By Ali Horton
With Halloween around the corner, we are focusing on all things spooky, and spiders often make the list of most scary things that creep and crawl in the night. Florida is home to over 57 species of spiders. One of the most interesting and colorful spiders in the state of Florida must be the spiny-backed orb-weaver.
Often referred to as a ‘crab spider,’ these spiders are technically not part of that family and are instead a species of orb-weaver. Orb-weavers are members of the family Araneidae and are grouped for the shape of the webs that they build. The ‘orb’ in their name is referring to the classic, recognizable and familiar circular-shaped webs that they commonly construct. The spiny orb-weavers are brightly colored of red, orange, yellow, white and black with six pointy spines protruding from their sides, giving it the appearance of a crab shell.
They are often found around our gardens and breezeways hanging proudly in their spherical webs. In fact, these spiders are almost always observed in their webs, as they spend the majority of their time there. They love to construct webs in windows, covered structures, nurseries, shrubs and trees, and this is a nightly activity for these spiders. Their webs average a size of 10-12 inches in diameter, and the spiders often rest in the center disk of the web. The web is also how they meet a mate.
An interesting fact about the spiny-backed orb-weaver is that they have a short lifespan in the wild. Once a female lays an egg mass on her web, she will pass away, and the male only lives a few days after procreating. After just five weeks, the baby spiders will move on, construct their own webs, find a mate and start the process all over again.
Spiny-backed orb-weavers are harmless spiders that live among us harmoniously. Their web not only acts as their home, but it is also their means to hunt and feed. Spiny-backed orb-weavers, like many other spiders, lure their prey into their sticky webs for capture. Bugs and insects such as moths, beetles, flies and mosquitos are commonly caught in their traps. Therefore, having the spiders around is a natural form of pest control and very beneficial in keeping our pest population at bay.
If you come across one of these fascinating spiders, remember that they provide a useful service to us and the ecosystem and admire their unique beauty.