Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Monday, September 18, 2017

Orb Weaver Spiders

Spiders. You either love them or hate them. I happen to be in the 'love' camp and it's a good thing because we have LOTS of spiders in our garden.


In late summer and early fall the orb weaver spiders have reached maturity and are on show with their masterfully designed webs hanging from all forms of plant life and structures. In fact its hard not to run into a spider web when trekking around our garden. Mating season is in full gear and these females need nourishment.

Black & Yellow Argiope (female)

Orb weaver spiders build the classic web of concentric circles and spokes, which radiate outward from the center with anchor points. This genius design allows them to capture anything as small as a mosquito to as large as a butterfly. Other common meals include flies, thrips, mites, moths, beetles, wasps and bees. Evident by their diverse diet, they are not picky eaters and can have ferocious appetites. Their work helps keep insect populations in check and are a friend to this organic gardener.


Orb weaver spiders have poor vision and use vibration to know when they have captured prey. Watching a spider at work is incredibly fascinating. I happened to witness a butterfly mistakenly fly into a web and observed the spider quickly restrain its prey by wrapping it in silk. This is done so that the web will not be destroyed by the movement of prey trying to escape the sticky webbing.

Here is the series of shots I took over a period of a few minutes.






Spotted orb weaver (female)

Once the prey is crushed the spider will consume the liquids in the insect's body. Below is another spotted orb weaver, found hanging across our back driveway, this time with a gulf fritillary butterfly.

Spotted orb weaver (female)
I accidentally disturbed her web as I walked by and she instinctively began to pull up her meal to a secure location in the oak tree branches she was using as her anchor. This species usually takes down its web each day by eating it, recycling the proteins contained in the web, and creates a fresh web in the evening.


Unlike most orb weavers that have a bulbous abdomen, the Arrowhead is distinctive with its big yellow arrowhead shaped body and marking. This smaller spider, at half an inch long, is also unusual because it hangs with its head facing up, where most spiders hang head down.

Arrowhead orb weaver

The arrowhead spider prefers to build its web in forests and shadier areas of the garden and is notorious for building webs across paths at eye level.


Spiders are peaceful dwellers in the garden. It's unfortunate that so many have an irrational fear of these beneficial creatures.

disclaimer: as an avid butterfly gardener it does make my heart sad when I see them captured; however, we have created a habitat garden and I have made peace with the fact that all insects have to eat. It's all part of a functioning, balanced ecosystem.

10 comments:

  1. I love them for all the good they do but have been known to frantically brush myself off like a crazy person if I inadvertently run into a web. I'm not sure I would do that well if I lived in the south!

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    1. I don't think anyone is calm when they run into a web simply because it is unexpected. The sticky web is especially icky when you get it in the face. Do we have more spiders in the south than you do in Canada?

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    2. I'm not sure about more but definitely bigger! We do have a lot of small spiders around here but for us, a big spider is one that is an inch long and I'm including the legs here! Most of the ones we see are closer to the 1/2" mark.

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    3. Well then, yes, definitely larger spiders in my garden (but not the house). They do grow quite large and their webs are also pretty spectacular.

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  2. I let spiders be too. We had some visitors once and she remarked about a spider in the house that was creeping across the floor. She promptly killed it. We said, " we don't kill spiders!" I know most people do when they are in the house but we also have little geckoes and I think they take care of anything the spiders don't, including the spiders.

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    1. I'm not a spider killer either, and promptly move them outdoors where they will be happier. I have a child who has a fear of spiders and yet he loves snakes! We only have two venomous species in Georgia (black widow and brown recluse). We use to come across black widows under rocks (they are beautiful creatures) but haven't seen any in a long while.

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  3. I must be unusual in that I neither love them nor hate them. I love them in the sense that I appreciate their unique niche in nature. But I also feel uncomfortable when I walk into their webs. I have been known to move the webs out of the way of hummingbird flyways, and I've also moved spiders away from my butterfly garden plants. But spiderwebs make great padding for nests and spiders are fascinating, beneficial creatures. Great post!

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    1. I get it Beth. It is a hard struggle to assist nature or let it be. Ironically, hummingbirds often use the spiders silk to help build their nests but there is the risk that they get caught up in a web. When the orb weaver spider caught the butterfly and I saw something frantically moving out of the corner of my eye I panicked thinking a hummingbird had got caught up in the web. It was too late for me to rescue the butterfly. The spiders are quick and the silk is sticky in the center.

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  4. I adore spiders Karin and love watching them....these are amazing shots even the sad ones of the butterfly.

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    1. Thank you Donna. Yes, it is tough seeing beloved butterflies become a meal, but I remind myself that everyone has to eat to keep the healthy, native ecosystem in tact. I try not to humanize it too much.

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