Araneid spider in its web, covered in morning dew, woven between stems of rosebay willow-herb (Chamerion angustifolium), Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Araneid spiders (Araneidae) are also called orb-weavers, from the old English word orb, meaning ‘ball-shaped’ or ‘circular’, in this case referring to the circular webs, which are suspended among vegetation, in fences, and other places.
This cosmopolitan family, comprising more than 3,000 species, is well-known to most people, as many of these spiders are quite colourful, and their webs are often found in gardens and along roads. Initially, araneid spiders make a framework of non-sticky threads, before adding final spirals of threads, covered in sticky drops.
Araneid cobwebs in a tree, Malabang National Forest, Hsinshu, Taiwan. The reddish colour in the background are young leaves of a species of maple (Acer). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Araneid cobweb with dew drops, Nature Reserve Tipperne, Ringkøbing Fjord, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The wind has blown numerous seeds of rosebay willow-herb (Chamerion angustifolium) into these cobwebs of araneid spiders, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning dew in a web of an araneid spider, Jughandle State Park, California, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An araneid spider in its web, which is not quite completed, Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Araneid cobweb, covered in dew drops, woven between wires in a fence, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Unfinished webs of araneid spiders, Taiwan (top), and Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In the town of Anping, southern Taiwan, aerial roots of a giant large-leaved fig (Ficus superba) have completely enveloped a former warehouse of the company Tait & Co. Today, the building is called Anping Tree House. More pictures from this building may be seen on the page Nature: Urban nature.
Large-leaved fig and other fig species are presented on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees.
Sunshine, reflecting all colours of the rainbow in the web of an araneid spider, Anping Tree House. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Argiope is a large genus of araneid spiders, comprising about 90 species, distributed in all warmer areas of the world. Their web is quite large and often rather invisible, with the exception of a pure white silk pattern in the centre, made from densely woven threads, which form an X or a zig-zag pattern. The spider sits with one pair of legs in each of the four directions of the X, or aligned with the zig-zag pattern. This often makes the animal extremely visible, and many scientists have speculated as to what purpose this pattern is made. One theory is that its visibility might prevent large animals from accidentally destroying the web. Research has also shown that the pattern reflects ultra-violet light, which may attract prey to the web.
This smallish Argiope has made its web in a field of young rice plants, Bali, Indonesia. Its legs are aligned with the zig-zag pattern. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Argiope lobata is widely distributed in Africa, southern Europe, and western Asia. This one was photographed in Zaire. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This Argiope is sitting in its web, its legs aligned with the X-shaped figure, Parque Nacional de Cahuita, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Another Argiope from Cahuita, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This Argiope in Cahuita, Limón, Costa Rica, has caught a bush-cricket and is now entangling its prey in silk threads. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The pattern of silk threads in the web of this small Argiope is indeed conspicuous, but the spider itself is well camouflaged. – Reserva Nacional Hacienda Baru, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Another striking genus of araneid spiders is Nephila, called golden orb-weavers, comprising about 23 species, which are distributed in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. The female, which is many times larger than the male, can grow to 6 cm body length, with a leg span up to 15 cm.
The generic name is derived from the Greek nein (‘to spin’) and philos (‘love’), thus ‘fond of spinning’. The web of these spiders is enormous, up to 2 m across, with supporting strands much longer. The webs of different females are sometimes inter-connected, together covering many square metres. Small birds and bats are reported to have been caught in these strong webs.
The Asian golden orb-weaver (Nephila pilipes) is widespread, distributed from India and Sri Lanka eastwards to southern China, Taiwan, and Japan, and thence southwards to Australia.
Once, when I was hiking up the Marsyangdi Valley in central Nepal, I observed some children throwing something at female hikers, who would scream and run for dear life, while the children were laughing heartily. When I asked the children what they were doing to the poor tourists, they showed me several large orb-weavers, which they had collected from nearby webs.
Dorsal views of female Asian golden orb-weavers. They were encountered in Taiwan, where this species is very common in the lowlands and lower mountains. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ventral views of females, Taiwan. In the upper picture, a tiny male is seen to the left. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Female Asian golden orb-weaver, sitting in her huge web, Taiwan. Remains of prey are seen above. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dorsal view of a female American golden orb-weaver (Nephila clavipes), Reserva Nacional Hacienda Baru, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The golden-legged orb-weaver (Nephila inaurata) is found in southern Africa and Madagascar, and on several Indian Ocean Islands. It may be identified by its primarily golden front legs.
This female golden-legged orb-weaver, surrounded by tiny males, was photographed on Grand Comore, Comoro Islands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The genus Yponomeuta, of the family Yponomeutidae, contains more than a hundred species of moths, some of which are agricultural pests.
