According to all the spider web sites, we do not have these types of spiders in Connecticut. Oh really?
The other night I was working on the computer in my den and something caught my eye. I looked up to see this monster swinging wildly back and forth across the window frame, building her web. It took her two nights to get her web situated–and every night at dusk, she swings into view from somewhere, swings up and down a bit, perhaps making repairs from the day,and then settles into the middle.
This is a cross spider, a type of european garden orb weaver–and my, can she build a large web! Many of these spiders start out quite small and then get progressively larger as the season goes on–but it is unusual to see one this large this early in the season. They do not over-winter here.
Her web is across most of the side window of a bay window with two casement side windows. The window is probably at least 3′ tall by 18″ wide so we’re talking a serious web here!
Most of my other cross spiders are a more reasonable size–and this year they are just everywhere in the yard. Probably the mild winter led to more eggs surviving to hatch. By the end of the summer–and well into autumn if we have a mild autumn–some of them will reach her size, I have no doubt.
And I am not just being “pro-female” when I refer to spiders as “shes.” In spiders, the females are always larger and more colorful–and quite often, after mating, the male is eaten! So most often the colorful spiders I feature are the females!
One of the reasons I enjoy these spiders (the small ones anyway. When I was a kid we called these large ones “Mongol” spiders for some reason–I still do colloquially) is that the little ones try to make themselves seem big to predators (and me if I’m near) by bouncing up and down in their webs so fast that all you see it’s a blur. It’s a really funny effect–I didn’t know what it was the first time I saw it.
Here’s another guy that doesn’t like to pose–the grass spider. This is a spider known as a funnel web weaver. You can’t really see any of the funnels in these webs–they look more like sheets in the webs this spider has. As summer goes on, the funnels usually get more pronounced. And then again, this isn’t the optimal spot for a funnel.
These spiders can also get quite large–almost as large as a golf ball (including their legs). They also get a bit aggressive if challenged, sometimes standing on the hind pairs of legs. But they are harmless and a”good” bug, keeping the lawn and stone wall free of moths and other insects.