Orb or Wheel weaving spiders

Family Araneidae

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This is the family of spiders that makes the well-known orb-webs and are therefore called orb-weavers or wheel weaving spiders.
This family has recently undergone a lot of changes. The Nephila or golden orb web spiders, the Tetragnathidae or long jawed spiders are now described in their own family.
About 30 genera and 260 species have been recorded in Australia. The large Genus is Eriophora (=Araneus) with 110 species.
Well known spiders in this family are the Argiope, the garden spider or St Andrew's cross spider, the curled leaf spider and the spiny (Christmas) spider.
None of these spiders are venomous to humans.



Genus Arachnura

You do not suspect a spider in this woolly stick hanging in the air. But a closer look reveals the scorpion-tailed spider. The female spider is around 15 mm large and the male is almost invisible and is only 2-3 mm long. The colour differs markedly with age. From pinkish-brown, dark pink-orange-brown and dark-yellow.
The upper portion of the web often lack spirals. Spiderlings hatch in early summer. Their body starts triangular and lengthens with every mould. The spider can be found in in all states of Australia.

Arachnura higginsi Scorpion-tailed spider

Arachnura higginsi by Wendy Eiby WA Arachnura higginsi by Wendy Eiby WA

Genus Araneus

Araneus acuminatus Araneus acuminatus
Araneus acuminatus female Araneus acuminatus male
Araneus albotriangulus Araneus albotriangulus
Araneus albotriangulus female Araneus albotriangulus
Araneus arenaceus Araneus arenaceus
Araneus arenaceus Araneus arenaceus
Araneus circulissparsus Araneus circulissparsus

Eriophora circulissparsus
A pale green / yelow orb-web spider that is seldom noticed as it is a nocturnal spider. During the day it is well camouflaged againt leave surfaces. Males are 3-4 mm and females 5-7 mm.

Araneus cyphoxis by Wendy Eiby WA Araneus cyphoxis by Wendy Eiby WA
Araneus cyphoxis by Wendy Eiby WA Araneus brisbanae Jamberoo NSW (photo by nic van Oudtshoorn)
Araneus praesignis
Araneus praesignis male  
Araneus praesignis Araneus praesignis
Araneus praesignis female Araneus praesignis female
Araneus psittacinus Araneus psittacinus
Araneus psittacinus female Araneus psittacinus juvenile
Araneus rotundulus Araneus rotundulus
Araneus rotundulus male Araneus rotundulus female
Backobourkia heroine
Backobourkia heroine (previous name Araneus and Eriophora heroine) Araneus ZZ430 by Farhan Bokhari
Araneus talipedatus by Farhan Bokhari  

Genus Arkys

The common name of these spiders is 'ambush' or' triangular' spider.
This triangular spider lives in open forest clearings along the East Coast amongst the foliage of shrubs and captures prey with the first two pairs of their heavily spined legs.

Nine species are described. They do no build a web. They are placed in the same family as the wheel-web weavers because of their body structure. The size of the female is about 9 mm, the male is only 5 mm.
The spider can be found on leaves, seed-heads and flowers. The egg-sacs are made in late summer and are spherical and pink-orange of colour.

Arkys cornutusArkys cornutus by Michael Barrit

Arkys alatus Arkys alatus
Arkys alatus Arkys alatus
Arkys cornutus Arkys cornutus
Arkys cornutus Arkys cornutus
Arkys curtulus Arkys curtulus
Arkys curtulus Arkys curtulus
Arkys furcatus Arkys furcatus
Arkys furcatus Arkys furcatus
Arkys lancearius Arkys lancearius
Arkys lancearius Arkys lancearius

Arkys clavatus

Arkys clavatus

Arkys ZZ452 WA by Wendy Eiby


Genus Argiope

See also Argiopes from: Europe, USA.

