Starbellied Orbweaver

Acanthepeira sp., poss Acanthepeira stellata, Starbellied Orbweaver

Every week or so (it’s become less frequent since I got busy with MAPS) I’ve been walking down to the bog at the back of the property to see what’s going on. I went out a couple of days ago, taking my camera in the hopes of snapping a photo of our Baltimore Checkerspots, which hang out there but which I’ve never seen anywhere else (these were ‘lifers’ when we discovered them there last summer, though I admit my butterfly life list is a little thin from lack of effort). I saw no butterflies, perhaps because it was slightly overcast, but I did discover this fabulously cool spider hanging out in a web there. I think this beats out the Black-and-yellow Argiope and the Marbled Orbweaver for Coolest Spider I’ve Seen To Date.

A quick search of the spider section in my copy of Stephen Marshall’s Insects (sadly, my much-loved Kaufman Insects offers only a cursory coverage of spiders due to space limitations) turned up the ID: this is an Acanthepeira species, likely A. stellata, the Starbellied Orbweaver, though the different Acanthepeira species can be difficult to tell apart and definitive ID often requires examination of the genitalia (makes you wonder how they can tell each other apart, then – do they go around checking out each others’ nether-regions?). The Starbellied is a widespread species, found from eastern Canada south to Florida and east to Kansas and Arizona. Like most orbweavers, it builds a stereotypical spiderweb, vertical with a spoked-wheel appearance, in sunny locations a few feet above the ground. As far as I can tell, the fact that I found it in our bog is simply coincidence, though BugGuide offers limited information on the species and Insects even less. I may have to add a good spider guide to my ever-growing list of books to buy when I win the lottery.

Acanthepeira sp., poss Acanthepeira stellata, Starbellied Orbweaver

Today at Kingsford

Orb weaver, possibly Neoscona sp.

Something I’ve noticed since moving here is just how different the household fauna is from what my parents get in their house. This guy has spent the entire day on the wall of the entry hallway. Or actually, it might be a she, given the lack of noticeable pedipalps (modified mouthparts that resemble boxing gloves and are used by the male in transferring sperm to the female). She hasn’t moved much all day, perhaps about eight inches from the wall to the nearby door trim. A bright orange spider with a tan-coloured abdomen, I’m sure finding this in my parents’ place would have stuck in my mind.

This is an orb weaver spider, the sort that make those stereotypical spiderwebs that get drawn on Hallowe’en decorations. Orb weavers generally have large, rotund abdomens, and third legs that are shortened and modified for building and walking on their special webs. There are some 180 species of orb weaver north of Mexico, but few are readily identifiable to species without examination of the genitalia under a microscope. Most can be assigned to genus, though, and I think this may be a member of Neoscona, the Spotted Orbweavers. The genus Araneus is very similar, though, separated by the groove in the abdomen running lengthwise in the former, and crosswise across the abdomen in the latter, though it can sometimes be tricky to see without magnification. I’ve submitted it to BugGuide.net for ID, hopefully someone there will be able to ID it.

Orb weaver, possibly Neoscona sp.