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Orb Weaver Spiders

Orb Weaver Spiders

Orb Weaver Spiders

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Orb weaver spiders create intricate webs to catch prey.

Product Description

This collection of images includes 2 different species of orb weaver spiders.  It includes views of webs and web weaving spinnerets in the scanning electron microscope.

6 spotted orb weaver spiders and another species of orb weaver spider

An overview image of a six spotted orb weaver spider is at left with the bottom of the spider in the center.  The web spinnerets at the back of the spider are more visible in the scanning electron microscope picture at right.

Above left is an SEM image of 2 of the spinnerets with multiple nozzles.  The nozzle tips are further magnified in the center. The six spotted orb weaver spider spins small inconspicuous webs between plants near the ground to catch insects.  The spider waits in the center of the web or hides at the side then rushes out to bite or wrap the insect caught in the sticky threads. In the autumn, it attaches a mass of eggs next to the web.  Either the eggs overwinter, or hatch or the spiderlings overwinter.  The adults die.  Deep snow helps more of the young to survive and disperse in early spring.

Orb weaver spiders have many silk glands in their abdomen that connect to specific spinnerets that they use to spin their webs.  Orb weavers make up to 8 different types of silk, including one type of silk used to spin the egg sack in the females, another to make a sticky glue, and another for making a dragline.  The dragline is a strong stiff strand of silk that forms the framework of the web or a line that the spider uses in swinging off to a new location.

The orb weaver and most spiders have 3 pairs of spinnerets on the bottom posterior end of the abdomen.  Each has many spigots with a valve at the base.  A chemical reaction takes place. and the liquid silk hardens as it is pulled from the spigot with the hind legs or by the weight of the spider.  The spider has musculature to move the spigots independently but work together in a coordinated fashion, lifting, lowering and twisting to weave the web.   The muscles also control the amount the valve opens to change the diameter of the silk.  The dragline is less than 2 µm thick or 1/25th the diameter of an average human hair.  The diameter depends on the size of the spider.  It is constructed to hold 4 to 6 times the spider’s weight without failing.  It has both high strength and elasticity.  It is tougher than steel.

Above is a second type of orb weaver spider. It was discovered in my daughter’s bedroom and transferred to a small plastic jar where it spun a web and laid an egg.  The whole jar was put in a scanning electron microscope under a vacuum – an amazing feat (below center). It was partially glued down to keep it in place. The fine web attaching its foot to the web tag line is 1 nm in diameter and is holding up the weight of the spider’s entire leg! The fine thread enables the spider to feel the slightest vibration of prey stuck on the web.


“National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders” by Lorus and Margery Milne,

Copyright 1980, Thirteenth printing July 2014, Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher, New York, P.884, plate 680

“Biology of Spiders, 3rd Edition” by Rainer Foelix

MIL EAN/ISBN: 9781282917750, p.140-141,


Please contact us for custom images.

The image store is a collection of organisms that have been examined under a stereo light microscope (LM) and or scanning electron microscope (SEM). Each group of organisms has a short description and a longer more detailed description or story about the organism.  Clicking on the product group shows the individual images.  Each series takes the observer from macro to micro or nano on a particular organism, starting with a macro photographic image(s) for perspective, micro images taken by the light microscope, and most have micro to nano scanning electron microscope images.  The SEM images will appear in black and white as a beam of electrons is used to illuminate the specimen rather than light.  A few SEM images are colorized (lotus leaf).  More information about the labeling and techniques used is below.

For the curious:

The light microscope images are labeled LM and a Z is included if it is a vertical composite of images effectively extending the depth of field or EDF of the microscope.

SEM images are labeled by the type of detector use:

SE (secondary electron)

LSE (Low vacuum secondary electron)

BES (backscattered electron shadow mode)

BEC (backscattered electron compositional mode)

The SEM instrument works by producing a beam of electrons under a vacuum that interacts with the sample surface and subsurface producing different signals, as shown in the diagram at right.  Secondary electrons, backscattered electrons and x-rays are detected using different instrument modes.  In addition to morphological information to produce an image the SEM can determine elemental composition by energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS).

Personal/Educational License:
For personal or educational use only.  Images cannot be given or resold to others.

Commercial License:
For Profit or Non-profit business use within the organization, in presentations and publications with image credit.  No resale of images.

An image license does not grant exclusive rights to an image.  Lichen Labs retains the copywrite to all images.

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