This very well-known spider is also known under the name 'garden spider'.
There are 25 known species in this genus but the most beautiful and spotted one is the Argiope Keyserlingi ( formerly aethera) or 'St Andrew's cross spider' and Argiope picta 'Northern St Andrew's cross spider'

The spiders of this family are easily identified by the zig-zag silk construction (stabilimentum), usually a cross, they make in their web. This in contrast to the in appearance similar genus Gea that does not weave a zig-zag of silk in its orb web.
It is believed that the spider uses it to camouflage itself in the cross and to warn birds not to fly through the web.
But there are also other hypotheses.
Perhaps the most important function of stabilimenta is to attract insects. The silk of the stabilimentum reflects UV light and pollinating insects are lured to these threads.
If the spider is attacked it starts shaking vigorously in her web. The whole web becomes white because of the stabilimentum. This frightens of attackers.
The web is usually constructed a few decimetres above the ground in tall grass and among shrubs.

Argiope picta
Argiope picta
Argiope keyserlingi Argiope keyserlingi
Paperly looking egg-sac of Argiope keyserlingi Under side of Argiope keyserlingi
Argiope protensa ready to bite in her wrapped prey  
Argiope picta Argiope picta
Argiope picta. Female and male. The male is not as beautiful as the female and is only 5 mm. Females measure up to 14 mm.
The female is almost identical with Argiope keyserlingi that has smaller and whiter spots and read band across her abdomen.
Argiope picta
lives in the northern part of Australia and Argiope keyserlingi more south.
Argiope picta Argiope picta
Argiope picta

The shape of the stabilimentum changes with the age of the spider. First it starts with a circular white web in the centre. Later it changes to a cross and when the spider is full-grown only a small zig-zag remains.

 

Argiope syrmatica Argiope syrmatica
Argiope syrmatica and Argiope protensa are very similar. The common name of Argiope protensa is tear-drop spider because of its elongated body ending in a point. They are found between grasses. Thir webs sometimes have an irregular zig-zag of silk in the centre of their web.
Argiope syrmatica webbing its prey.  

Argiope protensa

Argiope protensa, SA, by Yard Worx

Argiope protensa, QLD, by Robert Whyte
Argiope syrmatica Argiope syrmatica
Argiope syrmatica dorsal site WA Argiope syrmatica ventral site WA
Argiope protensa Argiope protensa
Argiope protensa WA Argiope protensa WA
Argiope extensa Argiope extensa
Argiope extensa Argiope extensa
Argiope_ZZ020 Argiope_ZZ077
Argiope ocyaloides Argiope ZZ077
Argiope ocyaloides
Argiope ocyaloides by Marie Herbenstein Argiope ocyaloides by Robert Whyte
Argiope ZZ396 Argiope ZZ396
Argiope ocyaloides QLD Gum tree weaver Argiope ocyaloides QLD
Argiope ocyaloides WA  Argiope radon (Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory)
Argiope radon male and female (NT) Argiope radon (Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory)
Argiope radon (Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory) Argiope radon, Katherine, NT by Stephanie Scott
Argiope trifasciata WA Argiope trifasciata also occurs in Europe. This one is from the Canaries

Argiope dietrichae, Karinji NP WA

Argiope dietrichae, Karinji NP WA
Argiope dietrichae, Karinji NP WA Argiope dietrichae, male Karinji NP WA

Genus Austracantha (previous Gasteracantha)

These colorful six-spined spiders build a vertical wheel web with 20 - 30 radii and a very close spiral design.
Austracantha minax female and male.
The six-spined, Christmas or jewel spider or Austracantha minax. The female is about 8 mm long, cream colored with white and black while the male is only 3 mm long and white and black.
Gasteracantha_minax_F0562
Austracantha minax Austracantha minax with prey by Trevor Murray

Genus Carepalxis

These spiders of around 5 - 13 mm are difficult to find. During day-time they rest on twigs. During the night they catch prey in orb webs with closely arranged spiral threads. The web can be 60 cm in diameter for Carepalxis coronata that lives north of Sydney up to Queensland. The spider breaks down her web in the morning.

