Secretive Pumpkin Spiders

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This Pumpkin Spider's eyes are pointed down to her web while waiting for prey in her retreat.

Just in time for Halloween – the Secretive Pumpkin Spider!

For those of you who are afraid of spiders, realize that she is more likely to see you first and go hide in her silken retreat! She’s a beautiful spider by any of her names – Pumpkin Spider, Marbled Orbweaver or Araneus marmoreus.
The Pumpkin Spider is an orbweaver, meaning she’s in the family of spiders that spins circular wheel-shaped webs to catch prey. The females can get large and are variable in color including an orange abdomen (thus the pumpkin name). This lady is very secretive and can be hard to find. She doesn’t sit in her web all day like some of the orbweaver species. Instead, she uses her silk to wrap some leaves together above her web that serve as an out-of-sight refuge or retreat. Here, she lays in wait to hunt, brings prey back to eat, and spends her life for many weeks until she’s ready to find a location to lay her egg sac that will overwinter next year’s spiders. The moment prey hits her web she is alerted and drops out of her retreat on a silk thread. She quickly immobilizes the prey and lifts herself back on the thread into her retreat. Watch the video for an idea of how quickly this happens.
Video: Pumpkin Spider immobilizing a fly, wrapping it, and taking it to her retreat.
This year I found 4 females. The first was roaming in my garage in the summer (under a wasp nest). She probably had not yet reached reproductive maturity. In the fall I found 3 females with retreats. One had a prime location at about 3-foot height on the edge of a shrub facing the south west to catch lots of late day flies. I first found her out repairing her web while looking for caterpillars at night (she’s nocturnal). The second had a similar setup on a Joe-pye plant. The last one was in a second story window using the window track as a retreat – no plants involved.
There are male Pumpkin Spiders of course. They’re much smaller than the female and have a different shape and pattern abdomen. They don’t build a retreat. Instead, their objective in life is to find females and mate. Little is known about mating rituals of this spider, but orbweaver females are known to eat their mates. Talk about a scary Halloween ending!
Pumpkin Spider Slideshow
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