Orb Web Weaver
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Orange Orb Weaver
Green Orb Weaver
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Sliver Lobed Spider 1
Sliver Lobed Spider 2
Brown-lobed Spider
Long Lobed Spider
Pan-web Spider


Russian Tent Spider -Cyrtophora parnasia or C. hirta 


This page contains pictures and information about Russian Tent Spiders that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
Leg to leg 12mm 
This Russian Tent Spider had been living on the pine tree in our backyard for quite a while. The spider made egg-sac so it must be a female. Let's call her Mrs. Tent. During the daytime she hided in her web hub, where she made egg-sac too. She rested upside down below the hub waited for prey every night. Unlike the Garden Web Spiders who re-built new webs every night, Mrs. Tent  re-built her tent web only very occasionally. She repaired her tent if it was not damaged very much.
Let's familiar with the structure of it tent web.
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There are some major differences between the tent webs and the normal orb webs. Firstly tent webs are horizontal while most orb webs are vertical. Secondly all silks on the tent webs are not sticky, in most of the orb webs the capture spirals are sticky and are more elasticity. In comparing with the tent web and orb web, the orb web seems to have a better efficiency in capturing prey. For the tent web, the main web is always surrounded by tangled thread. The tangled thread is believed to absorb the first impact of preys so that they can be captured in the main web. The third difference is on the tent web, each cell is always a square. All sides of the cell are in equal length. In orb web each cell is rectangle in shape. 
One evening we saw Mrs. Tent removing the messy thread of her tent. We knew she was about to build a new one. A Russian Tent Spider building tent is rarely seen. We cancelled all our activities, set up the cameras and watched how she built the tent.
After Mrs. Tent cleaned up the old messy thread, she just threw the old silks as a ball under her web site. The Garden Orb Web Spider eats and recycles the silk but Mrs. Tent did not do that.  Notice the white little ball near the bottom of the photos is the old silk. All the old thread was removed except the centre hub and some supporting frame threads at the outside surrounding. When doing the cleaning, she sometimes went forwards and backwards in her site. Mrs. Tent was laying down some new frame threads and anchor points. Mrs. Tent took about 30 minutes to clean up her site.
Then Mrs. Tent put the radii threads from the hub to the outside frame threads. She walked around her hub and check. If there was a gap, she added a radius. Then she checked the other side of the hub and added some other radii, until she found no gaps. 
Then Mrs. Tent laid the spiral threads. Unlike most orb web spider, Tent Spiders do not lay the auxiliary spiral and the sticky capture spiral. Mrs. Tent laid only one layer of spiral threads, which although was not sticky but also worked as capture spiral.  
When laying anti-clockwise, she used the left three legs, L1, L2 and L3 for holding herself and moving forwards. She used the last left leg L4 to hold the last silk she just laid. She used the last three right legs R2, R3 and R4 to put the new step silk on. She used the front right leg R1 to search for the next step. She used her pedipalps for guiding and positioning. Mrs. Tent took about 0.5 second to lay one step of the spiral threads.
Mrs. Tent kept each cell more or less a square. Once she found a gap which was too large, she added another radii thread at that point to the outside frame. On laying the spiral thread, Mrs. Tent sometimes made a U-turn. We did not figured out why and when she did this.
Another different with normal orb web is, there are clean cut of different stages in building normal orb web. Garden Orb Web Spider will put frame, then radii, then auxiliary spiral, and then capture spiral. Every step is clean. In each stage, Garden Orb Web Spider do only one thing until the stage is finished. But Mr. Tent just did anything she felt necessary, she might lay the spiral thread, or radii thread, or even put another anchor point as the next step.
After a whole night, Mrs. Tent finished the whole main web. In the end of her web building, Mrs. Tent added more anchor points to her web. During building the web, from time to time, she went back to the centre and pulled the web in different directions with all her legs. We believed she was checking the tension of her web in all directions.
In the final stage, Mrs. Tent put some more tangled threads on the top and bottom of her web. It took her more that 12 hours to build her web. During building, occasionally she took a few minutes rest inside her hub. When all was done, the sun just shined on the web. Now was the time that Mrs. Tent took a good sleep in her newly built web.
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Now we know how tent web is built. The next question is : How spiders learn to build their web? The answers are in the Discussions page.
Tent web silks are non-sticky. They are water proof as well. The water drop will not attached to the web silks. This is different from orb web silks. Tent web does not be even affected by  heavy rainfall. We did an experiment using a garden water hose, with a column of water sprayed on the tent web. The tent web was not affected. Not a single drop of water attached with the web silk and not any damages can be found. We did the same test with a orb web build by Garden Orb-web Spider, Tits web was slightly damage and with a lot of water drips left on the web. We believed that the tent web silk has the special effect with water surface tension. There could be some applications if we find out this secret.  
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Orb-web attached a lot of water drops after raining but Tent Spider's webs are not affected.
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The spider made so many egg-sacs that they filled up the hub. It could not even hide inside the hub. 
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Small Russian Tent on short grasses, diameter 100mm.

1. Cyrtophora parnasia - The Find-a-spider Guide for Australian Spiders, University of Southern Queensland, 2007.

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Last updated: May 09, 2010.