 

Carepalxis tuberculata
  Cat-faced Carepalxis tuberculata by John Mansfield NSW seen from behind
Carepalxis tuberculata Carepalxis tuberculata
Carepalxis tuberculata by John Mansfield NSW Carepalxis tuberculata by John Mansfield NSW

Genus Backobourkia

This is a new described genus. As is name suggests it is often found in the Outback

Backobourkia ZZ449 by Wendy Eiby WA Backobourkia ZZ449
Backobourkia heroine
Backobourkia heroine Backobourkia heroine

Genus Celaenia

Celaenia excavata is better known as 'Bird-dropping' or 'Bird-dung' spider because it resembles it. Another common name is 'Orchard spider'.
The spider is 2 - 3 mm large and white, brown and cream of colour.
She does not make a web but attracts male moths of a single species ( Spodoptera mauritia, Lawn Armyworm ) by a special scent called pheromones. The pheromones are similar to the ones a female moth makes when she awaiting a man.

Celaenia excavata Celaenia excavata
Celaenia excavata (C. kinbergii) Celaenia excavata (C. kinbergii)
Celaenia excavata Celaenia calotoides
Celaenia excavata NT by Michael Barrit Celaenia calotoides QLD by Robert Whyte
Celaenia calotoides Celaenia calotoides
Celaenia calotoides QLD by Robert Whyte Celaenia calotoides QLD by Robert Whyte

Genus Cyclosa

Cyclosa_ZZ084_RF0558.Cyclosa_ZZ084_F0870
Cyclosa ZZ084

This genus also makes a marking in its web like the Argiope but instead of a cross it makes a circular marking. The small elongated species of Cyclosa, usually about 6 mm long, have conical humps at the end of the abdomen. Through the centre of the snares, furnished with many radii and closely set spirals, often lies a stabilimentum consisting largely of the remains of insects and debris tied together with silk.
Cyclosa insulana ranges from the Mediterranean to Australia.

Cyclosa_ZZ085_RF0479 Cyclosa_ZZ086_RF0447
Cyclosa ZZ085 Cyclosa ZZ086
Cyclosa_ZZ086_F0763  
Cyclosa ZZ086  
Cyclosa tribolata WA by Wendy Eiby Cyclosa tribolata WA by Wendy Eiby

Genus Cyrtarachne

This orb-web spider that resembles the Arkys triangular spider.
Cyrtarachne
is nocturnal and weaves a horizontal web. The sticky threads in the web of this genus are remarkably stronger than the viscid threads of the other araneids.

Cyrtarachne ZZ069


Genus Cyrtophora Tent-web spiders

These spiders are closely related to orb-web spiders. See more here


Genus Dolophones

Although wide-spread Dolophones prefer natural bush land situations. These spiders have short legs and a heart shaped abdomen which is flat and broad.
They are called 'wrap around spider" because they wrap around a twig when in rest. Their couloring matches the coulor of the twig and they are therefore very difficult to spot.
The skin has a rough texture, often bearing nobles and scab-like protuberances.
One species, Dolophones turrigera, bears a turret-like projection on front of its abdomen which gives the otherwise crab-like outline a bizarre appearance.
This genus resembles the genera Heurodes and Poltys.

Dolophones turrigera
Dolophones turrigera  
Dolophones turrigera Dolophones turrigera
Dolophones turrigera Dolophones turrigera Sydney (photo by Guy Pollock)
Dolophones conifera
Dolophones tuberculata Jamberoo NSW (photo by Nic van Oudtshoorn) Dolophones conifera (Photo by Jeanie Clarck) VIC

Dolophones ZZ020 Photo by Robert Whyte Dolophones ZZ423 picture by Farhan Bokhari

Genus Eriophora

Formerly called genus Araneus. These are the common garden spiders that make that familiar vertical orb-web usually at face level.
The web is usually renewed after a night's use and renewed the next evening. During the day the spiders remain in a hiding nearby.
Males are the same size as females but with a slender abdomen, long legs and conspicuously clubbed palps.

