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Scientific Name: Araneus diadematus
Pronunciation: ah-RAY-nee-uhs dy-uh-DEM-uh-tuss
Common names: Orb Spider, European Garden Spider, Cross Spider, Diadem Spider, Garden Spider, Garden Cross Spider, Gartenkreuzspinne (Germany)
Benefits of Spiders
Spiders are beneficial arachnids, meaning they have eight legs. They can be found in or near a home. Relocating spiders to a more appropriate place is a much wiser idea than killing them when they're in our way.
Spiders are beneficial because they eat bugs that can destroy crops such as aphids and caterpillars. Spiders eat fleas, which is a good thing since some fleas carry life-threatening diseases like bubonic plague or typhus. Other disease carrying bugs spiders eat are mosquitoes, flies, and cockroaches.
Scientists are experimenting with spider webs able to be used in parachutes and bullet proof vests. Spider web silk is considered one of the strongest of natural fibers especially considering its elasticity. Villages in developing countries have devised ways of using Orb Spiders’ webs as fishing nets. They coax the spider into an oval frame where it naturally spins a web. The fishermen use this web as fishing nets.
Orb Spiders are beneficial in the organic garden since they keep predator insects in check. If your kale has aphids, then spiders are just what you need! If your beans, cabbage, potatoes, or lettuce have flea beetles then spiders are your best friends. If your dahlias have earwigs, spiders can decrease their population.
We often have the Orb Spider just outside our front door, since this area is plentiful of flying insects, the spiders’ main food source. We sometimes leave the spiders alone if they’re not in our way, or we gently capture them and relocate them out in our yard where they can continue with their lives.
The Orb Spider spends its life outside in yards, gardens, orchards, and on farms in North America and Canada. They build their webs a bit off the ground, wherever they believe flying or jumping insects will be captured in their web. When felt threatened, the Orb Spider bounces on it’s web in an effort to appear larger to a prospective predator.
The Orb Spider’s web is generally large and suspends from plants, trees, or structures by long traverse-like lines which are not sticky like the orb itself. Typically, although not always, the female Orb Spider stays in the center of the web waiting for a wiggling insect to cause the web to jolt and notify her of available food.
If she’s sitting somewhere outside the web, she can easily and quickly traverse to the web and capture her prey. The spider usually eats the web each evening, recycling the proteins and any moisture, using them to re-build a new web the next morning.
The Orb Spider is one of the better known spiders around the world and has been studied in scientific research documents time and time again. Quite a famous spider indeed, as in 2010 the Orb Spider was elected “European Spider of the Year”.
Capture and Release
To capture a spider with the intent to relocate it, a small clean sturdy vessel with a secure lid is needed. We keep a basket of small vessels in a basket for spider capturing emergencies. When we have spiders in the house, we always capture and relocate them safely outside.
If a spider is in an orb, try to visually locate the traverse lines suspending the web, there should be several going out in different directions. These lines are not sticky and you can easily detach them if you need to in order to get the capturing vessel closer to the spider.
It is in the spider’s interest to capture them in the evening when they would be eating their web soon and retiring for the night. Then you haven’t interrupted their intent to find food for the day and causing them to need to begin a new web all over again. This may sound extreme but if you have ever watched spiders in their natural habitat, they are fascinating creatures and have their own rhythm of life you can learn as you observe.
Once you can approach the spider’s orb closely, carefully hold the small plastic container behind the web and quickly, because the spider will try to escape as soon as she see’s what you’re doing, draw up the container and put on the container top simultaneously so as to capture the spider in the vessel without harming it.
Verify you indeed have the spider in your vessel. Carry the vessel to a pre-determined location where there are plants and the prospect of bugs for food. Tip the vessel as you carefully remove the top and give the vessel a gentle shake to encourage the spider to crawl out assisted by gravity. Watch for a moment, or as long as you want, to make sure the spider has quickly adapted to its new surroundings.
Voila! You have successfully lead an arachnid release project! Congratulations!
Mary Ann Reese is a certified mentor in designing, building, and operating food bank farms. She has also been certified to teach cooking classes to low-income families. As an organic grower, Mary has owned a mini-farm, greenhouse, chickens, ducks, and geese raised from eggs in an incubator and is happy to share years of wiser living advice with her readers. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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