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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Winter habits of Neoscona crucifera


Growing up in rural New Hampshire, I had a lot of exposure to what we call "barn spiders" which I've since identified as Neoscona crucifera. We had three old barn's on our property where dozens and dozens of these spiders would make there home every year, and I was not surprised to find they are seasonal. Having observed them for the first twenty years of my life, with a mixture of both terror and fascination, I've always found it odd that they are consistently listed as dying off in the winter. I found through the years of watching them, that during the winter months they would retreat to the rafters and cracks of these old barns to pass the winter, where they would remain motionless unless disturbed. If touched they would move at a slothlike pace to another nearby crevice, but in a way that showed they were still alive. I noted this as happening even in the coldest parts of January. These barns where larger than many houses and filled with many rooms, but had no electricity or heating. When spring came I would notice not just juveniles appearing but full grown adults as well, though not in the numbers they represented in the fall. My question is then this; Is "Dies off in cold/winter" a statement about the species as a whole, or just the meant to reflect what happens to the largest portion of the species? Is this abnormal behaviour or just something that happens given the right circumstances?

In regards to my identification; These are large bodied orb weavers whose colouring's and behaviours match Neoscona crucifera in all other ways.

Thank you very much. I have been wondering this for many years.

Hi Andrew
The common name "barn spider" is usually applied to Araneaus caviticus but I have seen Neoscona spiders called Barn spiders. I have not seen Neoscona crucifera reported in Nova Scotia however but trust you have studied them. As to the life span most spiders live only a year, dying after spinning an egg sac. I do have however on my deck orb weavers that spin  a silken cocoon to hide in during the winter here in Ohio. Since you have seen your spiders surviving then I guess that they do not die after a year. I guess we can conclude that some do and some don't.
Abnormal behavior is not a factor in invertebrates.
 It is good to talk to somebody with an interest in Arachnids. I have been studying them since I was a kid and I have kept tarantulas for years


Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Walter Hintz


I can answer any questions about insects and spiders.


I have taught science for over 57 years. I am presently teaching biology at the college level. I have done extensive graduate work in entomology.

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B.S. In Ed Kent State Unuv M.Sc The Ohio State Univ National Science Foundation Fellowships: Electron Microscopy Univ of California Entomology Kent State Univ

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