For the first post, I have chosen Araneidae, the typical orb weavers. This is one of the largest spider families and include many familiar species, such as the garden spider (Araneus diadematus), the window frame spider, Zygiella X-notata, the wasp spider Argiope bruennichi, and the small cucumber spider Araniella sp. There are 33 species in the UK. The drawing on the left shows the eye arrangement in the family (based on a photograph by Kiron Basu)
In foggy weather, orb webs become very visible, heavy with dew. The spider is sitting in the central hub.
A. diadematus spinning its web.The spider's web
The most characteristic feature of araneids is that they spin flat, rounded webs with radial threads connected by a spiral net-like pattern of threads, which they attach to vegetation or other structures The threads are sticky, and able to trap flying insects. The spider either sits in the middle of the web (often at night) or hides in a retreat on a corner of the web, with one of their legs touching a signal thread connected to the hub of the web, which allows them to detect the vibrations produced by any struggling insects. Orb spiders often eat their web at the end of the day, and build a new one in the morning. As they adopt a sit and wait strategy to catch prey it is easy to find particular individuals in the same spot every day.
Dangerously close. The male (on the left) was dispatched before he had the chance to mate, after a lengthy and careful approach.
Mating and cannibalism
Adult females are readily distinguished by their larger size and swollen abdomen. Females often cannibalise males (often right during mating), and males might die after mating a couple of times so at the end of the season, only mature females might remain.
Female Araneus diadematus with its fresh egg sac. Once their egg sac is finished, the female sits on it and will die in a few days.Egg sacs and spiderlings
Females lay their eggs, often over a thousand of them, and spin an egg sac around them. Females might die shortly after egg laying. The spiderlings hatch, moult inside the egg sac and then they emerge. In some species, like the garden spider, they spin a communal web and cluster together in it until they are ready to disperse.
A spiderling ball, newly born A. diadematus
At the end of the summer, full size Araneus diadematus can subdue quite large insects such as droneflies, butterflies and wasps.
A. diadematus are very variable in background colour with a range from sandy to chocolate brown, although the white markings on the abdomen tend to be more uniform.