The golden orb: its unbeweavable
Published: Oct 20, 2017Learn more about one of our creepiest of crawlies...
With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss possibly our most frightful resident at Newquay Zoo: the golden orb weaver! Here’s some more information about one of our creepiest of crawlies.
Also known as the banana spider, the writing spider or the giant wood spider, the golden orb weaver is a spider that creates a yellow silk which appears golden in the sun.
How big are they?
These guys grow up to 2 inches in size (not including their legs), if you do include the legs they can grow up to 5 inches.
The females are larger than males, which is usual of most spiders. The largest orb weaver recorded was a 2.7 inch female found in Australia.
Where will you find them? On the world wide web, of course! But seriously…
The golden orb weaver can be found in Africa (Madagascar), Asia, Australia and USA. Oh and of course in the Tropical House here at Newquay Zoo!
The Golden Web
Orb weavers create very complex webs which can be up to 1 metre across. Sunlit webs, which look golden, can attract bees, making for easy snack catching. The golden colour also allows provides camouflage when the web is constructed among background foliage.
The web itself is considered very beautiful and designers have been attempting to use it in fashion for many years. In 2004, designers Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley produced a shawl entirely made out of the golden web. The shawl took over 3 years to make with over 1 million orb spiders involved in the project. Spiders were caught, some of their webbing was extracted and then they were released back into the wild. Both the shawl and a cape, which was made later by the duo in 2012, were featured in a fashion exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum in London.
Peers and Godley are the first recorded to have successfully created clothing using the web.
What do they eat for lunch?
Like most spiders, orb weavers love BUGS. Here at Newquay Zoo, our orb weaver loves a delicious helping of crickets and locusts similar to in the wild.
Are they venomous?
Yes, but only mildly. If bitten by an orb weaver you’re likely to experience a little pain around the bite and some redness but unless you’re allergic to them you should be just fine. I still wouldn’t advise picking one up if you see one, though!
How long do they live for?
Orb weaver spiders will usually live up to 12 months. Our female orb weaver 10 months old.
Orb weaver spiders shed their skin several times throughout their lifecycle and shortly before their final shed, the females will be ready to reproduce, providing there’s an attractive male around. When the female lays eggs, she will lay two large sacks surrounded by golden silk webbing. The male will keep watch while she does this, but it’s likely that she will then eat him - unless he is lucky enough to escape. The female will live for about a month after she has laid her sacks.
What do young ones do when they fly the… sack?
Their eggs are typically laid in summer; once hatched the spiderlings disperse by ballooning, floating on the breeze using small silk strands as ‘balloons’. They then build their own tiny orb webs among vegetation. So they kind of do fly the nest!
Now ‘weave’ told you about the orb weaver, learn more about some of the other animals at the Zoo by heading over to our Animal A-Z.