Orbweb spider (Golden orb-weaver) Nephila edulis
Species: N. edulis
Binominal name: Nephila edulis
Common names: Golden silk orb-weaver, Golden orb-weavers, Australian Golden Orb Weaver,
Nephila edulis is a large, web-spinning species of spider that is found throughout coastal and inland Australia, especially Western Australia. This species is now found in New Zealand with reports from Auckland, Waihi (North of Tauranga), and Mapua (Nelson). The title ‘Golden’ in their common name refers to their web which can have a golden colour.
A female spider can measure up to 40 mm (not including leg span). The dorsal surface cephalothorax is white with a dot pattern. The abdomen varies from grey to brown in colour.
Their long and slender legs are striped with dark brown and grey/whitish bands. There are black tufts of hair along the length of the legs. Extended the legs can give the spider a total length of around 13 cm. The legs are specialised for weaving (their tips point inward, rather than outward as is the case with many wandering spiders). They have fangs that close from the side, much like pincers, and they enable them to bite with force. Bites from the species are possible, but they not likely and are not known to be dangerous to humans.
The female spider is rather timid and will normally flee to the top of the web when alarmed; sometimes it shakes the web in defence when disturbed.
The males are much smaller measure only 6 mm in body length. More than one male can often be found in or around the web of the female. The males can be attacked and eaten by the female during mating attempts.
The web is can be more than one metre in diameter and is protected on one of its sides by a solid "barrier" of silk. The web is extremely strong. Overseas small birds have become tangled in them. The female spider uses odour to attract its prey. It incorporates rotting, dead organic matter into its web, and waits for blowflies and other prey to be attracted to it where they become ensnared. When a prey is trapped it will be eaten immediately or it will be wrapped in silk and stored for consumption at a later date.
In Australia, it breeds from February to May. A female produces only one egg sack per season and this will contain an average of 380 eggs. Though they found occasionally in NZ it is not known if it breeds here. They are thought to have been blown here across the Tasman.
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