Orb Weaver Spider - Neoscona crucifera
Live spiders photographed at DuPage County, Illinois
Family Araneidae - Orb-Weavers
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Neoscona crucifera dorsal
On a hot August day, I watched this very ambitious female orbweaver capture a cicada perhaps 3 times her size. I happened upon the drama only after she had made the initial snare and I suppose she had already delivered the paralyzing bite to her prey as there was no struggle left in the unfortunate. The cicada had been trapped in her web about 4 feet off the ground, and the spider was in the process off transferring the prey to a lower, less conspicuous position.

She did this by a series by a complicated series of web modifications whereby the entangling original orb spokes were all severed (while still maintaining the structural integrity of the support web), resulting in the prey "bundle" hanging from a single thread attached to one long line. The spider somehow kept moving the attachment point down that one long line, although I could not quite tell how she was doing it.

It was an amazing feat of engineering that simply reinforced my admiration for these top predators, the spiders. Humans can barely set up a crane without it falling over and killing people, and here is an organism single-handedly, so to speak, moving three or four times her own weight the equivalent of  100 stories through thin air, in a matter of about 5 minutes.

Neoscona crucifera with cicada prey
The spider kept returning to this leaf at the bottom of her zip line. She made some sort of modification, then ran back to the cicada and lowered it 3-4 inches at a time until it rested at the bottom where she secured it for feeding. At no time did the spider bear the weight of the prey, it was all done with silk. Amazing!
 
Spiders in the genus Neoscona are some of the most common and abundant orb-weavers. They are found on all continents. [3]
Neoscona crucifera with cicada prey
Neoscona female spider settles in to feed 
Neoscona crucifera ventral
Neoscona crucifera ventral
References
  1. Bugguide.net, http://bugguide.net/node/view/1991
  2. Arthur V. Evans, National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America
  3. Berman, J. D., & Levi, H. W. (1971). "The orb weaver genus Neoscona in North America" 141. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College. pp. 465–500.
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Class Arachnida / Order Araneae: Spiders are the largest group of arachnids.  They are easily recognized by their eight legs, and there are few creatures great or small that elicit such irrational fear in mankind. The vast majority of spiders are completely harmless and offer beneficial services, chief of which is keeping the burgeoning insect population in check.  Spider Index | Spider Main
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