European Garden Spider
I’m not a big fan of spiders. They may be intellectually fascinating, but downright creepy otherwise. Just the other day I walked through a spider web thread in our conservatory. I didn’t think much of it and brushed the thread away. Back inside the house, I looked down and saw a giant, and I mean GIANT, spider on my collar. I screamed. The cat jumped. I flicked and stomped. The cat jumped again. I sighed. I reassured the cat. All was well in my world again.
So what was I thinking when I spotted in my garden several large spiders perched on their webs? Please don’t jump, bite, or be poisonous! Not knowing much about British bugs*, I had no clue, so I went online to learn that I’d met Araneus diadematus (a.k.a. the cross spider, European garden spider, diadem spider, or cross orbweaver).
Should it comfort me that the garden spider is very common here in Western Europe? Hmm. Although common, not all garden spiders look alike. I learned from NatureMapping Program that individual spiders can range from light yellow, to orange-brown or dark grey. Despite color variations, however, all European garden spiders have mottled markings across the back with five or more large white dots forming a cross, hence the common name of cross spider. (I did not see this, because I am not trampling into the plants and through the webs to get a look at the spider’s other side.)
Once I knew their name it was rather easy to find out more about their nature. On UK Safari’s Is This A Deadly Spider? section, I learned that the UK has no particularly dangerous spiders (Whew!), but (BUT?!? Grrrr.) European garden spiders have been reported biting occasionally, causing inflammation and itching for a day or two. Not terrible, but I’ll keep my distance, thank you very much. As long as they stay in the garden, I’ll leave them alone. But let that conservatory spider be a warning to the rest of the bunch. (And, to be fair, I’ll remember to close the conservatory windows from now on.)
*I know spiders are not technically bugs, they are arachnids, but I like the alliteration.
EDIT (14 Oct. 2012): I came across another European Garden Spider and was able to get a picture of its back.