A couple of days ago, as we were relaxing in front of the tv in the evening, Raven suddenly got up and walked to the back of the room, where she started growling. Normally when she does this it’s because she’s heard something outside, or seen a reflection in the window that looked suspicious. But this time she was staring at the wall. After a moment she went up to the wall and snapped at something. That’s when I finally saw the spider. I have no idea how I missed it initially, because it was BIG. Its abdomen was nearly spherical, and about as wide as my thumbnail. I told Raven to sit and wait while I hurried off for my camera. I took a few photos, then caught it in a container to keep overnight – it was below freezing outside by that point, and I wasn’t sure that if I put it outside it wouldn’t just freeze to death shortly after. I let it go the next day, and took the opportunity to take a few more photos in daylight.
The spider is a Marbled Orbweaver, Araneus marmoreus, and is actually a species I encountered at the old house, as well, very close to this time of year. I blogged about it October 20th; it had been crawling across the road when I’d taken Raven out for a walk. I can still recall the spot where I found it. The species is found across Canada and the eastern US, with the majority of records from BugGuide.net submitted in September and October, persisting into November for some of the states southward of me. The species is incredibly variable, with individuals ranging from bright orange (like I found last year) to pale with a huge dark spot (such as this one), bright yellow or white with dark markings to nearly completely dark.
I don’t think that the morphs are specific to particular regions, although all of the pale-with-dark-blotch individuals submitted were from boreal or Shield-edge regions of Canada and Alaska. Interestingly, I made a note in last year’s post that the pale-with-dark-blotch morph was restricted to Eurasia; evidently I was obtaining my information last year from a source other than BugGuide.net. Maybe it meant the form was only found naturally in Eurasia, and individuals in North America have been introduced through international commerce. I think this one arrived at our house on a large potted Norfolk Pine that my mom had left sitting outside all summer.