Reddish Vale Country Park
The "typical" orb-weaver spiders (family Araneidae) are the most common group of builders of spiral wheel-shaped webs often found in gardens, fields and forests. Their common name is taken from the round shape of this typical web, and the taxon was formerly also referred to as the Orbiculariae.
Orb-weavers have eight similar eyes, legs hairy or spiny and no stridulating organs. The Araneidae family is cosmopolitan, including many well-known large or brightly colored garden spiders. There are 3,006 species in 168 genera worldwide, making Araneidae the third largest family of spiders known. The orb-weavers include over 10,000 species and make up about 25% of spider diversity.
Many webs span gaps between objects which the spider could not cross by crawling. This is done by letting out a first fine adhesive thread to drift on the faintest breeze across a gap. When it sticks to a suitable surface at the far end, the spider will carefully walk along it and strengthen it with a second thread. This process is repeated until the thread is strong enough to support the rest of the web.
After strengthening the first thread, the spider will continue to make a Y-shaped netting. The first three radials of the web are now constructed. More radials are added, making sure that the distance between each radial is small enough to cross. This means that the number of radials in a web directly depends on the size of the spider plus the size of the web.
After the radials are complete, the spider will fortify the center of the web with about five circular threads. Then a spiral of non-sticky, widely spaced threads are made for the spider to easily move around its own web during construction, working from the inside out. Then, beginning from the outside in, the spider will methodically replace this spiral with another, more closely spaced one of adhesive threads. It will utilize the initial radiating lines as well as the non-sticky spirals as guide lines. The spaces between each spiral will be directly proportional to the distance from the tip of its back legs to its spinners. This is one way the spider will use its own body as a measuring/spacing device. While the sticky spirals are formed, the non-adhesive spirals are removed as there is no need for them anymore.
After the spider has completed its web, it will chew off the initial three center spiral threads then sit and wait. If the web is broken without any structural damage during the construction, the spider does not make any initial attempts to rectify the problem.
The spider, after spinning its web, will then wait on or near the web for a prey animal to become trapped. The spider senses the impact and struggle of a prey animal by vibrations transmitted through the web. A spider positioned in the middle of the web makes for a highly visible prey for birds and other predators, even without web decorations. Many day-hunting orb-web spinners reduce this risk by hiding at the edge of the web with one foot on a signal line from the hub or by appearing to be inedible or unappetizing.
Spiders do not usually adhere to their own webs, because they are able to spin both sticky and non-sticky types of silk, and are careful to travel across only non-sticky portions of the web. However, they are not immune to their own glue. Some of the strands of the web are sticky, and others are not. For example, if a spider has chosen to wait along the outer edges of its web, it may spin a non-sticky prey or signal line to the web hub to monitor web movement.
Many orb-weavers build a new web each day. Generally, towards evening, the spider will consume the old web, rest for approximately an hour, then spin a new web in the same general location. Thus, the webs of orb-weavers are generally free of the accumulation of detritus common to other species such as black widow spiders.
Orb weaver spiders come in many different colours, sizes and shapes.
All images, copyright, Stockport Nature.Com
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Reddish Vale Country Park