Tuesday, October 2, 2012

GOLDEN ORB WEB SPIDERS - Family Nephilidae

Golden Orb Web Spiders – Family Nephilidae

The members of this family are usually very large with cylindrical abdomens and a black cephalothorax.  They build huge orb webs between trees with golden coloured silk.  The exception to this is the Hermit Spider (Nephilengys cruentata), which builds only a partial orb-web with a funnel retreat in one corner where it can hide.  It is also usually slightly smaller than the typical Nephila spp.

LIFESTYLE: Sedentary and web-bound
HABITAT: in trees, between trees/bushes, low vegetation or under grass.
BODY SIZE (excluding legs): up to 35 mm
DANGER: Harmless
 Above: Nephila senegalensis - BANDED LEGGED NEPHILA. Large body, very long legs, yellow/red bands on front legs. This particular one was not fully grown.  The span of its web was about 2 metres.
 Above: Nephila senegalensis - BANDED LEGGED NEPHILA
 Above: Nephila fenestrata - BLACK LEGGED NEPHILA. One of the largest Nephila species.  These spiders often have tiny Dew Drop Spiders (Argyrodes sp.) from the family Theridiidae living in their web as "Kleptoparasites".  Kleptoparasites live off of the remains of prey (or stolen prey) from the host spider, and are often much smaller than the host.  The Dew Drop Spiders live on the fringes of the web and wait for opportunities to steal tiny morsels of food from the huge host.  They sometimes also eat part of the web itself for added protein.
 Above: Nephila fenestrata - BLACK LEGGED NEPHILA (underside).
 Above: Nephilengys cruentata: HERMIT SPIDER.  These beautiful spiders build only partial orb-webs which terminate in a funnel/tunnel into some crevice or hole where they can hide during the day (or when threatened).  Their web is usually not as brightly golden coloured as members of the genus Nephila.  Buildings with overhanging roofs provide a great place for these spiders to build their large webs.
Above: Nephilengys cruentata: HERMIT SPIDER.

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