The golden orb weaver has quite the reputation around the internet, as they make extremely strong webs that can cover many feet in length (3+ feet) and can sometimes capture small birds within. This of course gets turned into headlines that read “Giant Australian spider captures and devours a bird!” but the bird isn’t that big (only a few inches as well) – but comparatively golden orb weavers can get to an impressive size for a spider. Once again though, this is another case where the size is a deceptive quality because much like the huntsman and ogre faced spider they are a very placid species with no threat to people.
This delightful specimen is one of the various Nephila species that are found around where I live. Another spectacular specimen is a dark black with yellow highlights on the limb and body.
You might wonder why this is called a “Golden Orb Weaver” when it’s not particularly bright to look at. They actually get the name from a property of their silken webs, which can turn a deep yellow coloration and are extremely strong (this one has its yellow threads a bit further back). In the right light, these webs can look like golden threads and are extremely pretty, which also gives them their name. The stuff at the back of the spider is rotting detritus from the spiders various kills that it sort of hangs behind it like a grisly trophy rack. Like many behaviours of some spiders, there is some considerable debate as to why it goes about doing this. One thought is to attract flying insects to the web like a lure or possibly to make the web more visible so birds avoid flying into it (not that the bird is going to come off best if it does).
Once again, this is a big spider and is completely harmless. Generally speaking though I don’t tend to take these kind of spiders off their webs because of the stress and harm it can cause them. They’re easy to photograph and appreciate right where they are thankfully!