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 but markings fade or disappear completely as the abdomen of gravid females stretch. 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. The orb-webs are built and repaired after dusk. Other common names for this species include the European Garden Spider, Common Garden Spider, Crowned Orb-Weaver and the Pumpkin Spider.

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. 

LINK 1     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. 

Once ready to lay her egg-sac the large female leaves her web. Often she will eat the old web and recycle the silk proteins for use when she builds herself a silken retreat to lay her egg-sac in. The adult female will stay close by the egg-sac to initially stand guard but will usually die once the first winter frosts arrive. The spiderlings usually disperse in the spring once the temperatures start to rise.




Male Garden Spider attempting to mate with a female, at Camden, SE London, 6th September 2021.

Once mature male Garden Spiders leave their webs and head off in search of females to mate with. The mating process is a very risky business for the male as the larger female often eats the smaller male as he attempts to mate with her or immediately after copulation has taken place. When the male has found a suitable female he will often wait at the edge of her web. He begins to pluck or strum the web to a specific pattern or rhythm to alert her that he is a potential mate and not prey. He continues to do this as he approaches her very slowly. Once close to her the male will tentatively touch the tips of her front legs repeatedly with his front legs as part of the courting ritual. At this stage she may accept his advances or she may choose to eat him instead. The female will only mate once but if the male is lucky enough to mate successfully and escape with his life he will attempt to mate with further females. Larger males are preferable mating partners and are less likely to be eaten than small males. Who says size doesn't matter?

The male pictured above slowly approached the female several times before retreating again each time. On every approach he plucked at the web and gently tapped the tips of her legs to let her know that he was a mating suiter and not prey. On his final attempt the female seemed to accept his invitation but as he moved within range she launched her attack. The male quickly dropped from the web to the ground and escaped. The female remained in the web still holding one of the male's legs in her jaws. It is possible that this female may have been hungry or she may have already mated with another male and will see all further males as an easy lunch. Or maybe he just wasn't her type.


Male Garden Spider attempting to mate with a female, at Camden, SE London, 6th September 2021.










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. 







Adult female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) in orb web. Photographed in my suburban garden in SE London, 18th September 2020.







5mm juvenile female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) in orb web. Photographed in East Grinstead, 4th April 2021.









16mm female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) rebuilding her orb web at night. Photographed in my SE London garden, 18th September 2021.








12mm female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) in orb web, in my SE London garden, 9th September 2021.








12mm female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) in orb web, in my SE London garden, 9th September 2021.








13mm female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) in orb web, in my SE London garden, 9th September 2021.








The same female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), now at 18mm, in my SE London garden, 18th September 2021.








18mm female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), in my SE London garden, 18th September 2021.









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 roughly handled, resulting in itchiness and burning sensations to the bite area, sometimes followed by a red patch with white lumps. The two yellow or cream crescent moon shapes on the underside of the abdomen are key identifying features of this species. Unlike the Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) that only lives for one season, the Walnut Orb-Weaver (Nuctenea umbratica) can live for 2-3 years. The large female pictured above lived on my garden fence for three years.

LINK 1    LINK 2


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

In Greece and Cyprus Nuctenea umbratica are known as Nightmare Weavers, which apparently is a translation of their scientific name. 




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.




Large 14mm Female Walnut Orb-Weaver Spider (Nuctenea umbratica) found under loose tree bark in a wooded brownfield site in SE London, 28th December 2020.

Walnut Orb-Weavers make great subjects to photograph. Their large size makes it easy to capture plenty of detail. They also have a tendency to play dead and remain perfectly still for long periods of time when captured, which is ideal for photography! 





Large 14mm Female Walnut Orb-Weaver Spider (Nuctenea umbratica) found under loose tree bark in a wooded brownfield site in SE London, 28th December 2020.







Large 14mm Female Walnut Orb-Weaver Spider (Nuctenea umbratica) found under loose tree bark in a wooded brownfield site in SE London, 28th December 2020.









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


LINK 1





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.








Female Furrow Orb-Weaver (Larinioides cornutus). 
One of several with retreats built in the seed-heads of tall grass growing at the edge of freshwater dykes in Minnis Bay 25th April 2021. 








Female Furrow Orb-Weaver (Larinioides cornutus). 
One of several with retreats built in the seed-heads of tall grass growing at the edge of freshwater dykes in Minnis Bay 25th April 2021. 








