Spiders of the Smiley Spiny Kind

Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t like spiders (other than Spider Pig). However, mainly due to the macro photography of spiders by my friend The Black Rabbit at Blue Grey I seem to be slowly overcoming my aversion – I even managed to photograph one on Grassy Key the other day!

Spinybacked Orbweaver Spider

These are some of the strangest spiders I have ever seen and they are everywhere when you go for a walk in the Florida Keys.

They’re Spinybacked Orbweaver Spiders Gasteracantha cancriformis, also known locally as Crab Spiders, Jewel Spiders and Smiley Face Spiders (my particular favourite).

They are only about 7mm long and 11mm wide, but the females have these amazing pointed spines – 6 in all – on their abdomen which look like little horns or tusks. This is a female… they are much bigger than the male (surprise, surprise) who not only doesn’t have spines but is also rather a dull colour – need I say more?

Spinybacked Orbweaver Spider

Their webs are pretty amazing (except when you walk into one – when they are foul). Usually about 50cm in diameter they have as many as 30 loops of spirals spaced at 3mm intervals. A work of art in themselves.

You can see on the first photo little tufts of silk in the web. Experts aren’t sure what these are for but one suggestion is that they make the web more conspicuous to birds, so the birds don’t destroy the web by flying into them. Bit like the black sticky tape my mum puts on her patio doors to stop her from walking into them!

They eat whiteflies, flies, moths and beetles, and although they can bite they are not dangerous to man (or woman I hope!).


11 thoughts on “Spiders of the Smiley Spiny Kind

  1. How amazing Jane!
    WONDERFUL STUFF! (Especially that second photo).
    I like the name “Smiley face” too!

    Whilst we were in Kephalonia, we noticed a lot of the orb webs had that little tuft in them (actually, they were BIG tufts out there). It didn’t occur to me that they helped to prevent bird damage, so thanks for that.

    I think you should take more close ups of spiders, to take the onus off me, now Spring is springing – and I’d like to shake off that reputation and photograph other things! Heh heh!

  2. THE BLACK RABBIT. Yes, the bird damage protection theory is quite interesting. Not convinced it’s totally true but you never know.

    Unfortunately I only have a poor quality point and shoot digital camera…(as the manual SLR is consigned to the cupboard) so it’s hard to take decent close ups that come anywhere near your “macro”.

    Maybe once I get my new “super” HD video camera (with stills camera facility) I will be able to do more. Still think I’ll leave the spiders to you though… too much stress for me! Jane

  3. See how brave I’m getting? I actually read your post and looked at the photos instead of skipping past. I reckon that if you can shoot them I can view them – as long as it’s not too close to bedtime!
    That spider is quite amazing.

  4. Thank you for making this very strange, scary looking spider a little less scary. When I saw it on my pool porch, I was a bit “freaked out”, but now not so much. Not only does this spider have a wow, unique look, it also does have a beautiful, intricate web like you mentioned (which makes me wonder how long it took for her to build this bugger–I’m on my porch a lot and didnt notice it until this morning).

    • Hey Des. Glad to make this little spider a little less scary. I’m actually in the Florida Keys at the moment, and there are loads of these all over the place, along with their bigger friends the Golden Orb Web Spider – which is MUCH bigger, with ENORMOUSLY long legs and still freaks me out at times… Jane

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