The Golden Orb Weaver

I was intending on including these photos in my photography category as well as australian wildlife etc. because that was what motivated me to take them in the first place; I was experimenting with macro shots. However, when I started comparing my photos to those on, what I originally was quite happy with, suddenly seemed terribly amateur and only good for demonstrating the spider itself as opposed to good photography. Then again, on second thoughts I guess I did set up the category to monitor my progress of the hobby and not as a gallery of best works so maybe I will include it after all.

Ok, so onto the little beauties themselves: These Golden Orb spiders are very common garden spiders here in the Sydney area (they are probably common in a lot of other places but I can only comment on what I have seen here) and this is a photo of one who’s web is just outside our front door, strung up over the Passion Flower.

They are charming little creatures because although they can be vast in numbers, especially over the summer months, they tend to keep themselves to themselves. From what I have observed they stay in their webs the majority of the time, which they build close to humans’ habitats. However, instead of a lot of spiders which tend to get in the way and can inadvertently string their webs across pathways for a poor unsuspecting human to walk into, these considerate little things seem to be intelligent enough to build theirs just out of the way. Whether this is a coincidence I’m not sure; there was one that spun her web dangerously close to our front door a couple of months back, but on leaving the house in the morning I had a little chat with her and on my return from work in the afternoon she had moved.

Here is another one which constructed her web between the Frangipani tree in the garden and the car port. I had to hold my camera at arms length to take the picture as the web was just above head height. This photo demonstrates another interesting fact about the Orb spider; they are very efficient spiders in that they do not spend time mending their webs each day, instead waiting until their web is practically falling apart before reconstructing a new one.

You can also see from this photo how they store their food all in one area of the web, although this one isn’t as neat as a lot I have seen. I have managed to catch quite a few now in the middle of catching their prey and stopped to watch the process. As soon as the fly (for example) gets caught in the web the spider is alerted to it’s presence, wanders over and bites it (I’m not sure if this just stuns the fly or kills it). She then detaches it from the web so it is dangling from her abdomen and spins it round and round whilst wrapping it in her silk until it is neatly cocooned. She then wanders over to her larder area, still carrying the fly from her abdomen and neatly reattaches it to the web. Sometimes this larder can be so neat the prey is all lined up in neat little vertical rows.

Here is a closeup of the same spider showing how scrappy the web is. It’s difficult to judge the size of these spiders from the photos but they tend to have an average body length between 1 to 1.5 inches, females that is. I believe the males are a lot smaller and I’m not entirely sure whether I’ve seen one of these or not. I’m assuming these are all females.

Anyway, there is a brief account of these curious arachnids, demonstrating that by no means are all Australian spiders to be feared. Quite the opposite in fact!

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