Spined Micrathena – An Orb Web

When I stepped outside this morning, I stood on the front porch for a few minutes before starting out to walk. What caught my eye was the circular rim of a perfectly round, exquisite spider web suspended among water oak branches to my right so that it was lit by the early sunlight. About two or three inches of the outside rim were completed, so it looked like a saucer, and the spider – too small for me to see except by her movements – was making her way around, constructing the new web, working from the outside in. I could see the silk strands being tugged by the spider as she moved.

It was almost certainly the web of a Spined Micrathena, a very common woodland spider here. The female is about a half-inch long, with black legs and a whitish abdomen surrounded by black spines. She spins a new web each morning, suspending it between shrubs or trees, and takes it down each night, though the anchoring silk strands that form a frame for the web may stay in place for days or weeks. When the day’s web is complete, the female hangs in the center and waits for prey to be caught, usually small flying insects like mosquitoes and gnats.

I’ve walked through the webs of Spined Micrathena many times because they’re often suspended at just about face level in the woods and are not easily visible, especially if you’re the first person to walk along a trail in the morning. So I’ve often seen the little whitish spider at closer than comfortable range – like on the end of my nose – and combed the sticky strands out of my hair. But I don’t remember ever noticing or appreciating the elegance of a fresh, new, unblemished web like this one. It just happened to be hanging in the right sunlit spot, a filmy round, delicately complex orb taking shape.

Leave a Reply