The Walnut orb spider (Nuctenea umbratica) is not only the spider for this sunday, but also the (european) spider of the year 2017! I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but I think it’s a good initiative to highlight and focus on a particular creature. From the website of the European Society of Arachnology:
Why was Nuctenea umbratica chosen as the European Spider of the Year?
There are a number of good reasons for this choice: (1) the species is quite common, (2) despite its hidden way of life it is easy to find close to houses, (3) it is a quite prominent and easy to identify species, and (4) it raises public awareness about its original habitat on the bark of dead wood and/or old trees.
Through choosing the Spider of the Year we not only hope that a less popular group of animals will be brought to the fore, but we also hope that researchers can obtain new data about its current distribution.
I spotted this female five days ago, hanging in her web on the side of the wall. Walnut orb spiders are night active spiders, so it was quite tricky for me to take a decent picture. Because of the placement of its web, I was only able to take a picture of the ventral side. As with last week’s spider, I thought it would be tricky to figure out which species it belonged to. Fortunately, the abdomen of walnut orb spiders has two bright spots, which are easily visible in the dark and are a distinctive feature. In addition, they belong to the orb-weavers (Araneidae), just like the cross spider. They build the ‘classic’ round spider webs, which helped in identifying the spider.
Although walnut orb spiders are common, finding them requires a bit of effort. During the day they hide in small crevices, but come night, they crawl out of their hiding places towards the middle of the web to catch prey, chill and whatever it is that spiders do for fun (scaring people, perhaps? 😉 ). Because of their nightly activities, the spider is sometimes called ‘Evening spider’. Moreover, the Latin name, umbratica, means ‘living in the shadows’.
Here is a video (not made by me) of this spider which shows a male specimen and how it builds its web:
I hope you enjoyed learning more about the spider of the year and do check out the website of the European Society of Arachnology to help them collect observations of this spider!