The Cross Spider or Garden Spider is a very common and well-known orb-weaver spider in Western Europe. Individual spiders can range from light yellow, to orange-brown or dark grey, but all European garden spiders have mottled markings across the back with five or more larger white dots forming a cross. Usually, the cross-like markings are quite visible. Adult females range in length from 6.5 to 20 millimeters, and the males are 5.5 to 13 millimeters long. The cross spider is common in a wide range of habitats, including gardens, meadows, woodland clearings and hedgerows. It is commonly encountered next to buildings with exterior lighting. The spiders can be found in lighted stairwells of structures in rural areas. Their diet consists mainly of flying insects, such as, flies and mosquitoes, which are usually caught up in their substantial complex orb-web. The webs are built by the females and can be up to 40 cm in diameter. At the tip of the abdomen there are three pairs of spinnerets, which secrete silk used to create the web. They usually face head down on the web, waiting for prey to fly by and get entangled. The prey is quickly captured by the female and wrapped with silk prior to being eaten (see photo below). Orb Spiders are said to eat their webs each night along with many of the small insects stuck to it. A new web is then spun in the morning.
Terry Fisher Photography