Eriophora transmarina has a brown/orange/red body densely covered with grey and white hairs. The spider can vary widely in colour and pattern. The female (20-25 mm) is considerably larger than the male (15-17 mm). The spider sits during the night in her web and retreats during the day. Her web is made between 1 and 2 meter above the ground can measure up to 70 cm in diameter. The female makes an oval shaped egg-sac of 20 * 30 mm that contains 200-300 eggs with a diameter of 1 mm.
   
Eriophora transmarina? Eriophora transmarina
Eriophora transmarina? Eriophora transmarina?
Eriophora transmarina? Eriophora ZZ266 transmarina?
Eriophora ZZ328 WA Eriophora ZZ328 WA
Eriophora_ZZ068_RF0346 Eriophora_ZZ099_F1532
Eriophora ZZ068 Eriophora ZZ099
Eriophora_ZZ091_RF0289 Eriophora_ZZ097_F0683
Eriophora ZZ091 Eriophora ZZ097
Araneus heroine Araneus ZZ075
Eriophora heroine now Backobourkia heroine (previous name Araneus heroine) Eriophora ZZ075
Araneus ZZ135 female Araneus ZZ135 male
Eriophora hamiltoni female Eriophora hamiltoni male
Araneus ZZ114
Eriophora ZZ196 Eriophora ZZ114
Eriophora ZZ368 Eriophora ZZ137
Eriophora ZZ367 Eriophora ZZ267

Genus Gea

Spiders of this genus are similar in appearance with Argiope. These spiders do not make a zig-zag stabilimentum in their webs are the spiders are often not so beautifully coulored and smaller in size. Gea theridioides male on the back of my hand
Gea theridioides Gea theridioides
Gea theridioides Gea theridioides by Robert Whyte

Genus Larinia

Larinia phthisica
Larinia phthisica
Larinia phthisica
Larinia phthisica Larinia ZZ268
This spider lives in a vertical orb web that is made in tall grass. The female is around 9 mm long and the male is a little smaller.  

Genus Gasteracantha
Spiny Orb-weavers

These often beautiful colored spiny orb weaver spiders construct often large orb webs in relation their size.
The size of males is around 4 mm while the females reach a length of around 10 mm. The abdomen has six spines

Gasteracantha fornicata Gasteracantha fornicata
Gasteracantha fornicata from above and from below.

Gasteracantha fornicata makes large orb webs  
Gasteracantha westringi, rainbow spiny orb weaver from NT ( by Michael Barrit) Gasteracantha westringi, rainbow spiny orb weaver from NT (photo by Vicki Braddy)
Gasteracantha quadrispinosa
Gasteracantha quadrispinosa Gasteracantha quadrispinosa
Gasteracantha quadrispinosa Four spined jewel spider
Their colouring varies between brown - orange and yellow. These spiders are 3 - 6 mm long and found in the QLD tropical rainforests. The four spines are black at the points Picture Marina Schwartz QLD
Gasteracantha sacerdotalis Gasteracantha sacerdotalis
Gasteracantha sacerdotalis Picture Marina Schwartz WA Gasteracantha sacerdotalis Picture Marina Schwartz WA
Gasteracantha ZZ643  
Gasteracantha ZZ643 Picture Marina Schwartz WA  

 


Genus Ordgarius

Bolas spider

The bolas spider belongs to the famous set of Australian spiders, like the Sydney funnel web, the Red back and the jumping spider Portia.
These spiders became famous by the BBC series “Life in the undergrowth”.
Bolas is derived from the Spanish word ball (boleadorus) and is a throwing weapon. It consists of a rope with and a weight on the end of the rope.

