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Spider Webs

by Valerie (October 15, 2000)
dew-covered orb-weaver spider web
orb-weaver spider web Not all the spiders in our yard make webs. They are all capable of producing silk in several varieties, but the prey-catching technique of web building is not universal. There are also a large number of spiders that make sheet-like webs, cobwebs, or webs that just look like a jumble of sticky threads. Since these are not as photogenic as the typical orb webs, they are not included here.

One kind of orb-weaver that does not make vertical webs is the long-jawed orb-weaver. This spider often makes its web across the surfaces of our ponds, usually at an almost horizontal plane. Most of the other spiders we have make vertically oriented webs. Spiders rebuild their webs quite often, sometimes every night, eating the old web before creating a new one.

A predominate species of orb-weaver is the argiope. This fascinating spider grows quite large and often stays in the same location all summer. When argiopes are small, they create a wide central area of bright white silk. As they mature, this area becomes a long central stripe. I've never heard a positively proven reason for this white patch (which other spiders also make), but it probably has something to do with either camouflage for the benefit of predators and/or prey, or may even lure insects as the silk reflects ultraviolet light like flowers.

young argiope spider in webadult argiope spider in web
The spiny-backed spiders, although rather small, often make large webs. Their favorite locations seem to be across garden paths. They usually have some silk decoration, but not enough that I always see their webs before blundering into them.
spiny-backed spider in webunidentified orb-weaver spider in web
There are numerous other orb-weavers, including some as big as ¾ inch long, but most are very small. Their webs all exhibit the beautiful symmetry so characteristic of the arachnid world.
unidentified very small orb-weaver spider in web

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