A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek


Scientific stuff

Golden orb web spider
Also known as
golden orb weaver or golden orb spider or golden orb-weaving spider

Nephila edulis
Family: Nephilidae — formerly Araneidae then Tetragnathidae

Body length.
Female, 25 millimetres
(1 inch);
male, 6 millimetres (quarter inch).

Golden orb spiders are among Australia's largest spiders. Some are the size of a human hand if the spider's legs are included. Colours vary a little. The type featured here has a grey or soft lilac abdomen, a white head with black border and black spots.
Legs: First and second pair are pinkish towards abdomen, and the rest are coloured like polished cherrywood. Other types may have black legs with amber joints.

Golden orb spiders get their name from the beautiful golden yellow threads they spin to make their web.


Using our photos

Photos on this website are copyright. If you want to use any, email us at: creeklife@gmail.com

Minti's photos

Minti moved house three times in three days while our photographer was getting photos of her.

He commented:

“When I first saw Minti she had just set up her web. It was in an awkward spot where someone would eventually walk into it. It was also almost touching the web of a St Andrew's cross spider.

“Most of these types of golden orb spiders build their web quite high up, where no one will walk into them. But Minti had built hers quite low.

“The next day I noticed she had moved a couple of metres away and had now built her web across a small bush.

“Again I thought this was a bad location, because it relied on catching insects from one direction only. It was also a puny web compared with those of other golden orbs in the area, which were sometimes strung three metres between trees.

“By the third day she seemed to have finally caught on. She was now about three metres from the ground, and had strung a very large web between two tall trees.

“The photos on this page are of several golden orb weavers and their webs around Calamvale Creek.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Minti the golden orb web spider

Also known as golden orb weaver, golden orb-weaving spider, or golden orb spider

Nephila edulis

golden_orb_weaver_1 (22K)Hello. Nice of you to drop in.

I'm Minti the golden orb-web spider. I get my name from the colour of the golden silk I spin for my web. Most spiders spin white or silver webs. But golden orb spiders like me want nothing but the best.

I make my home by stringing a huge golden web between tree branches. The photo at left was taken when I was experimenting — trying to find the right place to make my home.

Unfortunately, this one didn't work. No insects visited in 24 hours, so I looked at where my sisters and cousins were building their houses, then moved a lot higher and built a lot bigger. It was the best choice I could have made.

Why such a posh web?

Nephila_edulis_web_4 (26K)

Look at my beautiful golden silk in the photo above. It's an attempt to catch classy insects. I make it extremely strong and large, because I'm such a large spider. I have to catch more food than most spiders, so a large web two or three metres across catches more insects.

Am I dangerous?

golden_orb_weaver_abdomen (11K)I'm not aggressive. If you come close to me I will run up to the top of my web to get away. If I am forced to bite you it may cause numbness, swelling, and pain.

Why does my abdomen have a face on it?

Look at the photo at right. It looks like a huge human's head with a face on it. See the two eyes, and a mouth? This is the golden orb-weaver's “scarecrow”. I like to think that when birds see this on my abdomen they think a little human is grinning at them, so they swerve away.

Some people say I look like a little parachustist dropping from the sky. Look at the picture below and see what you think.

My warning signals

Nephila_edulis_3 (23K)I have to admit that some birds do crash into my web. It's a nuisance, because they are too big to eat, and I have to fix the mess they make of my web.

I also try to warn birds away by hanging evidence of my catch above me.

Any moths, butterflies, bugs or other food that gets caught in my web gets wrapped up and hung out to dry.

This should scare the feathers off any bird that doesn't want to end up the same way.

What do I do all day?

I sit in my web all through the day and night. I prefer the warm summer sun, but don't mind a little wind or rain.

golden_orb_spider_web_in_rain (47K)

If the wind and rain are strong, I usually dismantle part of my web to create a large hole for the wind to flow through so it doesn't destroy my web.

You can see this in the photo above. It was raining with strong wind when this photo was taken at 9 o'clock one Sunday morning. I created a hole about 40 centimetres (16 inches) in diameter, and left it like that for most of the day.

Sometimes several golden orb spiders make webs that run into one another. This can create a very wide string of webs that catch an enormous number of insects.

Even though webs sometimes overlap, we maintain our own independent web.

My egg sac

golden_orb_weaver_2 (27K)

When I create my egg sac, it is fluffy and coloured gold like my web.

It is about 4 centimetres, oval, with some leaves fastened to it. The eggs are a millimetre in diameter, and I lay at least 200 of them. I leave my egg sac in the tree near one of the ends of my web.

Male golden-orb web spiders are much smaller than females — about one-quarter our size. The male sitting at the top of my web is pictured in the inset on the photo at right. The scale of his size to mine is close to accurate in the photo.

Warm high areas seem to work best for my web. The area between trees is ideal, because so many flying insects come through there on the breezeway.

At Calamvale Creek, some of the golden orb weavers have found the perfect height of three to four metres above the ground to catch swarms of dragonflies that like to circle on the air currents.

— Minti the golden orb web spider