Spring is the season when some of the smaller, but very familiar residents of Box Gum Grassy Woodlands come to our attention again.
As the adults appear in their glorious jewelled colours, the wheel-like webs of the Christmas spider festoon the branches of shrubs and make artworks between the wires of fences.
Also known as the Jewel spider or Spiny Orb-weaver, these spiders are actually here all year round, but are not as brightly coloured. A walk on a misty morning when the dew makes their amazing webs more visible reveals just how many there are in our local environment. And that’s a great thing!
Spiny orb weavers are one of the many beneficial spiders we have. They help keep the natural balance, preying upon small insects that are present in crops and suburban areas. Known as ‘opportunistic predators’, they use their legs to entangle small flying insects like flies and mosquitoes on their webs.
You could even say they are considerate to we larger inhabitants of the Box Gum communities, making the support lines of their orb shaped webs highly visible, with thick silk lines obvious enough for large animals to see and easily avoid. The strong, almost invisible web in the centre stays safe as we are able to steer clear.
Spiny orb weavers are not dangerous and would easily be overlooked if not for their unique coloration and orb webs. Take a closer look this summer, and enjoy these industrious co-habitants of our beautiful, and endangered, Box Gum Grassy Woodlands!