Although autumn is well and truly passed now, it doesn’t feel like too long ago when every hedge and patch of scrub was adorned with the delicate webs of an amazing little architect: the European Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus). Throughout the autumn months, Will Hawkes and I spent a lot of time studying a variety of different insects around campus, and I have to say that this remarkable beast has to be one of the coolest…if a little under-appreciated by many.
I wrote a fairly detailed blog post dedicated to this species a while ago, so check out the link to see that…but I shall give a shortened summary for my 10th Advent Blog post. The European Garden Spider is amongst the family of arachnids known as Orb-weavers. This species, like many others in the Araneidae family, spin large orb webs to snare unwary prey. Typically about 13mm in length in females, and up to 8mm for males, they can grow to a chunky size- the former in particular can spin sizeable webs capable of catching a diverse range of prey items, from butterflies and grasshoppers through to midges, shieldbugs and species of bees and flies.
The construction process of a web is incredibly detailed and carried out sometimes daily. Firstly, the radials are connected together from an initial ‘throw line’, resembling the spokes of a wheel. The spider will then set about adding the lethal sticky circular threads, using its abdominal spinneret to secure the line to each radial along the ay. During the whole construction process, the spider uses a non-sticky spiral of thread attached from the centre to the periphery to move around, which stops its own entanglement in the web! Once finished, the Garden Spider will often rest patiently in the centre in wait of prey. And it is at this stage that, given a particularly misty morning, we can fully appreciate their work; Spider’s webs covered in dew droplets possess a certain beauty that enables us to appreciate all their hard work.