Tag Archives: Neoscona sp.

Late summer garden beauties

hibiscus in septFor the sake of arachno-squeamish readers, I’ve begun this post with a photo of my Hibiscus moscheutos — reblooming!

But the lovely lady pictured below made my whole summer when she appeared in the side yard last week. She’s an Argiope aurantia, commonly called a black and yellow garden spider, and the first I’ve ever had in my own yard. She’s somewhat small, only about an inch long in body, but I love that she’s out in her web during the day, which means I get to see her as I come and go.

argiope aurantia 2

(As I write this, I’ve been watching a Neoscona sp. outside the living room window. It’s overcast today and she’s repairing holes in her web in anticipation of better hunting this evening.)

Wishing you the joy of whatever is on display in the gardens around you!

30 in 30, day eighteen

sept 2017 30-30This list poem was inspired by the large, beautiful spiders that I find outside my home this time of year. I posted early-morning pictures of one in her web the other day, and at the bottom of this post I have a close-up photo of one of her sisters. (I left a bit of space before the photo so readers don’t have to see it if they don’t want to.)

Neoscona crucifera

French arachnologist Eugène Simon authored the genus name Neoscona in 1864.

The literal Greek translation is something like “spinning a reed,” but Simon was only 16 years old at the time and did not speak Greek very well.

His intended meaning was “spinning among the reeds,” since he had seen the spiders living near the water’s edge.

As for crucifera, the Latin translation would be “cross bearer,” from cruci- (cross) and fer- (to bear; carry). This species does have a pale cross pattern on its abdomen.

The spider occupies the hub (center) of the web, hanging head down, during the night; it usually hides during the day, though in late summer or fall it may spend some daylight hours in the web as well.

Females deposit eggs in late summer or early fall; the egg sac is made of fluffy yellow or orange silk, attached to a rolled up leaf or some other protected place.

Spiderlings emerge the following spring and remain clumped together for a day or two, after which they disperse.

Some “balloon” to other locations by riding the air currents, while others stay relatively close to where they were “born.”

Even the spiderlings create a very cute, tiny, orb-shaped web.





spider 2

This lovely lady was busy catching flying insects outside my window this morning.

Not a poem: fog

It’s fascinating how fog obscures some things and makes others visible.


A cold Neoscona huddling in the center of her beautiful web.


Same spider and web, different angle.


A different smaller orb weaver in the back yard. (I didn’t get close enough to identify her because I didn’t want to disturb her, but she wasn’t large enough to be a Neoscona.)


Another small (non-Neoscona) orb weaver’s web. This one swayed gently in the morning breeze like a lace curtain.


I regret I didn’t get a shot of the neighbor’s lawn in deep shadow, with dozen’s of tangle webs like piles of diamond necklaces. I saw all manner of webs in trees and shrubs and lawns that I would never have seen on a clear morning.

Giant spiders: one more reason I love fall

The other evening, while leaving the library after my writers group meeting, I saw my first Neoscona of the season. She had strung her web between two pine trees next to the parking lot and now hung quietly, beautifully waiting in the center. I was too far away to determine whether she was a crucifera or a domiciliorum, but I doubt I would have been able to get close enough to see in any case as Neoscona are quite shy.

Bedewed Neoscona web in my front yard

Neoscona are orb weavers, spiders who make beautiful, circular webs. The two species mentioned above are found throughout much of the eastern United States. Both are quite sizeable, 1/2 inch or more as adults, with large, round abdomens and distinctively striped legs. In the fall, females gamble that the risks of placing their webs more visibly will pay off in a greater catch of prey; they do not overwinter and will give their all to egg-laying, a la the eponymous heroine of Charlotte’s Web.

I first encountered Neoscona many years ago when I lived in New England. I was house-sitting and discovered that a huge spider had made her web across one of the bedroom windows. Pretty clever, I thought, as I stayed up quite late at night reading and the light was bound to attract a lot of bugs.

Inspired by a Native American story told me earlier that summer, I dubbed my fellow house-sitter Grandmother Spider and came to think of her as a kind of guardian. When strange noises in the unfamiliar house woke me late at night, I imagined her web as a dream catcher, with Grandmother Spider waiting in it to capture any malevolent thought or intruder.


Neoscona sp. (photo by Cindy Dyer)

I was delighted to discover Grandmother Spiders around my own home when I returned from house-sitting and have ever since considered them an omen of blessing and protection. I have watched them build their webs, discovered their hiding places, and marveled to see them take down all but the main anchor lines when it rains, like an old salt furling the sails or a woman taking in her laundry. Their striped legs remind me of brightly striped stockings, which always make me smile, and their appearance is a sure sign that the wheel of the year is turning again to my favorite season, fall.

Seeing that spider in her web the other night, I got into my car with a warm, safe feeling. “Good hunting, Grandmother,” I called to her as I drove away.

Update (22sep10): I found some beautiful photos of my Grandmother Spiders, including the one above, at Cindy Dyer’s blog. She tells a lovely story, complete with pictures, about a Neoscona she observed outside her studio in 2008: “How to frame a spider,” and “Out came the rain and…” Thanks, Cindy, for letting me share your eye for beauty (and your talent with a camera) in my post!