Orb Weaver Spider - Neoscona arabesca
Family Araneidae (Orb Weavers)
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Live adult male and female spiders photographed in the wild at northern Illinois
Orb Weaver Spider - Neoscona arabesca
This gal is eating her old web just before a thunderstorm; she is supported by a single strand of brand-new silk issuing from her spinneret. If you've never seen one of these lovely spiders do this, it's worth watching out for. It's simply indescribable how she deconstructs the orb; all I know is she ends up with wads of silk she quickly devours. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see her claw gripping the silken strand.
Orb Weaver Spider - Neoscona arabesca
N. arabesca female size = 12mm
Orbweaver spiders get their common name from their large circular webs, constructed of concentric circles supported by radial spokes. Most orb webs are constructed in the vertical plane, but some spiders, i.e. the Venusta orchard (L. venusta) almost always spin in the horizontal, resting ventral side up underneath the disk.

Orbweavers are found worldwide, with around 3500 species [1] in 168 genera [2]. Most people recognize these common spiders by the large, bulbous abdomen of the female, and the signature web, which can reach a meter in diameter.

Orb Weaver Spider - Neoscona arabesca

Orb weavers show the greatest range of sizes and appearance than any other family of spiders. Their presence near humans habitation and their conspicuous web probably account for their iconic status among people otherwise uninterested in such matters.

male Neoscona arabesca
Male N. arabesca at Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania. Size = 8mm
Males of this species don't build webs of their own; they are usually found out-and-about, looking for mates, or hanging around in far corners of a large female's web. In some species of orb weavers, e.g. Larinioides, males do regularly spin capture webs nearby the females. Larinioides males are also unusual among orb weavers in that they are almost as large and ornately patterned as the female.
References
  1. Bugguide.net "Araneidae"
  2. Wikipedia, "Orb-weaver spider"
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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. I am continually amazed at the resourcefulness of these supremely successful predators.
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