It’s that time of year again when I get lots of photos, videos, and requests to identify ‘this spider’. Usually the adjectives that are go along with the description include: huge, gross, creepy, and annoying. I’d like to go ahead and say that I think better adjectives would be: amazing, industrious, elegant, and nimble. Well, if you are simply looking for a name and don’t care about anything else you will be happy to know they are called, Hentz’s orb weaver, a spider in the family Araneidae. If you want to learn a bit more why they are so amazing read on.
The scientfic name for the spider is Neoscona crucifera and is closely related to a few other species that are found throughout North America. Although the family is distributed around the world. This particular species is a late bloomer of sorts. Depending on what latitude you live in, the males don’t reach adulthood until mid summer and females a couple of weeks later. That’s the reason that they start to make showing (and I start to get questions) close to the end of summer.
Females build a conspicous web (up to 2 feet) in places that have the greatest chances of catching pray. With houses that ends up being assocaited with outdoor lights that attract insects and for most people that means right by their front doors. Hentz’s orbweaver is a nocturnal species and females can spin a web in about one hour or less. Often webs can be found first thing in the morning without spiders and it isn’t until dark that they will emerge from a hidden retreat to wait for pray. They will usually rebuild a new web every night and the coolest part about it…. they eat their old web first!
When an insect lands in the web the spiders will quickly judge if they should make their move or not. The orbweaver will quickly run over, partially wrap the prey in silk before injecting the venom using their fangs. The venom usually slows down the prey quickly, the spider will then continue to wrap the insect up and let it sit until it’s ready for a snack.