Yellowish-White Orb Weaver Spider

2009 December 26

Michelle[1] sent me this set of pictures of a spider on the cut end of a log some time ago, but I have just now settled down to try and figure out what kind of spider it actually is.

white spider.dorsal

I can’t see all the eyes, but the ones I can see have a pattern consistent with it being one of the Orb Weavers in the family Araneidae – four eyes visible from above all lying along a pretty straight line, with two in the middle quite close together and the two outermost eyes spread quite far apart.

white spider.backandeyes

Spider ID is notoriously difficult, what with the significant variations in color within a species, but if I was just going by the leg coloration, abdomen shape, and the color and shape of the carapace, I’d think it was a Cross Spider, Araneus diadematus. Which, incidentally, is an introduced species in the US, which would go right along with the trend of the most common species around here tending to be the introduced ones.

white spider.faceandlegs

One problem, though: a diagnostic ID feature of the Cross Spider is that they have a white cross on the back of the abdomen, and this one has no cross[2]. So, it’s probably not that species, but it is quite likely to be in the same genus.

white spider.facefromside

Orb weavers in general are often pretty good sized spiders, and judging from its size relative to the saw-marks and tree-rings on the cut log it’s sitting on, this one is no slouch. It’s body is probably a centimeter long. They spin a very characteristic web (which this one was obviously not on at the time – it may have been knocked off of its web, or it may have been a wandering male looking for a mate). They make the classic round “spider web” with strands radiating from the center, supporting a spiral of sticky silk. It’s pretty cool to watch one of these spiders constructing a web. I sometime watched orb weavers in the barn when I was a kid, and they could bang out a nice orb web in about an hour.

white spider.side

At any rate, pictures in a natural setting with sunlight are certainly more attractive than pictures on graph paper with artificial light, at least if the person behind the camera knows what they are doing.
[1] Speaking of whom, Michelle’s 2010 nature photography calendar is currently for sale on, for anybody who wants to keep track of what day it is while looking at pretty pictures.

[2] S_ says, “Maybe it doesn’t wear a cross because it’s an atheist!” Ha ha. Of course, we musn’t jump to conclusions – maybe it just isn’t a Christian.

7 Responses
  1. December 26, 2009

    Good post. Could it be a Cross Spider that’s tweaked or a mutant? Everything but the back looks almost exactly like the ones I see in my backyard:


  2. December 26, 2009

    That’s a pretty ugly spider. It looks like the body was put on with a nail gun, as if God was busy and needed to knock out a spider with only a little time to do it.

  3. December 27, 2009

    Well, at least it isn’t a mutant like this one.

    Nyar! Nyar!

  4. December 30, 2009

    No way! I LOVE Phil Foglio! I still have all my old Dragon magazines with his “What’s New?” cartoons!


  5. Della3 permalink
    February 25, 2010

    I’m in the Southwest. Our orb spiders are very pretty, and they get huge! I’ve made friends with several over the years. They knew my habits, and would clean up their webs for me before I walked out my doors. I watched them do it sometimes. In the evening, they would spin a new one in the same spot. Other orb spiders with webs in less traffic-prone areas would leave their webs up all day.

  6. Charlie permalink
    July 10, 2010

    My son and I just found a spider on our house in Minneapolis, MN that looks almost exactly like that. The only difference I see is that the head of ours is brown instead of the translucent white. The body is about 1 inch long. The underside of the body is dark brown.

  7. gloria everts permalink
    July 30, 2010

    i live in wisconsin, i found this spider on my foot stool, it looks similar to the white orb, the one i have , the back is bright yellow, round, with 6 indents on top , the legs are transparent with the reddish brown rings. i have never seen any spider like this in wisconsin.

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