Spiders of the Smiley Spiny Kind

Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t like spiders (other than Spider Pig). However, mainly due to the macro photography of spiders by my friend The Black Rabbit at Blue Grey I seem to be slowly overcoming my aversion – I even managed to photograph one on Grassy Key the other day!

Spinybacked Orbweaver Spider

These are some of the strangest spiders I have ever seen and they are everywhere when you go for a walk in the Florida Keys.

They’re Spinybacked Orbweaver Spiders Gasteracantha cancriformis, also known locally as Crab Spiders, Jewel Spiders and Smiley Face Spiders (my particular favourite).

They are only about 7mm long and 11mm wide, but the females have these amazing pointed spines – 6 in all – on their abdomen which look like little horns or tusks. This is a female… they are much bigger than the male (surprise, surprise) who not only doesn’t have spines but is also rather a dull colour – need I say more?

Spinybacked Orbweaver Spider

Their webs are pretty amazing (except when you walk into one – when they are foul). Usually about 50cm in diameter they have as many as 30 loops of spirals spaced at 3mm intervals. A work of art in themselves.

You can see on the first photo little tufts of silk in the web. Experts aren’t sure what these are for but one suggestion is that they make the web more conspicuous to birds, so the birds don’t destroy the web by flying into them. Bit like the black sticky tape my mum puts on her patio doors to stop her from walking into them!

They eat whiteflies, flies, moths and beetles, and although they can bite they are not dangerous to man (or woman I hope!).

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~ by Jane on February 14, 2008.

10 Responses to “Spiders of the Smiley Spiny Kind”

  1. Extraordinary! It looks like a bit of bling! I can nearly see that sported on the red carpet.

  2. PAULA. God it does doesn’t it. It would make a great brooch. Don’t think I’d fancy it going for a walk though… Jane

  3. How amazing Jane!
    WONDERFUL STUFF! (Especially that second photo).
    I like the name “Smiley face” too!

    Whilst we were in Kephalonia, we noticed a lot of the orb webs had that little tuft in them (actually, they were BIG tufts out there). It didn’t occur to me that they helped to prevent bird damage, so thanks for that.

    I think you should take more close ups of spiders, to take the onus off me, now Spring is springing – and I’d like to shake off that reputation and photograph other things! Heh heh!

  4. THE BLACK RABBIT. Yes, the bird damage protection theory is quite interesting. Not convinced it’s totally true but you never know.

    Unfortunately I only have a poor quality point and shoot digital camera…(as the manual SLR is consigned to the cupboard) so it’s hard to take decent close ups that come anywhere near your “macro”.

    Maybe once I get my new “super” HD video camera (with stills camera facility) I will be able to do more. Still think I’ll leave the spiders to you though… too much stress for me! Jane

  5. See how brave I’m getting? I actually read your post and looked at the photos instead of skipping past. I reckon that if you can shoot them I can view them – as long as it’s not too close to bedtime!
    That spider is quite amazing.

  6. Dragonstar. Very brave. I’m really impressed… no really I am! It was amazing (once I’d got past my “I’ve got to run away” feelings). Jane

  7. I saw one of these in my yard here in Tampa, Florida today…..scary looking spider!

  8. Arrr not scary at all! Really cute surely… Jane

  9. I ran into a few of these (quite literally) in Orlando while disc golfing….the webs I ran into in a few cases HAD to be in an open area 10 feet across!!! That in itself baffled me! After I hit the first one I began seeking areas that could not POSSIBLY have a spider, because they were waaaay too wide….of course they had a spider! Being from Wisconsin I was not familiar with these things and hate spiders to begin with….not a pleasant experience!

    • I used to hate spiders, but since I’ve been photographing them (and as long as they are outside and not climbing over my bed) I’ve begun to like them a lot more. It is amazing how wide an area they can cover – you’d think that 10ft would be the maximum, but oh no… quite a few times I’ve walked into them. Very unnerving!

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