Large Orb-Weaver Spider species

Gravid adult female Garden Spider   -   Araneus diadematus

Garden Spider / Cross Spider  (Araneus diadematus)

The Garden Spider is one of the largest bodied spiders in the UK, especially in Autumn when the females are gravid. Garden Spiders are common across Europe as well as in parts of North America. Most specimens have a white cross on their abdomen. The adults can come in a huge range of colours from yellow - brown - red - dark grey but the spiderlings are always bright yellow with a black triangle on the abdomen. Adult females can grow to a large body length of 20mm whilst males are slimmer and only reach 13mm. Their highly geometrical orb-webs are often around 200 - 400mm in diameter and the adult spider can be found either in the centre of the web or hidden close by on the other end of a trigger line from the web. Webs are built and repaired after dusk.

British Arachnological Society Factsheet

Heavily gravid adult female Garden Spider   -   Araneus diadematus

In some specimens of Garden Spider the identifiable cross markings are almost absent as in the photo above. With a body length of 20mm this example is one of the largest I have seen and looked ready to burst it was so heavily gravid with eggs. 

More information can be found here:    Araneus diadematus Link 1      Araneus diadematus Link 2        

Adult female Garden Spider   -   Araneus diadematus

Garden Spiders are highly variable in both colour and shade and can be found in most habitats. Sightings are most common in late summer / autumn when the females are gravid and large in size

Adult female Garden Spider   -   Araneus diadematus

Adult male Garden Spider   -   Araneus diadematus

Araneus diadematus  -  spiderlings

Adult female Garden Spiders weave a silky web-sac some distance from their web. Here they will deposit anywhere between 100 - 800 tiny yellow eggs, and shortly after this the females will die.

When the tiny spiderlings hatch they will remain huddled together as a cluster ball for a day or two, after which they will disperse. As soon as they disperse the spiderlings will quickly begin building tiny orb-shaped webs. The spiderlings are bright yellow with pyramid markings on the rear of their abdomens. These markings are common amongst many different Orb-Weaver Spiders though so positive identification may not be possible at this stage.

Adult female Garden Spider. This species is known to bite humans on occasion if handled roughly.

Adult female Garden Spider in orb web. 

Large 15mm Female Walnut Orb-Weaver Spider  -  Nuctenea umbratica

Walnut Orb-Weaver Spider  -  (Nuctenea umbratica)

Also known as Toad Spider or Evening Spider, they are found across England, becoming more scarce further north. Females have a body length growing to 15mm and males just 11mm. The flat dark brown abdomen and zig-zag edges are identifying features of this nocturnal spider. Females are common from the spring onwards but they can be seen all year round and even endure temperatures as low as -19 degrees Celcius! Males are usually only found in the summer. During the day these spiders hide in out-buildings, fences, rock crevices or loose tree bark, only coming out in the day to secure prey caught in their web. During the evening they often sit in the middle of their web. Walnut Orb-Weavers have been known to bite humans when disturbed, resulting in itchiness and a burning sensation on the skin, followed by a red patch with white lumps. 

LINK 1    LINK 2

Large 15mm Female Walnut Orb-Weaver Spider  -  Nuctenea umbratica

4mm Juvenile Walnut Orb-Weaver Spider  -  Nuctenea umbratica

Both male and female Walnut Orb-Weavers have a dark brown leaf-shaped mark on the upperside of their abdomen. On the underside they both have two cream coloured teardrop shaped markings.

Adult female Marbled Orb-Weaver   (Araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus)

Marbled Orb-Weaver   (Araneus marmoreus)

The Marbled Orb-Weaver is another of our larger native orb-weaving spiders. These spiders are commonly associated with damp heathland and woodland edges, and are often found on waterside vegetation. Females have a maximum body-length of 14mm with a 35mm leg-span. Males have a maximum body-length of 9mm with a 18mm leg-span. Adults specimens can be seen in late summer and autumn. There are two variations of this species. One has a completely marbled abdomen which can vary in colour, but is regularly seen in orange. The other (Araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus) has a pale yellow abdomen with a dark black or brown patch at the back. The Marbled Orb-Weaver is more common in the south of England whilst the Araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus variation is usually found around Norfolk to Yorkshire on the East of England.

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3

Marbled Orb-Weaver (Araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus) found at Horsey, Great Yarmouth, 4th September 2019.

Like most orb-weaver spiders the Marbled Orb-Weaver builds a retreat near one corner of its web where it will hide away for most of the day, coming out at night to repair and maintain its web.

Marbled Orb-Weaver walking over my hand

A spider of this size would have no problem piercing human skin with its fangs. But like all spiders it has no interest in biting humans, it just wants to get away.

Large adult female Four Spotted Orb-Weaver Spider  -  Araneus quadratus

Four Spotted Orb-Weaver Spider  -  (Araneus quadratus)

The Four Spotted Orb-Weaver is recorded as being Britain's heaviest spider with some specimens weighing over 2.5 gramms. Females have a body length of around 17mm and a leg-span in excess of 35mm. Males are around half that size. Adults can be found during late summer and autumn. These spiders build large orb webs between substantial vegetation and are usually found in undisturbed grassland, not gardens. The distinguishing four spots on the abdomen can be feint in males and difficult to see in heavily gravid females with stretched bodies. The colour of this species can vary enormously from red, brown, cream or green.

