How to frame a spider

27 08 2008

This window was to the left of a computer in my studio. I was sitting here, designing away, and glanced up to see this little spider (okay, not that little—about 1/2 inch, I’m guessing) smack dab in the middle of its web. Behind the spider is the wood shed with its asphalt shingle roof. I grabbed my camera and got this image right from my chair to show you exactly what I saw and to test the exposure.

Not exactly the best background for my lovely subject, that’s plain to see, so I needed to “reframe” the shot to add a green background. I climbed onto the desk on my knees and reframed the spider against the pine tree to the right of the shed.

By isolating it against a background with a pop of green, I got a nicer shot. I also shot this through the window, so I’m a little surprised it came out as well as it did!

I believe this is a Barn spider (Araneus cavaticus)—just like Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web. Check this link here for a comparison.

In my quest to identify him (her?), I stumbled upon Frank Starmer’s site. Starmer is the Associate Dean for Learning Technologies at Duke University. He introduces us to Sasha, a garden orb spider. It’s a fun and fascinating read with a lot of information about spiders and some great photos of spiders doing what spiders are inclined to do! He also lists references and I found this one interesting—Why a garden spider does not get stuck in its own web, written by Ben Prins. I pondered that very same question a few days ago.

If you like spiders (and you should), spend some time on Frank’s site. He’s a font of information on spiders and clearly loves his subject.

Now, if I could figure out whether my spider is male or female, I could name it like Frank named Sasha. Or, I could go the Saturday Night Live route and just name it “Pat.”

Pat the spider. Then again, you better not. 😉

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

UPDATE: Thanks for the details on male vs. female in spiders, David. Read David’s comment on spider identification and habits. I figured it was an orb spider, but that other site had a spider on it that was very similar, which is why I thought it might be a barn spider. I just looked up “garden spider,” and it could be that as well. This Garden Orb Spider looks like mine and has the touch of reddish-orange on the legs, too. Then again, it might be the Neoscona crucifera. It could match several in the links you sent. Thanks for your help, David!



5 responses

28 08 2008
David Brady

Hi Cindy!

That’s an orb weaver of some kind, probably a garden spider. Without some well-lit closeups it will be difficult to push the identification further down the tree.

I can help with one thing, however: your spider is a lovely female. Males tend to be smaller and built for travel (to get from web to web when they go a-courtin’), and in the silhouette photo you can clearly see she has slender pedipalps. Male pedipalps are noticeably larger.

If you dig around in the bugguide in Family Araneidae, you’ll find plenty of spiders that could match this one, such as Genus Neoscona ( or Genus Eriophora ( PLEASE note that this is “just to name a couple.” There are literally dozens of genii and hundreds of species that look about like your spider.

Good luck, and let us know if/when she makes babies!

20 09 2010
Jennifer Barricklow

Hello, Cindy! I came across your site while looking for illustrations of one of my favorite spiders. Your photos are wonderful!

I concur with David that your Pat was a female, and my research leads me to think she was a Neoscona, probably a N. domiciliorum because of the beautiful red-orange on her legs.

Your pictures are by the far the best I’ve found of Neoscona; would you give me permission to use one of them in my latest post, with a link back to your own post and blog?

Thank you for sharing your experience with Pat and your lovely photos of her!

20 09 2010

Hi Jennifer, Thanks for the nice comment on my blog—I appreciate it. You have my permission to post with a link back to my blog. Can you send me the link when you’re done so I can read your posting? Thanks again for the visit and comment.

20 09 2010


Did you see my follow-up posting and photos of Pat?

22 09 2010

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