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Nephila edulis (Labillardière, 1799) Golden Orb Weaver

A large spider found throughout coastal and inland Australia, especially Western Australia. Body length of females up to 40mm, males much smaller, about 7mm. Overall greyish with silvery cephalothorax and black brushes on the legs. Little or no yellow on the legs unlike the very similar Nephila plumipes which also has a raised yellow sternum. The female constructs a large, persistent web with strong strands of golden silk strung between tree branches or other structures. The strong web can trap large prey, sometimes even small birds. Small males tend to occupy the edge of the female's web, sometimes more than one. Rather timid, the female normally flees to the top of the web when alarmed, sometimes it shakes the web in defence when disturbed. There are often strings of spent food parcels or food caches in the web. Kleptoparasites like the Dewdrop Spider Argyrodes antipodianus occupy the web but may not have a negative affect. When present in an area, this spider can be extremely abundant. Bites are possible, but not likely and not known to be dangerous. The species name means edible, Labillardière applied the name after he observed people in New Caledonia eating this spider. Nephila spp. are also eaten in Thailand and New Guinea.

Female adult from above


Nephila edulis
Photo: Robert Whyte

Bird caught in web, spider approaching


Nephila edulis
Photo: Myrella Bakker

Spider feeding on trapped bird


Nephila edulis
Photo: Myrella Bakker

Female adult with debris trail


Nephila edulis
Photo: Jean Hort

Female adult with debris trail and nearby males


Nephila edulis
Photo: Jean Hort

Mating, the small male above


Nephila edulis
Photo: Jean Hort

Mating closeup


Nephila edulis
Photo: Jean Hort

Strong golden silk tethered to a twig


Nephila edulis
Photo: Jean Hort

Female


Nephila edulis
Photo: Jean Hort

References


  • Harvey et al, The systematics and biology of the spider genus Nephila (Araneae: Nephilidae) in the Australasian region, Invertebrate Systematics, 2007, 21, 407-451, CSIRO Publishing
 

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