Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cross Spider -- Araneus diadematus

Araneus diadematus is pretty much omnipresent in my garden right now -- if not in empty, abandoned webs, then lying in wait for prey in their elaborately constructed, securely anchored orb-shaped webs. A very common garden spider in the Pacific Northwest, they are originally from Europe, and are present in gardens throughout the United States, from east to west coast and everywhere in between. I've never seen one inside the house.

Cross spider hanging upside down in my tomato bed.

Its common name, Cross spider, comes from the cross-shaped markings on its abdomen. You may have heard about a NASA experiment that was designed to see how zero gravity would affect the  ability of spiders to spin orb-shaped webs. That experiment used two Cross spiders, named Anita and Arabella (sorry, no Charlotte). Cross spiders have also been used to study the effects of psychotropic drugs on orb-spinning. See the blog entry here from Bug Eric.

Only females spin webs. The one in my garden will live only one year. Sometime in late September, she will probably leave the web and hide somewhere protected, where she will lay her eggs for next year's generation.

Sorry the photo is not better-focused, but here you can see her abdomen markings.

This spider's bite is completely harmless to humans and only a little bit painful (not that I have any experience.) See the Wikipedia article here. The one in my pictures was startled when I came close enough with my camera to get pictures of her abdomen markings. She ran across the web and tried to hide under a tomato leaf, where her web was anchored.

She has actually tried to hide from me before, when I go out to gather tomatoes. I think she's getting a little too big for that leaf. 

The Wiki article says that they eat their webs every night and reconstruct them, but she was been lying here in the same spot in my tomato bed for several days.

Abandoned web. Perhaps the occupant has already gone on to the big orb in the sky, and left behind her future progeny in a tiny egg sac somewhere in my garden.