Araneus diadematus is one of the most common and best known orb weavers. It is easily identified by the distinctive white cross on the abdomen (although in some specimens it is indistinct or missing). This spider is most commonly called in England the 'garden spider', it is also known as the cross spider. They are common in woodlands, heathlands and gardens. They build circular orb webs and can be found either sitting at the center of the web with facing down or in a retreat at the end of a signal line a short distance from the web itself.
This spider is mature from summer to autumn and is usually at its largest in late Autumn when it is at its oldest and often full of eggs. After laying their eggs the females die and only the eggs and the spiders that hatched in spring that year will over winter.
Young spiders emerge from the egg sac in may but usually stay together until they are mature enough to leave. Spiderlings of Araneus diadematus are black and yellow and look almost identical to adults except for the markings.
Below: Spiderlings. The second picture shows the spiders after being disturbed.
Below: A close-up of a bundle of spiderlings.
Because of its abundance, Araneus diadematus is the perfect spider to observe different behaviour in. By placing a fly in the web of the spider you can observe the spider's fly catching behaviour and observe what an effective predator it is. If you are lucky enough to see a female Araneus diadematus with a male in her web, you could be able to observe the spider mating.
Below: spider courtship. The male is the smaller one on the left. He is attempting to mate with the female without becoming her meal. He does this very hesitantly and will try many times before successfully mating.
Above: two specimens of extreme colouration. Extremely pale and extremely dark. It is difficult to imagine they are the same species.
Above: I was once asked whether spider's webs had different sides to them as the spider usually stays on one side. The answer is that no spider's web is completely vertical and the spider always sits on the underneath side of the web.
Above: Notice how each of the spiders legs neatly touches a single silk thread as crawls towards the tangled cranefly.
Above: An average sized Araneus diadematus shown in comparison to a match-stick. Some specimens are larger than this and some are smaller.
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