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Nephila plumipes (Latreille, 1804) Humped Golden Orb-weaving Spider

This spider, whose name refers to the golden color of its strong silk, not the color of the spider itself, is common and widespread in Eastern Australia. It is one of Australia's most noticed and photographed spiders because of its large size and its habit of staying in its web during the daytime. The orb of the web is around 1m in diameter, but the golden struts or stay lines may reach up to 6m across. Sometimes these spiders aggregate in loose 'colonies'. This spider is extremely common in gardens, parks, around houses and in suburban and urban bushlands, mostly in coastal regions, while the similar Nephila edulis is more common inland, though their ranges overlap. The common name may refer to any of the Nephila spp. with golden silk. The large females stays upside more or less at the centre of the orb web, often nearby a messy looking chain of partly consumed food parcels. Much smaller males are often found on the outskirts of the web, as many as 6 or more, waiting for the opportunity to mate. The female has been known to kill and eat the male after mating. This species can be identified by its yellow, conical, protruding sternum, the chest part around which the legs are attached. It also has yellow leg joints. Its name refers to hairy plumes on the leg, but this is confusing as Nephila edulis has plumes which may be even more obvious. Food, caught in the permanent web, is usually insects, sometimes very large insects like grasshoppers and dragonflies, beetles, moths, butterflies and large flies. If the web is damaged it is usually repaired within an hour or so, except when pregnant females are about to lay eggs. This spider is very shy, usually running to the higher struts of the web when disturbed, sometimes into nearby foliage. It may sometimes vibrate the web to confuse predators. Despite its large size it is not known to bite people, though some defensive bites of trapped females are possible. ♀ 19mm ♂ 5mm

Female underneath


Golden Orb Weaver
Photo: Robert Whyte

Female from side


Golden Orb Weaver
Photo: Mark Crocker

Female near adult


Nephila
Photo: Robert Whyte

Female with prey


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Female side on


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Young female


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Juvenile


Nephila plumipes
Juvenile

Juvenile female


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Young Male


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Young Male


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Young Male


Nephila plumipes

Male from above


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Male palps from side


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Male underneath


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Male palps closeup


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Male from above


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Another male from above


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Another male from side


Nephila plumipes
Photo: Robert Whyte

Young spiderlings hatching


Spiderlings
Photo: Mark Crocker

2008 promises to be a big year for spiders generally and in for Golden Orb Weavers in particular. There are great numbers of adults and now (January 2008) the offspring are beginning to appear.

 

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