orchard orbweaver

(Leucauge venusta)

Conservation Status
orchard orbweaver
Photo by Alfredo Colon
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

NNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Orchard orbweaver is a sedentary, small, brilliantly colored, long-jawed orb weaver. It occurs in the United States east of the Great Plains excepting Florida, and in adjacent Canadian provinces. It is one of the most common spiders in the eastern United States. It is less common in Minnesota, where it reaches the western extent of its range. It is found in forests, dense woodlands, woodland edges, shrubby meadows, gardens, and orchards.

The female is 316 to 516 (5.5 to 7.5 mm) in length, not including the legs, and has a to (10 to 22 mm) legspan. The male is much smaller, (3.5 to 4.0 mm) long. The species epithet venusta is Latin for “beautiful” and it is easy to see why it was given to this spider.

The front part of the body (cephalothorax) of the female is longer than wide and moderately arched. The hardened plate (carapace) covering the cephalothorax is yellowish-brown with a narrow, longitudinal, dark stripe in the middle, and a thin dark line on each lateral margin.

The plate on the face above the upper lip (clypeus) is narrow. The jaw-like mouthparts (chelicerae) are very large. This is the feature that gives the family one part of its common name. There are eight eyes arranged in two nearly parallel rows of four eyes each. All of the eyes are small and nearly equal in size. On each side the anterior lateral eye (ALE) and posterior lateral eye (PLE) are very close together.

The abdomen is oval and about two times longer than wide. It is broadly rounded at the front and rear, and projects forward far above the carapace. It is silvery-white above with dark brown or green markings. There is a thick dark stripe in the middle with four pairs of thin branches. The front pair is thick, arcs toward the sides, then extends to the rear of the abdomen. The other branches are thin, straight, and project obliquely to the rear. Often one or more of the pairs of the thin branches are reduced or missing. There is also a yellow stripe on each side. Sometimes there is a bright copper-red or orangish-yellow spot on each side near the rear, and a similarly colored large spot on the underside near the middle.

The legs are long and slender. The first, second, and fourth pairs of legs are very long, much longer than the body. On the front and second pairs of legs the fifth segment (tibia) and sixth segment (metatarsus) are not studded with thorn-like points. On the hind legs the basal half of the third segment (femur) has a fringe of hairs on the outer face. The last segment (tarsus) on each leg is hairy and has three claws at the tip, though these are not visible to the naked eye.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Female Body Length: 316 to 516 (5.5 to 7.5 mm)

Male Body Length: (3.5 to 4.0 mm)

Legspan: to (10 to 22 mm)

 
     
 

Web

 
 

The female spins a circular web about 12 in diameter with about 30 radii. This web is called an “orb”, which gives this family of spiders one part of its common name. The web is built in an open, well-lighted spot of a low bush or a small tree. When construction of the orb is complete the spider bites out the threads in the center, resulting in an “open web”. The orb may be at any angle but is usually nearly horizontal. When horizontal there is usually a barrier beneath it consisting of a few loose threads spreading in all directions.

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Forests, dense woodlands, woodland edges, shrubby meadows, gardens, and orchards.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

 

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

The spider rests upside down on the bottom of the web with its abdomen in or at the edge of the opening in the middle.

Orchard orbweaver can byte with its long jaws, but the bite is not considered harmful.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

Eggs are enclosed in silken sacs and attached to twigs or leaves near the web. The eggs hatch in the spring. Adults do not survive the winter.

 
     
 

Food

 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

24, 29, 30.

 
  12/15/2021      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Class Arachnida (arachnids)  
 

Order

Araneae (spiders)  
 

Suborder

Araneomorphae (typical spiders)  
  Infraorder Entelegynae (entelegyne spiders)  
 

Superfamily

Araneoidea (araneoid spiders)  
 

Family

Tetragnathidae (long-jawed orb weavers)  
 

Genus

Leucauge (orchard spider and allies)  
       
 

Orchard orbweaver is was formerly thought to occur from southern Canada to northern South America. A recently published DNA study (Ballesteros and Hormiga, 2018) showed that spiders from Florida to South America comprise a cryptic species, one that appears identical but is genetically distinct. The name Leucauge venusta is now restricted to spiders in the United States north of Florida. Spiders in Florida and south to Brazil are now classified as Mabel orchard orbweaver (Leucauge argyrobapta).

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Argyroepeira hortorum

Argyroepeira venusta

Epeira venusta

Leucauge hortorum

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

orchard orbweaver

orchard spider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Carapace

The hard, upper (dorsal), shell-like covering (exoskeleton) of the body or at least the thorax of many arthropods and of turtles and tortoises. On crustaceans, it covers the cephalothorax. On spiders, the top of the cephalothorax made from a series of fused sclerites.

 

Cephalothorax

The front part of the body of various arthropods, composed of the head region and the thoracic area fused together. Eyes, legs, and antennae are attached to this part.

 

Chelicerae

The pair of stout mouthparts, corresponding to jaws, in arachnids and other arthropods in the subphylum Chelicerata.

 

Clypeus

On insects, a hardened plate on the face above the upper lip (labrum).

 

Femur

On insects and arachnids, the third, largest, most robust segment of the leg, coming immediately before the tibia. On humans, the thigh bone.

 

Tarsus

On insects, the last two to five subdivisions of the leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. On spiders, the last segment of the leg. Plural: tarsi.

 

Tibia

The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.

 

Darwin’s Spider

Charles Darwin collected this species in 1832 on his voyage of the Beagle. He named it Leucauge argyrobapta. Both names are from the Greek, Leucauge meaning “with a bright gleam,” and argyrobapta meaning “dipped in silver.”

The specimen was lost after Darwin’s voyage back to London.

 

Spiders in Space

In 1973, as part of an experiment to study web building in zero gravity, two orchard weaver spiders were brought to the U.S. space station Skylab 3. After some time to adjust to weightlessness, the spiders constructed complete webs that were not much different than those constructed on earth.

 
 
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Alfredo Colon

 
    orchard orbweaver      
           
 
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Other Videos
 
  Mating Dance and Lullaby of Leucauge venusta
Frank Starmer
 
   
 
About

Aug 17, 2017

This morning I saw a just-out-of-reach horizontal orb web with a large female Leucauge venusta in the center. In one corner was the male. He started plucking the web with his 2nd and 3rd legs. Eventually she liked what she felt and approached him. Then an embrace and the usual event following a mating embrace

 
  The Orchard Spider; Beautiful Spiders
Papa Ray's Adventure Channel
 
   
 
About

Nov 9, 2018

Today we look at the orchard spider. She's fairly common but small and easily overlooked. Her beautiful colors make her worth a closer look. Filmed in Hartsville, SC. (located in Darlington County) Science and nature.

 
  ORCHARD SPIDER, Leucauge venusta in web
Rob Curtis
 
   
 
About

Jan 14, 2020

ORCHARD SPIDER, Leucauge venusta in web. Ottsville, PA, 6/14/2015.

 
  Orchard Orbweaver (Leucauge venusta) Predating 11-16-2017
Michael Gold
 
   
 
About

Nov 16, 2017

 

 

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  Alfredo Colon
Summer 2019

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

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Created: 12/15/2021

Last Updated:

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