Spoiler alert, this is about a backyard spider so if you have arachnophobia, don’t look at the photos or read any further; although, this little spider definitely does not look very spider-ish to the naked eye.
The Spiny backed orb, a weaver spider, is found in the Southern and Southwestern states. This time of year, most of them seem to be casting their nets in my yard. An evening stroll through the wooded path will have me ducking. During my last pass through, I ducked and came up in the middle of the next spiny’s web.
Spiny Backed Orbs don’t seem to mind sharing their space. My husband called me out to the side yard early one morning to see at least 5 spiny backed orbs webs side by side and over and under each other with their anchor lines seemingly interconnected.
Theirs is the type of web we think of when we think spider. It is that round and round intricate net that is ready to catch any small creature that flies into it. When viewed from the side, it could be a spinning flying saucer, even though it is stationary. The very center of the web is open, with only the spider on a landing pad right in the middle. An amazing tidbit of information is that these spiders build a new web every night.
The spiny backed orb, Gasteracantha cancriformis (syn. G. elipsoides,) is flat and kind of round, usually sporting six spikes. It comes in several color combinations. Mine are Mardi Gras colors of purple spikes with cream and yellow bodies.
These spiders resemble crabs in shape but are only about ¾ of an inch, give or take some, with the females larger than the males. They will bite if provoked, but unless you are allergic, there is no problem to humans. They are useful, especially this year in my yard. The rainiest summer in history has multiplied the mosquito population to unbearable proportions. These little spiny backed orbs are welcome to net all they can eat and more.
By Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
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