Golden Silk Orb Weaver

Let’s tackle another common spider, but not one you’ll come across here in the UK. Orb weavers are a huge and successful group of spiders, and what better way to introduce them to this blog than the beautiful golden silk orb weaver?

clavipes
N. clavipes, native to the southern USA and central America.

Quick Spider Facts
Golden silk orb weavers belong to the Nephila genus.
They live in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.
This genus shows the extreme sexual dimorphism that is often attributed to spiders in general. Female spiders regularly grow larger than 5 cm in body length, while male spiders rarely exceed 2 cm.
Their venom can cause allergic reactions but is otherwise not significant, and they only rarely bite.

The Nephila genus contain the oldest surviving spider species, existing almost unchanged for 165 million years. They are incredibly successful predators, able to catch an astonishing variety of prey which includes the usual insects but also small lizards, snakes, and even birds. They weave huge webs more than a metre across, which are of elaborate construction. These webs must be meticulously maintained, with the spider removing and consuming old portions before replacing them. This ensures that the web is always sticky enough to ensnare prey. The spider can also control the colour of its silk, aiming to make it reflect yellow light in such a way that it attracts pollinating insects such as bees. Their webs are so large that other spider species (notably Argyrodes and spiny orb weavers) are known to move in on the edges, and use it as their own.

pilipes
N. pilipes eating a finch it caught in its web. This species is native to northern Australia and south-east Asia and is the largest of the Nephila species.

Golden silk orb weavers are named not for their appearance but for the beautiful golden colour of the silk they spin. You may have seen pictures of a golden spider silk tapestry; these are the spiders that came from. Over the course of three years, over a million wild N. inaurata madagascariensis were caught, harmlessly milked and then released to gather the huge amount of silk necessary to make such a large piece of fabric. Similar efforts have been made in the past, none of which were commercially viable but all showing impressive craftsmanship. The gold colour of the tapestry has not been added – that is the natural colour of their silk!

inaurata
A tapestry woven from the silk of N. inaurata madagascariensis.

tldr orb weavers in general are great and these are super excellent

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Golden Silk Orb Weaver

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