The Garden cross spider (Araneus diadematus) is a common and delightful site that is found in gardens up and down the country between June and November. As one of our largest spiders this ‘orb-web spider’ cannot be missed due to its highly distinctive cross of pale spots across its bulbous abdomen. The adult females grow to 15mm (body length), and males to 9mm. Their colours range from a sandy brown to burnt orange or even almost completely black. Garden cross spiders weave enormous and conspicuous orb webs, which if you hunt for, you should still find in your garden, strung across paths, windows, between shrubs and even in front of doors. These busy spiders are night spinners, weaving gloriously elaborate silk web in preparation for a day of hunting to catch their prey, including a host of garden visitors such as butterflies, wasps and flies.
If you accidentally disturb a Garden cross spider on its web it will use it legs to oscillate itself up and down and shake the web, and if it is very severely disturbed, it will drop from its web on a silk thread and lie still until its convinced the danger has passed on and then it will climb back to its web.
Pregnant females are particularly noticable because of their large body, swollen with eggs. Pregnant female Garden cross spiders look much fatter than other spiders. Females protect their eggs by building a silk egg sac, which they lay their eggs in. Once filled with eggs a female will not leave the sac, she will spend her life protecting it and she will eventually die in late autumn before her spiderlings hatch in the following May.
Next May a mass of young spiderlings each with yellow abdomen and a dark patch will hatch out of the egg sac. Once hatched they collect together into a bright yellow bundle of tiny spiders and if disturbed they will wildly scatter, only reassembling when the danger has moved on. After their first moult they will separate, living individually and maturing into fully grown adult spiders after two years.