Zygiella x-notata - the Winter Spider
 
This spider may well pass most people completely unnoticed, yet Zygiella x-notata (often known as the Winter Spider) is certainly one of the hardiest of all our native invertebrates.

A very common orb weaving species, the Winter Spider is found both on the inside and outside of houses, usually around door and window frames etc.

This is one of the few spiders to remain active throughout the year, and we have recently watched two females under the outside of our kitchen window, construct new webs when the minimum night time temperature dropped to a staggering -14C. Each female spins a small shelter for protection and usually remains in this, even when the web is disturbed. It is just the female that over-winters, after having mated during the previous Autumn. The males are mature from mid-Summer, through to the Autumn.

 
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Females often produce one or two egg sacs during the course of the Autumn and Winter, with one female last year producing an eggsac in sub-zero temperatures during early January and more recently, a female produce an eggsac on December 14th 2010, immediately after the thaw of heavy snow and ice. The spiderlings remain in the eggsac for several weeks, but appear relatively hardy and emerge at the onset of warmer temperatures in March.

Identification of Zygiella x-notata is usually fairly easy and can often be assumed from habitat, from the species found in Nottinghamshire. There are five Zygiella species nationally. Zygiella atrica is similarly marked, but tends to construct it's webs in more open locations. Gorse bushes on heathland is a favoured site in the Sherwood Forest NNR, where it is a common spider on Budby South Forest.

Zygiella webs are distinctive amongst other orb-weaving spiders, with a small section in the upper part of the web, being left free from any crossing spirals.

 
     
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