Unlike other orb-weaver spiders, marbled orb-weavers have an oval-shaped abdomen. Females of this species are much larger, at 9.0 to 18.0 mm long and 2.3 to 4.5 mm wide, while males are 5.9 to 8.4 mm long and 2.3 to 3.6 mm wide. Marbled orb-weavers can have a wide variety of colors and patterns. This species has two forms, the 'nominate marmoreus' form and the 'variation pyramidatus' form. Both forms have light brown or orange legs and hard outer-shells, known as carapaces, while the ends of their legs are striped in white, clear, or black. The variation marmoreus form has a white, yellow, or orange abdomen, patterned in black, grey, and white. This pattern gives them their common name, because they look "marbled". The variation pyramidatus form has a paler abdomen, with a large dark brown spot near the end of their abdomen. Marbled orb-weavers have orange eggs that are about 1.15 mm wide. They can be told apart from other members of their genus (Araneus), by differences in the spines on their legs. Species of genus Araneus can also be identified by their genitals. (Carmichael, 1973; Enders, 1974; Levi, 1971; Opell and Bond, 2001; Roberts, 1985)
Marbled orb-weavers (Araneus marmoreus) are widespread across the Nearctic and Palearctic regions. Their range extends across Canada and the United States, as far south as Texas and along the Gulf Coast. They are also found across Europe and the northern half of Asia, especially Russia, and into the Holarctic region. (Esyunin and Laetin, 2009; Esyunin, et al., 2013; Fasola and Mogavero, 1995; Hoffman, 1982; Opell and Hendricks, 2009)
Marbled orb-weavers live in many habitats, including forests, meadows, agricultural fields, orchards, peat bogs, along rivers, and rural and suburban areas. They can usually be found in shrubs and trees along the forest's edge, or in man-made objects like mailboxes. (Edwards and Edwards, 1997; Enders, 1974; Esyunin and Laetin, 2009; Esyunin, et al., 2013; Levi, 1971; Opell and Hendricks, 2009; Pekar, 1999; Svaton and Pridavka, 2000)
Eggs of marbled orb-weavers hatch in early spring after spending the winter in egg sacs. Juvenile spiders are found from spring to July, during that time, they molt through several phases, known as instars, and eventually molt into breeding adults. Adults mate in the summer and can be found from June to September. After mating and laying their egg sacs, adults die in the fall. (Fasola and Mogavero, 1995; Levi, 1971)
There is little information about the mating habits of marbled orb-weavers, although they may behave similar to other members of their genus (Araneus). Females of these species emit pheromones to attract mates. To court mates, males spin a "mating-thread" across the female's web. The male moves towards the female across this thread, plucking and vibrating it, and the female approaches him. The male touches the front of the female's body with his legs, stroking her, until she hangs from the mating thread. Mating takes place in late summer and males mate several times. In some species of orb-weaving spiders, females eat their mates after breeding, this includes European garden spiders, which are closely related and live in the same area. Marbled orb-weavers may also do this; however, males mate multiple times and often survive mating, so cannibalism may not be as common in this species. (Elgar and Nash, 1988; Levi, 1971; Olive, 1982; Roggenbuck, et al., 2011)
After mating in late summer, female marbled orb-weavers lay their eggs in loose, fluffy egg sacs made from their silk. In one report, an egg sac was 13 mm across and held 653 eggs. Eggs spend the winter in these sacs and hatch the following spring. By July, the spiderlings molt into breeding adults. (Enders, 1974; Fasola and Mogavero, 1995; Levi, 1971)
Marbled orb-weavers die after mating, so adults do not provide any care when the spiderlings hatch the following spring. They do provide nutrients in the eggs and construct an egg sac that likely gives them some protection from the elements. (Levi, 1971)
Since spiderlings leave their egg sacs in the spring, mature into adults, and die in the fall after mating, marbled orb-weavers likely only live about 6 months. (Levi, 1971)
To build their orb-webs, marbled orb-weavers use the "second line" technique. To do this, the spider creates a drag line of silk from the two silk glands in their abdomen. They also create a second line and attach it to the main drag line. Up to several meters of their second line is pulled out from their spinnerets as they hang motionless. Spiders usually go back up the main drag line, reel in the second line and begin construction. An orb-web is usually made of sticky threads arranged in spirals on supporting threads. Marbled orb-weavers spin their webs on top of vegetation, in low shrubs, or tall grasses. They spin their web in the morning, and spend the day resting in leaves or moss on the side of the web. During the night, spiders wait in the middle of the orb web for prey to get snared. Eggs overwinter in egg sacs and most adults die before winter begins. (Eberhard, 1987; Gunnarsson, 1985; Levi, 1971; Opell and Hendricks, 2007; Opell, et al., 2011)
There is currently very little information available about the home range size of marbled orb-weavers.
Marbled orb-weavers sense the environment through touch. They have sensitive hair structures on their legs that can not only sense movement or bending of the hair, but also the direction of the displacement. These spiders are also sensitive to air currents. Orb-spiders also have chemoreceptors on their legs that help their sense of smell and help them sense chemicals. Other spiders in genus Araneus use pheromones to attract mates. Female marbled orb-weavers likely also release pheromones to communicate with and attract mates. Touch is also used during mating, as males courting females stroke their bodies with their legs. (Elgar and Nash, 1988; Foelix and Chuwang, 1973; Olive, 1982)
Marbled orb-weavers prey on many insect species. They build orb-webs, which have sticky threads arranged spirally with non-sticky supporting threads. Prey becomes stuck on the sticky threads, which gives the spider time to find and attack the prey. They mostly eat smaller insects, generally ranging from 0 to 4 mm, particularly from orders Orthoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera. One study found that a single marbled orb-weaver could catch about 14 insects per day. (Japyassu and Caires, 2008; Opell and Hendricks, 2007; Opell, et al., 2011; Pasquet, 1984)
Many species of wasps prey on marbled orb-weavers. Some wasp species, such as spider wasps (Batozonellus lacerticida) and blue mud daubers (Chalybion californicum), catch and paralyze the spiders. The paralyzed spiders are placed inside a burrow with a wasp egg, that way, when the egg hatches the larvae can feed on the spider prey. Other wasp species, including organ pipe mud daubers (Trypoxylon politum) and white-trimmed black wasps (Episyron quinquenotatus), simply catch and eat marbled orb-weavers. They are also preyed on by birds, including penduline tits (Remiz pendulinus) in Europe. (Endo and Endo, 1994; Kristofik, et al., 1993; Kurczewski and Kurczewski, 1968; Landes, et al., 1987; Rehnberg, 1987)
Many species of wasps prey on marbled orb-weavers, feeding as adults or using the spiders as a food supply for their offspring. Marbled orb-weavers are also prey to many species of birds. Marbled orb-weavers are insectivores and prey on the many different insect species caught in their web, particularly dipterids and hymenopterans. (Endo and Endo, 1994; Kurczewski and Kurczewski, 1968; Landes, et al., 1987; Rehnberg, 1987)
There are no known adverse effects of marbled orb-weavers on humans.
There are no known positive effects of marbled orb-weavers on humans.
Marbled orb-weavers have no special conservation status.
Angela Miner (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
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