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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Please identify this spider


Barry Gibb
Barry Gibb  
QUESTION: I live in a rural area of southeastern Massachusetts. Last August I found this spider out on my porch. I had never seen anything like it in this area. I snapped a picture, showed it around; and nobody in this area had ever seen one like it either. I named him Barry Gibb due to his pose and markings. It's body length is a little over an inch in length. Its legs are hairy, back is brownish. And it spins and incredible looking circular web. This past August, I've seen 4 of them. I've been able to determine that it's an orb weaver. Can you tell me what kind?  Can you tell me if it's native to this area? And most importantly, is it poisonous? I have more pictures of the body and web, if you need them.
I also nearly stumbled into this nest today while I was trimming brush. Is it wasps?  Are they too aggressive for me to handle on my own?

ANSWER: Jenni:

Ha!  "Barry Gibb."  Love it.

The spider is an orbweaver in the genus Araneus , but your image depicts the underside of the spider, and nearly all orbweavers look pretty much the same from that perspective.  I'd need to see a dorsal (top side) view to tell you what species.  I'd lean toward the "Cross Spider," Araneus diadematus , though, since that is a very common species in your area.

The nest is indeed a wasp nest, probably the yellowjacket species known as the "Bald-faced Hornet," Dolichovespula maculata .  If there are no wasps coming and going (watch for awhile, as the nest is probably in decline at least, if not abandoned), then it might be safe to remove it.  The aggressive nature of yellowjackets is usually inflated, but if you disturb a nest violently by shaking it, running a lawnmower over it (underground nest), etc, then you are going to get a heavy dose of attacking worker wasps.

Hope this helps!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Orb weaver
Orb weaver  

Orb weaver II
Orb weaver II  
QUESTION: Thanks for such a quick response. I have a picture of the spider's back... I am really curious about it.

And the hornet nest is very, very active!  I took that picture in the rain. I was watching from about five feet away the day before. In 10 seconds I saw a couple dozen go in and out.


Well, I have to correct myself.  The orbweavers are in the genus Neoscona , not Araneus as I previously thought.  See how much they look alike underneath?

Neoscona are difficult to get to species, but this one looks like it might be N. arabesca .

Thanks for the update and new images!


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Eric R. Eaton


I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.


Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

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One of the top 50 experts in all categories for, 2009.

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Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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