads of spiders and webs here too, a perennial occurrence in the late summer till autumn much the same as there.

September 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

That is a very cool spider! I generally leave the webs alone. Anything that kills flies has to be good.

September 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason

They are beautiful...and while I have the greatest respect for them, they belong outside. If they come in my house, there is a little too much screaming, [not from my husband] and they are gently dispatched out the door.


September 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

So interesting to hear why there are more spiders in the fall - I always wondered about that. I haven't used my back door in days because of the enormous spider building a web there. I'm usually squeamish about bugs, but spiders don't bother me at all! Go figure. I guess I know they are helping me out.

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah/Galloping Horse Garden

I have noticed less spiderwebs this summer and fall-not sure why that is. Charlotte's Web is a longtime favourite. I always think of the character Charlotte whenever I see a web.

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I have noticed new spider webs in my garden, too. But I don't think I've ever seen one of these. What an interesting looking spider! I hate running into their webs, and often wonder if it is me or them that are the dumb one for running into the same web in the same place several days in a row!

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHolleyGarden

This seems to be the season of the spider, and you captured some of the best images I've seen. Not easy to do.

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLee May

Hi Deb! I've never seen an orb weaver in my garden. Very interesting creature. I have millions of other spiders here, it seems to me - more than ever! Thank you for explaining why there are so many of them visiting our gardens in fall!

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

Such a cute little spider, it doesn't really look like what a spider is supposed to look like which makes it a little less scary. Thanks for the information about this spider.

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I always wondered why there were so many more spider webs in the fall. So exciting to have the answer. I like spiders from a distance. They grow quite large in Maine and can give me quite a scare.

Fascinating info Deborah and that is one cool looking spider!!

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

This year seemed there were fewer spiders then other years. But on a wet morning I suddenly noticed all the spiderwebs. Luckily most are high in the trees so I won't walk into them. I don't like spiders in my face or hair either.

October 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
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