Photographer's Note

Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Arthropoda, Class: Arachnida, Order: Araneae, Suborder: Labidognatha, Family: Tetragnathidae, Genus: Nephila, Species: Pilipes Fenestra

Common name: Black legged golden orb-web spider

The Tetragnathidae is a small family comprising 7 genera in South Africa and includes both diurnal and nocturnal species ranging in length from 5-30 mm. They pose no threat to man.

The largest and most impressive genus is Nephila. This species, Nephila pilipes fenestra, the black-legged golden orb-web spider, constructs a large vertically inclined, sulphurous yellow orb-web which has the top section missing and may in semi-social populations join onto the bottom of another Nephila orb-web sometimes forming an awesome, almost inpenetrable curtain of webs - like something from a Harrison Ford movie - that are capable of capturing small birds. Nephila's web is usually supported between two trees and can span enormous spaces, metres wide, about 1,5 metres or more from the ground. Nephila is a diurnal spider and the females are large, measuring 15-30 mm in length while the males are only about 5mm and are only one thousandth of the females weight. The female is almost entirely black and the first, second and fourth pairs of legs have a brush of bristles on the tibia. The third pair of legs is the shortest with no brush. The abdomen is elongated (long oval) and is yellow with the caudal (towards the tail end) black or blue with yellow speckles infusing forward into the yellow.

The Nephila male has interesting mating manoeuvres. He presents the female with a fly wrapped in silk and while the female is feeding, he will copulate with his preoccupied mate. There are usually one or two amorous males in the female's web as well as one or more tiny spiders with silver triangular abdomens. These are called dewdrop spiders of the genus Argyrodes (family Theridiidae) and they clean the orb-webs of prey too small for the host spider.

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Additional Photos by Gerhard Theron (GerhardT) Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 13 W: 0 N: 25] (76)
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