Walnut Orb-weaver

Nuctenea umbratica

Walnut Orb-weaver (Nuctenea umbratica)

This was probably the very first digital photograph I had ever taken of a spider which I took back in 2005 when I bought my first digital camera, hence the drop in quality. But this delightfully named spider is such an interesting one I wanted to add it to my blog.

This is a dark coloured spider, where the males and females are quite similar. Both sexes maybe be slightly darker in colour, or so dark that the lighter margins maybe indistinguishable or be reduced to a series of pale dots. Body length up to 14mm.

Walnut Orb-weaver (Nuctenea umbratica)

This spider may bite humans, causing skin irritation which can be quite painful resulting in burning and itching sensations, redness and white lumps. It is a nocturnal hunter, and spins its web just before dark to catch moths and other nocturnal insects.

Walnut Orb-weaver (Nuctenea umbratica)

Females are seen all year round, where as the males are seen in the summer. Found in woods and gardens, hiding under the bark of trees, especially rotten stumps or logs. They can also be found resting on fence posts and gates. It is common and widespread throughout Britain, although not frequently seen.

Photographs of Walnut Orb-weaver (Nuctenea umbratica), taken June 2005 , rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2005. Camera used Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1.

Missing-sector Orb Weaver

Zygiella x-notata

Missing-sector Orb Weaver (Zygiella x-notata)

The males and females of the species are very similar, but the males being smaller in dimensions. They have slightly elongated, more flattened abdomens compared to other members of the genus. It has a dark, broad median longitudinal band on the prosoma (the fused head and thorax region, also called the cephalothorax), on a lighter yellowish-brown ground colour. The dorsal surface of the abdomen is covered in a broad band with indented edges (the folium), white-edged with a darker interior and a lighter median line. Body length up to 7mm.

Missing-sector Orb Weaver (Zygiella x-notata)

Missing-sector spiders have an unfinished-looking vertical circular web design which makes it appear damaged in someway. There is indeed a missing sector, a ‘large V’ shape opening. The missing sector seems an odd evolutionary design whereby the webs capture area is reduced, but this space accommodates the signal thread which helps to alert the spider which is concealed in a corner when prey are snared. They feed on flies and other small flying insects caught in its web.

Missing-sector Orb Weaver (Zygiella x-notata)

The adults are seen from July to around October, whilst the spiderlings emerge in early spring. It is commonly found in urban areas, around buildings in gardens. A common and widespread species, but sparser further north, especially in Scotland.

Of note, Clerck named the species x-notata due to his observations of the astronomical sign of Pisces seen on the spider’s upper forepart of the abdomen, an ‘X’ shape.

Photographs of Missing-sector Orb Weaver (Zygiella x-notata) taken March 2014 and July 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014 and 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Spinning Around

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

I came across this Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) busy spinning a new web in my garden.

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

Photograph of Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), taken August 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.


Photograph of Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), taken August 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens with softbox flash diffuser.

Cucumber Green Spider

Araniella cucurbitina

The female has a creamy coloured cephalothorax with a bright green abdomen and yellow stripes. The smaller male also has a bright green and yellow striped abdomen, but has an orangish cephalothorax with two brown curving stripes. Both sexes have a distinctive red spot at the end of their abdomen. There are several species similar to this, especially Araniella opisthographa, which is virtually indistinguishable except through genitalia examination. Body length females 4-6mm, males 3.5-4mm.

It feeds on flying insects caught in its web.

Seen summer to autumn, and found on low vegetation, bushes and trees in various habitats, including woodland edges, hedgerows and gardens. Common and widespread throughout.

Photographs taken May 2015, on climbing rose in rear garden, Staffordshire.