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Barn Spiders Spinning


If there is a fairly large spider spinning orb webs in a corner of your shed or barn and it has striped gray, brown and white legs, chances are great that it is a Barn Spider, Araneus cavaticus. These spiders are nocturnal, so it’s often the early-rising/late-to-bed folks that observe these arachnids. During the day, Barn Spiders hide in a nearby crevice where birds and other predators cannot easily find them.  Webs are freshly constructed every night (or every few nights) and the remains of the old web are eaten in order to conserve the valuable silk. During the night Barn Spiders can be found hanging in the center of their web, awaiting prey.

Male Barn Spiders reach between ¼” and ½” in size and adult females typically are around ¾”. Most males spin webs less frequently and spend much of their lives wandering, attempting to find a female to mate with. Thus, most Barns Spiders you see in webs tend to be females.

The spider in E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web was based on a Barn Spider. In his inimitable way, White named her Charlotte A. Cavatica, a reference to the Barn Spider’s scientific name. One of Charlotte’s daughters, after asking what her mother’s middle initial was, names herself Aranea.

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11 responses

  1. Thanks for the references to Charlotte’s Web. I was unaware.

    October 7, 2016 at 8:09 am

  2. Annie Hale

    Love the EBWhite reference Mary! Thanks.

    October 7, 2016 at 9:30 am

    • I hadn’t known that and was so pleased that you made the connection for me/us.

      October 8, 2016 at 9:15 am

  3. Kelly

    Such a lovely post! Speaking of eating the silk, this summer I noticed slug trails on webs and wondered if the spiders would still be able to re-use the silk. Do you know anything about that?

    October 7, 2016 at 9:46 am

    • What a good question – and I don’t know the answer to it, I’m afraid! What an unusual place for a slug trail!

      October 7, 2016 at 11:01 am

  4. Kathie Fiveash

    We had a barn spider on display in an east-facing window for several weeks in September. It seems that the barn spiders on Isle au Haut have a bright green abdomen with those beautiful lightning bolt designs superimposed. I wonder whether local populations routinely differ in coloration – or whether our spiders, 6 miles out to sea, have been evolving their color scheme since the post glacial period when the island was separated from the mainland. That would have been when the rising sea level from glacial ice melt exceeded the rebound of the crust when the huge weight of the glacial ice was removed, maybe 10,000 years ago. I think it would be so interesting for some scientist to look at the genetics of small creatures – insects, spiders, mice, voles, snakes, frogs, etc – that have been isolated on islands for thousands of years, and compare them to the genetics of the same species on the mainland.

    October 7, 2016 at 10:35 am

    • Wish I were about 50 years younger and needed a PhD. research topic – yours would be a great one!

      October 7, 2016 at 11:02 am

    • p.s. Darwin took a stab at that, didn’t he?

      October 7, 2016 at 11:07 am

  5. Barn Spider is also the common name given many Neoscona species, Spotted Orbweavers, which are often confused with the Araneus spider you mention. Your spider picture may actually be depicting this species instead, as they’re very common as well and it looks a lot like one.

    October 7, 2016 at 11:56 am

  6. Beautiful pattern on this spider!

    October 7, 2016 at 8:42 pm

  7. What a wonderful post, and subsequent conversation!

    October 7, 2016 at 10:24 pm

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