Garden spiders are the most common orb web spider in the UK often found in gardens, giving them their name. Now is a good time of year to spot the spectacular Garden spider. This is because the autumn mists leave micro bead strands of dew on their webs, highlighting what could otherwise go unnoticed. Although they are nocturnal, you can often find the spider resting on the edge of the web. She will be the female, as the smaller males having done their job have died by this time of year.
Garden spiders are are greyish-brown with a white cross on their back, although their overall colour can vary, ranging from red-orange to almost black. They spin their spiral shaped web to catch juicy prey, including flies, wasps and butterflies but they will try and eat anything caught in their web! The vibrations of the trapped prey attract the spider, which delivers a paralysing bite. The insect is then wrapped in silk and stored for later.
Garden spiders, are also known as Garden cross spiders, Cross spiders or Crowned Orb weavers; if disturbed will use their legs to oscillate themselves up and down and shake the web. If that doesn't get rid of the threat, they will then drop from their web on a silk thread and lie still until they're convinced the danger has passed, then they will climb back pup on their web. Birds are the main predators of these spiders, in spring Chaffinches, Long tailed tits, Goldcrests and many others will eat the spider and then unpick the sticky web to use in binding together their nest.
After mating in the summer, the female Garden spider lays her eggs in a silken cocoon. She will not leave the eggs once they are laid, protecting them until the late autumn when she will eventually succumb to the cold and die. The eggs will not hatch though until May, leaving them unprotected through the winter. In May a mass of tiny spiderlings will emerge. Once hatched they remain huddled together in a bright yellow bundle, if disturbed they will scatter, reassembling when the danger has moved on.
Garden spiders reach maturity ay 2 years old, with females growing up to 1.8 cm and males just 0.8 cm. They generally build their webs between 1.5 and 2.5 m off the ground. When it comes to breeding, the male has to be extremely careful, as he approaches along one of the females strands, he taps the strand rhythmically, to let her know that he is a potential mate and not a potential meal!
The web usually has 25 to 30 radial threads and can be 40 cm across. The webs of the younger individuals will tend to have less radial threads than the mature adults.