FLOing WILD:  Spiders - 2 Florida Natives to Love     by Marilu Dempsey

If you want to live and thrive,
let the spider run alive.

Spiny Backed Orb Weaver (Gaster Acantha)

The most colorful and easily recognized Florida spider, having what looks like a white and black spotted shell on its back, and 6 pointy red spines. The web contains tufts of silk, probably to prevent birds from flying into it.

Females are 5mm to 10mm long, 10mm to 14mm wide.  They hang in the center of the web.

The bite of the Spiny Backed Orb Weaver is not known to cause serious reactions in humans.

Spiny Backed Orb Weaver
Golden Silk Orb Weaver

Golden Silk Orb Weaver (Nephila)

The female is distinctively colored, with conspicuous hair tufts on her legs.   Females are the largest web dwelling spiders at 25mm to 40mm long.

Males are dark brown, and are tiny, only 4mm to 6mm long.  Look for him in the web with the female.

The web is huge; it is the one you run into, as it stretches across paths and clearings.   The silk of Nephila’s web is the strongest natural fiber known to man.

The bite produces localized pain and slight redness, which quickly go away.   It is considered less severe than a bee sting.

About Spiders

OK spiders are ugly and scary, eight eyes (most species), eight legs, furry bodies, and sharp fangs.   But spiders should be looked on with gratitude, not fear: they are definitely mankind’s friends.

Spiders are formidable predators, they eat insects, other spiders, and sometimes other small vertebrates.   Without spiders our world would be over-run by insects.  Insect mortality, mostly due to spiders, is estimated at almost 99%.

Spiders are an important food source for birds and other small mammals, particularly during winter and spring.   What sets spiders apart from other animals is their ability to spin silk.   Spider silk is necessary to some species of birds for nest building.   Hummingbirds steal spider webs, and use them to bind their nests.

There are only 4 spider species found in the United States with bites that are known to cause serous reactions in humans.   A bite does not mean certain death, but the reaction can be severe.
only female will bite & only if molested, more aggressive when guarding egg sac. Black Widow, Brown Widow, Red Widow (found in FL palmettos), & Northern Widow.
Brown Recluse (violin spider):
drab coloring, 6 eyes (3 pairs), and very thin legs.
Hobo (funnel-web spider):
introduced to the Pacific NW from Europe. Brown with chevron shape on abdomen.
Sac Spider:
whitish color, lives in flat, tubular nests, open at both ends, under bark, or in rolled leaves.

NOTE: any bite can become infected, even one from a “harmless” spider.


The wheel-like, web of an orb-weaver is easily recognized.   Stretching across clearings and paths, they maximize the area for capturing prey, and minimize the amount of silk used.

These amazing masterpieces are usually completed in less than an hour, and may be rebuilt every day.

Even though orb-weavers have poor vision, they are very successful hunters.   Sitting in the center of their great webs, they patiently wait for dinner to come calling.

Web sites for more information on these fascinating creatures:

    University of Florida
    Some great pictures (go to bottom of page)