Identification of Nottinghamshire's three largest Orb-weaving spiders
 
The identification of many spiders to species' level, is often difficult, but the three large orb-weaving spiders shown here, are relatively straight-forward and soon become obvious.

The three species concerned are Araneus diadematus, Araneus marmoreus and Araneus quadratus. Of the three, A. diadematus is by far the most common overall, but at certain sites and in certain habitats, A. quadratus dominates.

By the late Summer and early Autumn, all three species are mature and construct large orb-webs between suitable vegetation. We have seen single webs of A. diadematus constructed between trees in Sherwood, some 12 feet apart, but the actual orb-web itself, never measures much more than 12 inches (30cm) across.

 
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A. diadematus is the familiar Garden Spider, sometimes referred to as the Garden Cross Spider. It often lives at quite high density, with sometimes several webs per square metre. This especially applies to certain areas within Sherwood Forest CP, where all three species occur.

Araneus quadratus is also often found living at such density, but makes it web lower down (probably due to frequenting more open grassy areas than A. diadematus). It is especially common on Budby South Forest, but is also present in large numbers on rough grassland at many former Colliery sites. The females sit in an umbrella-like structure during the day and which is attached to grass heads, Gorse or Heather. Araneus marmoreus constructs a similar shelter, but we tend to find these slightly higher up in the shrub layer and this is easily the less common of the three.

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Abdominal markings
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Above from left to right: Araneus diadematus, Araneus marmoreus and Araneus quadratus.
 
     
Araneus diadematus (Clerck, 1757)
Occurrence .. Commonly known as the Garden Spider or Garden Cross Spider, Araneus diadematus is found virtually everywhere,
 
Web .. Makes a familiar orb web on low vegetation, but webs are also spun between the trunks and branches of trees.
 
Identification and colour forms .. There are numerous colour forms but the general ground colour of the abdomen, is usually a shade of brown and less extreme than either A. marmoreus or A. quadratus. The white cross markings on the abdomen remain fairly constant, with those shown in the accompanying photographs being typical.
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Araneus marmoreus (Clerck, 1757)
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Occurrence .. Found throughout the Sherwood Forest area, but with less frequency than the other two species.
 
Web .. Typical orb web, usually found in the shrub layer.
 
Identification and colour forms .. There are two main colour forms, with Araneus marmoreus .var. pyramidatus in which the dark triangular area is on a plain white or yellow background and by far the most regularly form found. The other form is quite uncommon (in our experience) but much more intricately marked, with an olive background colouration and beautiful markings in cream or yellow. Can resemble A. diadematus at first glance.
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Araneus marmoreus .var. pyramidatus (Clerck, 1757)
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Araneus quadratus (Clerck, 1757)
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Occurrence .. A common orb web spider, often in localities near water. It is especially common on Budby South Forest and rough grassy areas of former Colliery sites..
 
Web .. Most often found on low vegetation, such as Heather, grasses and sedges etc.
 
Identification and colour forms .. There are numerous colour forms, with females occasionally showing a deep brown, olive, through to pink colour. Pink coloured females seem to be found on the ripened seed heads of Dock (in our experience to date) whilst the pale coloured females, predominate on heather and grasses.
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Nuctenea umbratica (Clerck, 1757)
There is one other possible confusion species which can be found in Nottinghamshire. Although not one of the Araneus spiders, Nucteana umbratica is another orb weaver, which can be confused with the above three species. It is a common orb weaving spider, usually found in a retreat under loose bark and in cracks on fence posts, but rarely seen during daylight. A fairly large species when adult, with the flattened abdomen making ID quite easy. It's web is built close to the trunk of trees and fences.
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