John McDonald

Blogging about politics, life, and the web

Large Orb Weaver Spider in the Back Yard

September 9th, 2009

While we were out back checking out the air conditioner, we came across a really cool looking critter who had built up a web near our back yard fence.  Now normally, I’m not a big fan of spiders.  Jacksonville Florida is home to at least a few potentially lethal arachnids – and the black widows and brown recluse spiders are small, quick things that like to live indoors.

But that’s probably also why I like the golden orb weavers – they’re big and slow enough that you can keep an eye on them.  They also like to live outside, another big bonus for our ability to coexist peacefully.  Anyway, this thing is fascinating.


The body is like three or four inches long and the legs obviously extend a lot further than that.


Here the critter is stretching out, and presumably enjoying the late-summer weather.  The yellow mess on the web above the spider is actually some leftover mess from her dinner.  At any given time, there are a half dozen cocoons of poisoned and melting bugs.


This shot gives some perspective on the weight and substance of this spider.  The bright orange/yellow abdomen gives a strong hint as to how much food this thing can consume.

And speaking of food:

orbweaver4This one is a little blurry, but when this spider springs in to action, it is a twitching and web weaving machine.  At this moment, she’s sunk her teeth in to and wrapping up some sort of beetle.

More About the Orb Weaver Spider:

First, you may have noticed I keep calling the spider “she” and “her.”  This is definitely the female of species – and the other spiders in the web are so tiny and insignificant that they didn’t seem interesting enough to take a picture of.  There are also a few small spiders known to freeload off the orb-weaver’s web, so I’m not even sure which one of the miniatures (if any) is another orb weaver.

And while the orb weaver spider is also poisonous, it is rarely if ever fatal.  In fact, the spider’s bite only hurts a human for a day or two.  I’m not saying thats a fun thing, but its pretty gentle compared to the more lethal critters around here.

And if you think the spiders in Florida are bad…

This orb weaver was discovered on a golf course in North Carolina and posted to Reddit:

And one Australian relative of the orb weaver spider is even making a name for itself because its been seen EATING BIRDS.  Yes, a spider eating a freaking bird.  Check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me!  I kind of still don’t believe it either, but I’m starting to realize how big these things can get.



  • Jan Corsello says on: October 13, 2009 at 2:25 am


    We have Golden Orb weavers in our garden for the first time this year. They are really beautiful and ENORMOUS as far as spiders go. You’ve taken some great photos, making them easy to identify. Any idea why they’re suddenly making an appearance in my garden? They’re so striking and prolific, I’m sure I’d have noticesd them in previous years. One made a web on the walkway leading to the canal where we keep our boat. After we messed up the bottom of her web a few times, she got the hint and now has it secured so it’s over our heads, but I still find it creepy to walk under it. (but I love looking up to see what she’s caught lately!). I’ve got to get a new battery for my camera so I can get some photos. We also have wolf spiders this year, and they’re really cool, especially the “Big Momma” with a zillion babies on her back. They make her look even bigger, and she’s certainly big enough! I have a great photo of her, if you’d like to see it.
    Jan Corsello.

  • Will says on: December 28, 2009 at 10:44 am


    I find a few of these in my gardens every summer. The webs they make are beautiful. I have NEVER seen one as big as the North Carolina one, however! Thank goodness, me and the birds are safe.

    @Jan – I have found these for many years in 3 different states. I don’t see an increase in them, but maybe they are expanding their territory? I would love to see your photograph. If you visit my site you can leave a comment to a link where I can find it. You could leave it here also, but since I can’t subscribe to this comment thread, I might not see it. Actually, since you can’t subscribe either, you might not see this. And you don’t have a site linked to your name. Oh well. Maybe John will see this and be able to email you and link us up. Thanks!

  • Sally says on: November 21, 2011 at 8:46 am


    You say “they’re big and slow enough that you can keep an eye on them”. That’s a bit optimistic. Last time I got bitten by a spider – small and non poisonous – I was sleeping and I still had a painful swelling on my hand for a few days. A bird eating spider THAT size has got to be dangerous… I’m keeping well away from Jacksonville… 😀

  • Zoe Paige says on: January 31, 2012 at 2:33 am


    Looks like a scary spider! Yikes

  • Bert says on: March 17, 2012 at 10:49 am


    This certainly brings new meaning to politics, life, and the “web”! Wow! That is one HUGE spider! Never seen anything like it.

    I would have to call myself a spider lover – there’s something mystical about them. I don’t pick them up or anything but I cohabitate with them nicely – I don’t bother them, they don’t bother me.

    I got fascinated with spiders when I read in a spiritual book once about how they build their webs and accept what comes to them – they don’t do a lot of traveling or poaching . . . like lots of people do. (How’s that for political?)

    Thanks for the photos and story, it’s been a nice break in my day.


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