Small 5mm juvenile female Four Spotted Orb-Weaver Spider  -  Araneus quadratus. Photographed in June 2018

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3

Large adult female Four Spotted Orb-Weaver Spider  -  Araneus quadratus


Adult female Bridge Orb-Weaver Spider  -  Larinioides sclopetarius

Bridge Orb-Weaver Spider    -   Larinioides sclopetarius

The Bridge Orb Weaver gets its name from its tendency to dwell in / on man made structures near water, such as bridges, fences and bird hides. This species is also seen on tree trunks but is seldom found on vegetation. They are on occasion also referred to as the Gray Cross Spider. The Bridge Orb Weaver is the largest of the Larinioides with the females having a body length of up to 15mm, as with the specimen pictured above. Adults are usually seen between May - October and females are known to overwinter.

Adult female Furrow Orb-Weaver Spider   -   Larinioides cornutus

Furrow Orb -Weaver Spider    -   Larinioides cornutus

Usually found in damp places such as reeds and other waterside vegetation, as well as on bridges and posts. Females have a maximum body-length of 14mm with a 35mm leg-span. Males have a maximum body-length of 9mm with a 18mm leg-span. During mating peiods in Autumn and Spring, the males and females can be found living together. The large orb webs are usually empty during the daytime whilst the spider hides in a silken retreat nearby. Damaged webs are repaired at night. 

LINK 1     LINK 2

Adult female Furrow Orb-Weaver Spider in red   -   Larinioides cornutus

Adult male Furrow Orb-Weaver Spider   -   Larinioides cornutus

8mm sub-adult male Furrow Orb-Weaver Spider   -   Larinioides cornutus

Female Furrow Orb-Weaver Spider in red, at the edge of its web in reeds next to a lake in SE London / Kent   -   Larinioides cornutus

This adult female Furrow Orb-Weaver Spider was found climbing on a wooden bridge over marshland in Essex.

This adult female Furrow Orb-Weaver Spider was repairing its web in reeds next to a river, and feeding on prey caught in its web as the sun was setting.

Wasp Spider  (Argiope bruennichi)

The female wasp spider has these striking yellow and black markings and is capable of delivering a painful bite. The females can have a body size of up to 17mm (30 - 40mm leg-span) making it an impressive looking spider for the UK. 
These were first recorded in 1922 in Rye and other parts of the south coast and are thought to have come form Continental Europe but are now seen across the UK with new sightings being reported further north every year.

This photo shows the underside of the Wasp Spider as she hangs from a leaf.  Her powerful fangs are clearly visible. The male Wasp Spider is much smaller than the female as is often the case with spiders. Mating with the female can be a risky business for the male so it often hides by a female's web and waits until she periodically sheds her skin. The new skin underneath is very soft when first exposed and the female is vulnerable as her fangs are not as strong as usual until the skin hardens up. The male quickly seizes this opportunity to make his move and mate with the female while she is in this vulnerable state. Many males still suffer injury or death during the process though and the female will often eat the male given the chance.

Adult female Wasp Spider  (Argiope bruennichi)

Adult female Wasp Spider  (Argiope bruennichi)

Immature male Wasp Spider  (Argiope bruennichi)

Male Wasp Spider  (Argiope bruennichi)

As demonstrated by this image, the male Wasp Spider is far small than the female.

 Female Wasp Spider with Leap Hopper prey.

Wasp Spiders often display the same defensive strategy when approached. They are often witnessed dropping from their web completely and remaining completely motionless on the ground beneath the web in the hope that any would-be predator will not be able to find them.

Adult female Wasp Spider  (Argiope bruennichi)

Adult female Wasp Spider  (Argiope bruennichi)

 Argiope species of spider including the Wasp Spider display zig-zag patterns in the middle of their webs. These markings are known as stabilimente and may help to attract some insect prey to the web.

Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver Spiders  -  Tetragnatha Sp

Long / Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver Spiders    (Tetragnatha Sp.)

There are around eight species of Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver species in northern Europe. The two most commonly encountered in the UK are Tetragnatha extensa & Tetragnatha montana. Wide-Jawed Orb Weavers have a body-length of 5-15mm and are commonly found around or near to water in low vegetation, but can also be found on occasion on bushes or trees. Colour can vary from pale yellow - light green - light brown. They have extremely long jaws (chelicerae), especially the males, with the fangs at the tips. When disturbed these spiders can adopt a defensive posture with their legs fully stretched out in-font and behind them, giving rise to the name "Stretch Spider". This enables them to hide behind thin vegetation. The orb-webs are loosely formed with an open centre and few radii. Wide-Jawed Orb Weavers are usually found between May and August in the UK with some still around in September. Identifying specific species can be very difficult without close inspection.

Female Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider  -  Tetragnatha extensa.

Female Long / Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider  -  Tetragnatha extensa.

Common Stretch Spider  (Tetragnatha extensa) 

Female - 5-11mm body-length.  Male - 5-9mm. A common species found across Western Europe and the American continent. 

Female Long / Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider  -  Tetragnatha montana.

Shadow Stretch Spider -  (Tetragnatha montana)

Female 7-13mm body-length.  Male - 6-8mm.

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