The Timbavati Wild Facts – The Golden Superhero

Who are we?

This golden superhero is part of the nephilia genus of the Araneidae family which are more commonly known as the golden orb-web spiders, giant wood spiders, or banana spiders.

The golden orb-web spider has been given its name because of the colour of its silk. It is suggested that the colour may be part of their hunting techniques; in the sunlight, the web is illuminated to a bright yellow which is said to attract insects such as bees, whereas in shadows it becomes an invisible, camouflaged trap for their prey species.

Photo captured by Ané Coetzee

What makes a spider a spider?

Arachnids are creatures with two body segments, eight legs, and have no wings or antennae.

Its size and remarkable appearance make it one of the easier spiders to identify. It is non-aggressive and relatively harmless to humans however it can deliver a rather painful bite if pushed to its limits, but the venom is not lethal, generally only causing redness and blistering.

Here are some easy ways to identify these beauties:

  • Black and Yellow banded legs
  • Distinctive whiteness on the cephalothorax and the beginning of the abdomen
  • A female golden orb spider can have an abdomen of up to 30mm long and makes the 5mm sized male seem tiny.
  • Remain in their webs permanently.
  • The females are the ones who weave the webs

Is her stomach the way to her heart?

In almost all nephila species, the male is at high risk of being her snack, so to avoid being cannibalized, the male will approach the female either at a time when she is already feeding or “tap, tap, tap” on the edge of her web to check if she is in a good mood to then offer her a tasty food parcel that she can’t resist. This means when she is distracted by her scrumptious meal, he will fertilize her and speed off to a safe distance.

The females have a “pantry” section of food on their web. There they can store up to 15 meals at any given time or even possibly use it as bait to catch fresh food. The ladies are very tidy and keep her meals wrapped up in silk to keep them from dehydrating.


Superhero Silk?

Spiderman chose a good superpower, the silk from this species is incredibly strong. There is a theory that if were possible to weave a line of the silk to a thickness of a small pencil, it would be able to hold and potentially stop a Boeing 747 jumbo jet at maximum speed! Efforts to use the silk commercially to manufacture cloth have failed; however, there has been some promising research on silk in the field of tissue engineering for medical use.

Read more facts about the Golden-Orb-Spider

Quick wild facts:

  • They are diurnal, sedentary and web bound.
  • Webs are not often dismantled and can last for several years.
  • There are 11 African species in the genus.
  • Their venom is harmless to man.
  • It is not the largest spider but makes the largest and strongest web, deriving its name from the golden colour of its silk.
  • The tiny males can steal the female's food without her even noticing.
  • Females live slightly longer than males.
  • The eggs are buried in the ground.
  • The spiderlings are not fully developed when they hatch, but once they are fully developed they move apart from their siblings to avoid cannibalism.
  • The web silk (used by some traditional folk) can be used to make fishing lures, traps, nets, bird snares.