I took Raven out for her regular walk this afternoon. I took my camera with me even though it was overcast and threatening to rain, since you never know what you might come across. Thank goodness I did, or I would’ve missed documenting this wild spider. It was walking across the road, and both its size and colour made it exceptionally eye-catching on the bare surface. It was huge. Its abdomen was about the size of my thumbnail. I have no idea why it was crawling across the road, but I couldn’t resist pausing to run off a series of photos.
Such a distinctive spider was pretty easy to ID. I already knew it was an orb weaver because of the giant abdomen, and shortened third legs. A search for “orange orb weaver” on BugGuide.net turned up a bunch of photos, including several of my critter. It’s a Marbled Orbweaver, Araneus marmoreus, a fairly common spider of woodland clearings and long-grassed meadows. It’s been recorded in all of the Canadian provinces, with the majority in the more open southern Ontario and prairie provinces. There aren’t many records from the US on that page (it is CanadianArachnology.org, after all), but BugGuide.net shows records for most of the eastern states. Worldwide, it’s a holarctic species, found in Eurasia as well.
Its abdomen is intricately patterned, almost looking like bubbles, but the thing that I thought was particularly neat is that the pattern is asymmetrical, especially right at the front. There’s actually two morphs of this species, this one (which can also come in yellowish versions with dark markings), and one whose abdomen is mostly pale with a large dark blotch at the back. The latter form is only found in Eurasia, and rarely overlaps in range with the orange version. How they know they’re the same species is a mystery of science. The large size makes this a female. Females can reach 14mm (body size minus the legs) while males are much smaller, reaching just 9mm. Being a member of the Araneus it ought to show a longitudinal crease down the abdomen (as opposed to Neoscona, which has horizontal creases), but if there were any creases at all, they weren’t visibly obvious to me.