The native range of the spindle ermine moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella), in America known as euonymus webworm, is throughout Europe and the Middle East, eastwards to Siberia. It has also become naturalized in north-eastern North America. The adult moth has a wingspan, ranging from 19 to 26 mm.
The host plant of this species is the European spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus). The caterpillars are gregarious, spinning silk webs and feeding on the leaves within them. When the larvae pupate, they spin silk cocoons around themselves, hanging vertically inside the web. These caterpillars often occur in such numbers that the host tree becomes completely defoliated. In such cases, the larvae spin silk threads to the ground, where they pupate under plants.
Caterpillars of the spindle ermine moth are very characteristic, yellowish-white with black spots along the sides. These, encountered on the island of Bornholm, Denmark, have almost defoliated a spindle tree. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dust-covered cobwebs in a stable window, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The rufous treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda) is a colourful member of the crow family (Corvidae), native to India and parts of Southeast Asia. It is ubiquitous in northern India, living in a wide variety of habitats, such as forests, shrubland, agricultural areas, and gardens.
This rufous treepie is searching for spiders in a dense cluster of cobwebs, Ranthambhor National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rain drops in a cobweb, Mingtsih, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The European cave spider (Meta menardi), of the family Tetragnathidae, is distributed from Scandinavia and Britain, south to North Africa, and thence east to Korea and Japan. Adults shun light, living in dark places, such as caves, tunnels, and mines, but will emerge around dusk to hunt, often using a single silk lasso line, which is thrown on their prey.
This picture is from Helligdomsklipperne, Bornholm, Denmark, where the European cave spider has survived in coastal caves for at least 12,000 years. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A tiny spider in its web, spun between two stems of common bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris), Basianshan National Forest, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cobwebs in a marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre), heavy with dew, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cobweb with dew, Cascade Range, California, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hammock-weavers, also called sheet-weavers, are small spiders, belonging to the almost worldwide family Linyphiidae, which count more than 4,300 species. Their common names stem from their densely woven web, which resembles a hammock or a sheet. Another popular name of this group is money spiders, from an old European superstition, that if a sheet-weaver spider would run over a person, it would spin new clothes for you – meaning good fortune, moneywise.
The common hammock-weaver (Linyphia triangularis) was first described by Swedish entomologist and arachnologist Carl Alexander Clerck (1709-1765) in his 1757 book Svenska Spindlar (‘Swedish spiders’).
This small spider, growing to 6 mm long, is abundant throughout Europe, and has also been introduced to north-eastern United States. It lives in low vegetation, where it spins a horizontal sheet-web, waiting on the underside for prey. Small insects, which climb on a maze of web threads above the horizontal sheet-web, may fall down onto the sheet, where they are killed by the spider.
Title page of Carl Alexander Clerck’s book Svenska Spindlar. (Illustration: Public domain)
Numerous webs of common hammock-weaver among common hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa), Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Following a night with heavy dew, it is clearly revealed, how many common hammock-weaver webs are adorning this common box (Buxus sempervirens), Jutland, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Webs of common hammock-weaver among grass and heather (Calluna vulgaris), Öland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning dew in the web of a hammock-weaver, Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park, Santa Ana Mountains, California, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dew drops in another web of a hammock-weaver, Dasyueshan National Forest, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Raindrops create a beautiful pattern in a cobweb, Luzon, Philippines. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Autumn is the time, when young spiders spread. They climb to the top of vegetation, where they spin a disperse-thread, waiting for a puff of wind to carry them out into the world. It often happens that thousands of young spider land on a field, where their silk threads form a transparent carpet.
Young spiders, huddled together in their web before they disperse, flying with the wind at the end of a silk thread, which they spin themselves. – Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
On a quiet October day, myriads of young spiders have landed in this meadow in Nature Reserve Tipperne, Ringkøbing Fjord, Denmark, where their silk threads create a transparent carpet, as far as the eye can reach. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The mu oil tree (Vernicia montana), which was previously named Aleurites montana or A. cordata, is a smallish tree of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), native to southern China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. This species is described in detail on the page Plants: When the mu oil tree is flowering.
These fallen flowers of a mu oil tree have been caught in cobwebs, Sanyi, Taiwan. In the bottom picture, a puff of wind makes the flower sway. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Thousands of cobwebs in a field of rapeseed, covered in dew drops, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cobwebs in a bush, shimmering in the sunshine, Lake Bogoria, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Caterpillars of a bombycid moth species, huddled together in their communal web in a barberry bush (Berberis), whose leaves they have eaten, Langtang National Park, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cobwebs in a bush, shimmering in the sunshine, Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rime, covering a single thread of a cobweb, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded February 2018)
(Latest update May 2020)