Itsy Bitsy Spider (Not)

I was moving old woodpiles closer to the house for winter and sorting some old planks for sawing, when suddenly I found this huge orb weaver on one piece of rotten wood. I put it carefully in a place where I could take pictures and it was kind enough to stay in place long enough for me to fetch my camera, and my PC today obliged to getting its act together for long enough for me to correct the pictures for posting (my homemade macro lens has, unfortunately, strong chromatic aberration).

In Czech, local orb weavers are called “křižák” (pl. “křižáci”) which means “crusader”.  The name derives from the markings on their back which often have the spots arranged in somewhat vaguely cross-like pattern, especially from some angles. I will be most interested in their names in other languages.

I am not exactly arachnophobic, but I do not particularly enjoy unexpected encounters with such a big spider either and my first reaction is to flee. I found out that having a first thought “I must take pictures to share on the blog” helps with that.

We were told at school that no local spider can bite through human skin, but one of my friends was bitten by one on the neck and he disagrees. I was also bitten by one local spider in the thin skin on the back of the hand (I do not know the species), so I disagree with that wisdom too and I am careful with them. Not for fear of poison, but allergic reaction or skin infection are not fun either.

For last picture I cropped all the excess around the beast to show her (probably) in all her magnificent and terrible (and hairy) beauty.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

No spiders were harmed in making of this blog post. The specimen in question was released in safe location where I could not squish her with firewood. If she stayed there is another matter of course.


  1. says

    Oh how wonderful.
    I can’t say I’ve ever seen one like this.
    The last pic is one for nightmares and B-movie horror films.

  2. Nightjar says

    I find the last picture kind of cute! And I’d love to hear more about your homemade macro lens. I don’t have a macro lens, lately I have been pushing my 50 mm prime lens to the limits and by the end of this year’s “bug season” I plan to decide if I really really need a macro lens to be happy. Yesterday I shot the tiniest itsiest bitsiest crab spider I’ve ever seen. Naturally I wish I didn’t have to do such an extreme cropping, but I was pretty happy with the results nonetheless!

    In Portuguese those spiders have two common names, either aranha-do-jardim (garden spider) or aranha-de-cruz (cross spider).

  3. jazzlet says

    Those wolf spiders that suddenly start appearing indoors in the autumn can bite. Mr Jazz discovered this when he picked one up bare-handed and it nipped him. He said it was like a pin prick, more of a shock than really painful, because he’d been picking them up bare-handed for a good forty years by then and it was the first time it ever happened. He now always uses a cloth which probably means he ends up hurting them more than he used to, but he is understandably reluctant to be nipped again.

    On the subject of fear of spiders I heard a piece on BBC Radio Four when I was driving this week about some research that had been done to try to find out if the fear is learned or instinctive. The researchers set babies up in front of a screen that could track their eye movements and crucially their puil dilation, light level were constant so the only reason for the pupils to dilate was fear, then they showed the babies various images of nice things and of spiders and snakes. What they found was that, yes, babies have an instictive fear of both spiders and snakes. Which made me feel a bit better about my reaction to spiders -- if they are unexpectedly close and if they are large I tend to scream, I may also leap up and away from them -- it’s instinctive and the only bit I haven’t over come, I’m fine if they are in webs or small.

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    Fine pictures. In Finnish, orb weaver is ristihämähäkki (cross spider, risti = cross, hämähäkki = spider) or less scientifically ristilukki (lukki = the arachnid daddy longlegs or a cargo-handling vehicle, a straddle carrier).

  5. voyager says

    Great photos Charly. I’m not usually afraid of spiders, but finding one that size might give me pause.

    I wonder if that innate fear is present for stinging insects like bees and wasps?

  6. ridana says

    A couple years ago I had one of these stake a claim to the spot over the steps of my front porch. Wikipedia has conflicting claims about whether they build in the morning, tending it by day and consuming it at night or if they build in the evening and leave it for a day, consuming it about an hour before they build the next one.

    This one did neither, building it around 10 or 11 pm and eliminating all traces of it before sunrise, which didn’t really give her much time to hunt in the summer. But she was careful to leave enough space for me to duck under it if I needed to go out after dark. I thought that was interesting because I hadn’t blundered into it before for her to learn to build a little to the side to let me pass. How did she know how much space to leave?

  7. gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet says

    Very different shape to our spiders -- it looks more like a decorated Bush Tick.
    Spring is coming here -- I am just starting to notice the spider webs drifting against my face when I walk outside.
    Oh, and no-one picks up spiders in Australia :)

  8. rq says

    It’s called the krusta zirneklis here, just cross spider. One of the less creepy ones, in my opinion -- the skinny, pale ones in the basement freak me out more.

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