Golden_orb1.JPG (27709 bytes)Golden Orb Spider (Nephila species): is a large spider whose total length (body and legs) isGolden_orb2.JPG (16433 bytes) about an average hand span. The body is 2 – 4 centimetres long, silvery-grey to plum coloured. The long legs are brown-black with yellow bands. This description applies to the female. The male is tiny (5 millimetres) and red-brown to brown in colour.
The web is one of the largest of any Australian spider and may be one metre in diameter. The web is semi-permanent and the strong silk has a golden sheen.
Birds prey on the Golden Orb Spider. The spiders gain some protection by spinning a barrier network of threads on both sides of the orb web. Birds do not have things all their own way as they are sometimes caught in the web. The spider then encases them in silk and they become a source of nourishment. Bats are also sometimes caught in the web. Golden Orb Spider prey usually consists of beetles, cicadas, flies, and moths.
A number of tiny males live around the edges of the female’s web. They wait for a mating opportunity. After mating the female wasp wraps a single egg sac in golden silk. She then hides the egg sac in foliage away from the web. The sac is usually disguised with a sprig of twigs or a curled leaf.
The images show a Golden Orb Spider living in bushland near our house. The two views show the top and underside of a large female. Also visible is a very small spider. There were four of these tiny arachnids in the web. They may be males but another small spider is known to live in these webs.
They are known as Quicksilver Spiders and eat small insects that are caught in the web. By this process they keep the web clean and working efficiently. This process is known as kleptoparasitism. We could not identify the small spiders. They may be males and/or Quicksilver Spiders.
The clusters of silk, in the centre of the web, contain prey that the spider has caught and covered in silk. The gift-wrapped prey will be eaten at a later time.
Sometimes large groups of Golden Orb Spiders gather together and form a tangled network of webs. We have seen these tangled webs in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and also spanning a small creek in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney . The golden colour is very noticeable when large numbers of webs are close together.