An Orb Weaver is any species of spider in the Araneidae family. The family contains an immense variety of different species, including over 3,000 species placed in 172 different taxonomic genuses. Many of the various species have relatively large bodies, recognizably circular webs, and bright coloration. Read on to learn about the Orb Weaver.
Description of the Orb Weaver
The various species in this group come in a wide range of shapes, colors, and sizes. However, most hold the general arachnid characteristics. All have eight legs, attached to segmented bodies consisting of a cephalothorax with a head and legs, and an abdomen.
Though the various species reach different sizes, the largest individuals can measure as much as five inches in diameter. Their webs also vary greatly in size, but most look like your typical round spiderweb.
Interesting Facts About the Orb Weaver
An immense variety of different species exist. Learn more about a few specific species or groups, and what makes them unique, below.
- Golden Orb Weaver – These massive spiders have made the news for their large size and propensity to eat whatever happens into their webs. In fact, one Australian resident recorded the spider eating a snake that had become entangled.
- Spiny Orb Weaver – This group, in the genus Gasteracantha, shares a unique, spiny and colorful cell-like structure on their abdomens. Some species have elaborate shapes and colors. In some regions, people refer to these spiders as “crab spiders” because their shells resemble those of crabs.
- Banana Spider – Many different species go by this name, but the species in this group that people refer to as a ‘banana spider’ is Trichonephila clavipes, and it lives in the southern United States and Central America. Researchers have studied the use of its silk in neuron regeneration.
- Guatemalan Long-Jawed Spider – This species made up a large percentage of spiders found in a now-famous infestation of a wastewater processing plant. Researchers estimated over 100 million individual spiders had infested the plant and blanketed the structure in webbing.
Habitat of the Orb Weaver
Because this group contains such an immense variety of species, the number of habitats that they utilize is nearly infinite. You can find them in your classic garden, grassland, and woodland habitats. However, they also live in suburbs and cities, within manmade structures and industrial sites, and much, much more.
Distribution of the Orb Weaver
The family has cosmopolitan, or worldwide, distribution. This means that they live on virtually every landmass worldwide, with the exception of some few isolated islands. You can find them on every continent except Antarctica.
Diet of the Orb Weaver
These spiders have carnivorous feeding habits, which means that they eat other creatures. Most have insectivorous diets, and eat primarily insects and other invertebrates. Common prey items include gnats, flies, mosquitos, and other small insects. However, researchers have recorded some exceptionally large species feeding on birds and reptiles.
Orb Weaver and Human Interaction
Humans do not regularly interact with these creatures. Because they have easily noticeable webs, people do not often have accidental run ins with the spiders either. However, some species do pose a nuisance to humans by creating webs in commercial or residential buildings. The vast majority of species in this group do not have toxic venom.
Humans have not domesticated these arachnids in any way.
Does the Orb Weaver Make a Good Pet
Some people do keep certain species in this family as pets. People keep the Golden Orb Weaver more commonly for its impressively large size and bright coloration. However, this is not common practice.
Orb Weaver Care
Though some people do keep them as pets, because most species create large webs, you might find it difficult to house them. Most glass aquariums you might keep other spiders in will not suit this creature, as they prefer large spaces in which to spin their webs. Additionally, they capture their prey in their webs, and thus you must place their food there.
Behavior of the Orb Weaver
Web building constitutes much of this spider’s behavior. It stands motionless in the center of its web while waiting for prey to fly into the sticky strands. Once something tasty has become trapped, the spider bites it to subdue it, and then wraps it in silk. Many species eat their webs every day, and build new ones shortly afterwards.
Reproduction of the Orb Weaver
Females in this group reach sizes much larger than the males. The male generally travels to the female in her web, and tries not to end up as prey. Many species cannibalize the smaller or slower males, and do not let them breed. Each species has its own specific egg-laying behavior.
Beliefs, Superstitions, and Phobias About the Orb Weaver
Many people are incredibly fearful of spiders, and some even tear down webs that they find, despite the fact that these spiders pose no harm to humans. Because they remain in their webs, they generally never interact with people. In fact, these creatures often capture pesky insects that bother humans and damage gardens or crops, making the spiders beneficial to people.