Spider of the Week – The European Garden Spider

One of the things that I love most about my job is the chance to learn something new and exciting everyday, even when I am on vacation. For instance, while I was home in the SF Bay Area last weekend, my dad decided to show me a number of cool spiders that he has found recently while gardening. One of them was this beautiful, and seemingly common orbweaver, Araneus diadematus. I’m sure that I saw this species a thousand times growing up, but being afraid of spiders, never took the time to really appreciate how interesting and beautiful it really is. Here are a couple pictures I took of a male next to my parents’ house, but if you click on a few of the hyperlinks in this post, you can see some professional photos of them. ARKive has some great videos, as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some facts about Araneus diadematus:

  • Commonly known as the “European Garden Spider,” or the “Cross Orbweaver.” The “Cross” name comes from the distinctive pattern on the dorsal side (the “back”) of the abdomen.
  • Occurs throughout North America and Europe.
  • Sexual cannibalism does occur in this species. In this case, females will sometimes eat males either before or after sex, depending on a variety of physical states (e.g. how hungry she is). (See: Roggenbucketal2011)
  • Like many orbweavers, individuals will take down their webs at night, eat the web (along with any insects that are caught in the web), and build a new web in the morning.
  • Spiderlings disperse through a behavior called “ballooning,” in which individuals release a bit of silk that catches in the wind, carrying the spider away from its original home. (More info on ballooning in spiders)
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