Female Furrow Orb-Weaver (Larinioides cornutus). 
One of several with retreats built in the seed-heads of tall grass growing at the edge of freshwater dykes in Minnis Bay 25th April 2021. 








17mm female Angular Orb-Weaver, found on gorse at Studland Heath, Dorset, 13th September 2021
Angular Orb-Weaver   (Araneus angulatus)
The Angular Orb-Weaver is a large spider closely related to the Garden Spider. The two species can easily be separated by the presence of two distinctive tubercles / humps in the top corners of the abdomen. The abdomen also has an oak-leaf pattern. Females grow to around 15-20mm in body-length with a leg-span of up to 45-60mm. The smaller males reach around 10-12mm in body-length. Both sexes are very similar in appearance but the smaller male has very obviously swollen pedipalps. This is a nationally scarce species confined largely to southern coastal counties where it is often associated with deciduous woodland edges and heathland. Specimens are rarely found more than 30 miles from the south coast. The large orb-webs are made in bushes and trees, sometimes high up. Adults are most commonly seen from June - August. Due to the shape of the abdomen juveniles can sometimes be confused with Gibbaranea gibbosa.

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3



Wasp Spider  (Argiope bruennichi)

The female Wasp Spider is arguably Britain's most stunning looking spider with her striking yellow and black markings and large size. Females can have a body size of up to 17mm (30 - 40+mm leg-span) making it an impressive looking spider for the UK. 
These were first recorded in the UK back in 1922 in Rye and other parts of the south coast and are thought to have originated form Continental Europe. Since then they have spread through much of Southern England with new sightings being reported further north every year. Wasp Spiders can be seen from April to October and are most commonly found in undisturbed areas of rough grass where they will feed primarily on grasshoppers and crickets caught in their webs. The orb-webs are built in the grass fairly close to the ground and can easily be missed. Despite their intimidating appearance these spiders are harmless to humans with the bite being no worse than the sting of a wasp and their aposematic colours are intended to deter predators.

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3


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. Attempting to mate with the female can be a risky business for the male and many males are killed by the female in the process. A male will sometimes hide by a female's web and wait 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 distinctive zig-zag patterns in the middle of their webs. These markings are known as stabilimenta. No one is 100% sure of the purpose of these zig-zag patterns but one popular theory is that they may help to attract some species of insect prey to the web by reflecting ultraviolet light. It was originally believed that these stabilimenta were used for stabilising the webs, hence the name, but this idea has been disregarded by most people because these stabilimenta are often only loosely attached to the web and would do little to add any structural strengthening.



Female Wasp Spider photographed at Swanscombe Marshes, in Kent, 23rd August 2020.








Female Wasp Spider photographed at Swanscombe Marshes, in Kent, 23rd August 2020.








Female Wasp Spider photographed at Swanscombe Marshes, in Kent, 23rd August 2020.








Female Wasp Spider photographed at Swanscombe Marshes, in Kent, 23rd August 2020.








Female Wasp Spider photographed at Swanscombe Marshes, in Kent, 23rd August 2020.








Female Wasp Spider photographed at Swanscombe Marshes, in Kent, 23rd August 2020.









Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver Spiders  -  Tetragnatha Sp

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

There are six Tetragnatha species of Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver species in the UK. The two most commonly encountered in the UK are Tetragnatha extensaTetragnatha montanaWide-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 Long / Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider  -  Tetragnatha extensa.

Common Stretch Spider  (Tetragnatha extensa) 

A common and widespread species found across the UK, Western Europe and the American continent. They commonly make their webs in grasses and other low vegetation, particularly besides fresh water. Females typically reach a body-length of 5-11mm , and the males reach 5-9mm. Adults of both sexes are usually seen from May to July, and sometimes well into autumn. The body colour varies from pale yellow to golden brown or green.

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3


Female Wide-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider  -  Tetragnatha extensa.







Tetragnatha extensa, found on low vegetation at the edge of a duck pond in Rottingdean, near Brighton. Photo taken May 18th 2022.








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

Shadow Stretch Spider -  (Tetragnatha montana)

Another common and widespread species found across the UK. They commonly make their webs in trees, bushes or  low vegetation, particularly besides fresh water. Although this species is not as closely associated with water and wetalnds habitats as Tetragnatha extensa. Females typically reach a body-length of 7-13mm , and the males reach 6-8mm. Adults of both sexes are usually seen from May to July, and sometimes well into autumn. As its name suggests the Shadow Stretch Spider can often be found in shaded areas.