The Bolas spider belongs to the family of orb weavers. But it does not make a orb web to catch prey but uses hís bolas instead. The Bolas spider also uses a rope, in this case a silken thread, and instead of a weight a sticky blob is attached at the end of the silken string.

Its prey is moths. To catch moths the spider releases moth specific pheromones – an odour, in this case three chemicals, that is released by the female moths to attract males. If a moth approaches, the spider detects the vibration caused by the wing beats with its long sensitive hairs on its legs. It starts swaying its bolas vividly in all direction below her. Moths attracted by the pheromones get glued to the sticky blob and are caught by the spider. By attracting only males with the pheromone the spider obviously does not catch female moths.

The spider is nocturnal like the moth it catches. During the day the spider hides in a web usually between one and two meters above the ground in scrub.
Females are 14 mm large while the males measure only 2 mm. The female makes several elongated egg-sacs containing dozens of eggs.

Three species occur in Australia mainly in NSW and QLD: Ordgarius magnificus, Ordgarius monstrosus and Ordgarius furcatus.

Magnificant spider

On the right Ordgarius magnificus hanging above it bolas thread. In the enlargement one can see there are smaller droplets of glue above the large 'bolas' droplet to maximize sticking of the moth to the thread.

Ordgarius magnificus

Pictures by Greg Anderson


Genus Heurodes (old name Acroaspis)

Heurodes ZZ302 (WA)

Heurodes (Acroaspis) is wide-spread in Australia and includes at least 15 or so species. However, species identification is currently impossible as the genus has not been taxonomically revised yet. The spiders look spectacular in their web at night. During the day, they motionless sit on a branch of a tree and cannot be distinguished from a little branch or bud. Birds will have a hard time finding these during the day.


Genus Neoscona

Neoscona ZZ088

Neoscona ZZ088 male
Neoscona ZZ087 Neoscona ZZ088
Neoscona ZZ087 Neoscona ZZ088
Neoscona ZZ089 Neoscona ZZ098
Neoscona ZZ089 Neoscona ZZ098
Neoscona ZZ095 Neoscona ZZ094
Neoscona ZZ095 Neoscona ZZ094
Neoscona ZZ100 Neoscona ZZ088 male
Neoscona ZZ100 Neoscona ZZ088 male

Genus Phonognatha

Phonognatha graeffei, leaf-curling or leaf-rolling spider, builds an orb web with a curled leaf retreat or sometimes a snail shell in the upper part of the web. The orb web build around the leaf is renewed every night. Young spiders make their retreat in a living leaf.
the colouring of the spider is variable
 
Phonognatha_graeffei_F0517 Phonognatha_graeffei_F0557
Phonognatha graeffei. Phonognatha graeffei.
Phonognatha_graeffei_F0556
Phonognatha graeffei. Phonognatha graeffei male. Note the long palps used for copulation
Phonognatha graeffei. Phonognatha graeffei.
Phonognatha graeffei. Phonognatha graeffei.
Phonognatha graeffei. Phonognatha graeffei.

Genus Poecilopachys

This spider varies in colour between the specmens considerably. Remarkable about this spider is its ability to change colour. The colour seems to pulsate, especially when agitated. Poecilopachys australasia was previously named Poecilopachys bispinosa. The spider builds a small orb web, preferably in citrus yards, and is usually found in the center of its web. Egg-sacs are papery brown.

Poecilopachys australasia Poecilopachys australasia
Poecilopachys australasia Poecilopachys australasia Photo Michael Barrit
Poecilopachys australasia Poecilopachys australasia
Poecilopachys australasia juvenile Poecilopachys australasia juvenile


If not noted pictures by Ed Nieuwenhuys, Jurgen Otto or Robert Whyte

1 april 2017

Copyright
ã 1997-2017

27 september 2015, 23 November 2013, 8 June 2013, 8 March 2011, 20 August 2010, 13 February 2010, July 2009, April 2008, January 2008, November 19, 2002, May 2005, Sept 2006, May 2007,12 april 1997