Garden Spider

Garden Spider, AustraliaThere are over a hundred species of Garden Orb Web spiders in Australia and they belong to the Family Araneidae. These are the spiders, or should I say webs, you are most likely to walk into at night, resulting in the crazed "get this web off my face" dance. I think the terror in walking into these webs is firstly, it is night , so you don't see it coming until you feel the web wrap around your head and secondly (the terror part) you don't know if the spider is actually on you or your face.

Characteristics

The Garden Orb Web spider is often round, compact, hairy and has bright red markings on its legs.

Habitat

Vertical Orb Webs

Garden Spider, Western AustraliaGarden spiders are known as web weavers and they build vertical orb (wheel) webs which are large and round. The spider, being nocturnal, builds its web after sunset between trees or shrubs and hangs head downward waiting for its prey. The spider constructs its web by using different types of spider silk for the different parts of the web. The web is usually 1m in diameter and between 1-2 m above ground (usually around face height to a human). It is a Garden spider's web that we often walk into at night. A garden spider builds its verital orb web every night then disassembles it and eats the silk. Sometimes the spider will leave part of the web intact which is usually the top silk, known as the bridge thread. The bridge thread is constructed using the spider's strongest silk and the thread supports the weight of the whole web.Garden Orb Spider Hiding, AustraliaThere are several reasons why the spider leaves the bridge thread behind, firstly the thread acts as a marker to identify a good prey catching location and thus allowing the spider to rebuild its web on the exact location the following night.The thread is also used by the spider to mark its territory and to let other spiders know that the site is occupied. Finally the bridge thread  acts as a danger indicator. If the thread is broken during the day it will indicate to the spider that the site has been disturbed by a large animal or an unlucky human and it isn't a good long term location. During the day the spider takes shelter in foliage in the garden and will rest with its legs folded up tightly against its body.

Food and Predators

Friend or Foe ?

The spider is harmless and will flee when disturbed, the same way a human will when they unexpectedly walk into the web.