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3    LINK 4



Tetragnatha striata egg-sacs, found on reeds and on the leaves of water iris plants at the edge of fresh water. Photo taken May 18th 2022.









Large female European Cave Spider (Meta menardi), found in Kent beneath a manhole cover for a residential sewer outlet.

European Cave Spider  (Meta menardi)

Also known as the Large Cave Spider and the Cave Orb-Weaver Spider. There are two very similar species of Cave Spider in the UK which can usually only be distinguished by very close examination, Meta menardi and Meta bourneti. The European Cave Spider is one of the UK's largest spiders with a bulky body around 10-11mm for males and 12-15mm (17mm in some cases) in length for females, with a leg-span sometimes exceeding 5cm. These gentle giants are capable of giving a sharp nip if provoked but are very reluctant to bite and can usually be handled gently without issue.

Although common across the UK they are a rarely encountered species due to their very specific habitat requirements. Cave Spiders are photophobic meaning they prefer to live in complete darkness, often in damp locations such as sewers, tunnels and caves. They are most frequently found living in railway tunnels and mines, damp cellars  or under manhole covers and occasionally in gardens under decking. They have also been recorded living in dense ancient woodland in large hollow tree-trunks. Cave Spiders build large orb-webs of up to 30cm in diameter, although they are usually seen waiting beside the web on the walls of their surroundings rather than in the web. Cave Spiders feed on both flying prey that is caught in their orb-webs and crawling prey that they catch by wandering the walls of their local habitat. Occasionally these spiders will venture out into the open to hunt prey at night. 

The European Cave Spider usually lives for 2-3 years. After mating in spring adult females deposit their teardrop-shaped white egg-sacs in summer near the entrance to the cave where the your spiderlings will develop. When ready the spiderlings will disperse via ballooning into new areas. There are reports that unlike adult Cave Spiders the juveniles may actually be attracted to light which would help them to disperse. In most cases female Cave Spiders will outnumber males on a ratio of 3:1 or even 5:1. Females also usually live longer than the smaller males. Cave Spiders have a fairly low tolerance of cold temperatures and are most frequently encountered in areas that do not see temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius.

Britain's other cave spider, Meta bourneti, usually has much fainter markings on its abdomen and lacks the ringed legs of Meta menardi. Cave Spiders are often confused with False Widow Spiders. One way to separate the two is to look at the legs. Meta species have visible leg-spines but these leg-spines are absent from Steatoda species.

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3    LINK 4    LNK 5    LINK 6



8mm female Bordered Orb-Weaver, found on the top of coastal cliffs in Dorset 20th July 2021

Bordered Orb-Weaver  /  Beautiful Orb-Web Spider  (Neoscona adianta)
The Bordered Orb-Weaver is a medium sized orb-weaving spider with females growing to a maximum body-length of 5-12mm and males reaching 4-5mm. This is the only Neoscona species found in the UK and is fairly common on the south and south-east coast of England. Elsewhere in the UK this spider is uncommon. The messy orb-web has an unfinished appearance and is constructed in low vegetation, often heather and gorse. The Bordered Orb-Weaver is found in open habitat including heathland, coastal grassland, saltmarsh and fen. Adults are often found sitting on a constructed platform next to their orb-webs. The smaller males are similar in appearance but have a smaller abdomen and larger palps. Adults are usually seen from June through to September.

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3


One of several Bordered Orb-Weavers found in Gorse and other low vegetation on the top of coastal cliffs in Dorset 20th July 2021








One of several Bordered Orb-Weavers found in Gorse and other low vegetation on the top of coastal cliffs in Dorset 20th July 2021








One of several Bordered Orb-Weavers found in Gorse and other low vegetation on the top of coastal cliffs in Dorset 20th July 2021








One of several Bordered Orb-Weavers found in Gorse and other low vegetation on the top of coastal cliffs in Dorset 20th July 2021
















CLICK HERE FOR:     1 - SPIDERS      3 - JUMPING SPIDERS      4 - FALSE WIDOW SPIDERS      5 - CRAB SPIDERS      6 - ORB-WEAVERS      7 - SPIDERS WEBS