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Preface

We live in the north eastern US and have a spider that has setup shop next to our front door. I've lived in this area my whole life and she's the largest spider I've seen.

We're too interested and afraid to do anything but let her be, so we've been watching her for the last couple of months.

The "Event"

My wife almost bumped into her web while we were looking for our cat tonight. (I mean she was really close). The spider was hanging around in the center of the web at the time. A short while later my wife saw the spider scurrying furiously and then she crawled back into her hiding spot behind the shutter. Next time I looked over, her web was completely gone - neither of us think we got close to it again during that short time.

I'd also like to point out that it was a bit gusty tonight, a rain storm was probably about an hour away.

We are wondering if something happened to her web, or if she took it down intentionally. If she did, is this behavior common in spiders?

Other Information

  • She's got a blackish/yellowish bulbous body with the same color striped legs
  • She's about the size of a ping pong ball (including legs)
  • She hides during the day behind the shutter, but always comes out when the sun starts setting.
  • Unfortunately I have no pictures of her that aren't the underside, she never comes around the front of her web.
  • She builds a "classic" looking web, a hair longer than a foot in diameter with a couple of longer guy lines out to the door and the stoop. There are never any messages written in it.
  • She either never catches anything, takes her food back into her little den, or eats very quickly because I've never seen anything wrapped up in her web.
  • Our cat found his way home a couple of hours later

Photo

Scary Spider

Thanks!

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    $\begingroup$ Do you wish to get your spider identified? I ask it because it is nowhere mentioned in your question and it has a tag species-identification.If you intend us to do so maybe you should add that part too. Welcome to BioSE. :) $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Sep 24 '16 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ OP used a term 'she' to describe that spider. ("She's about the size of a ping pong ball (including legs)"). Was it a female spider? $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Sep 24 '16 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ "Can/Do any spiders release their own web in the presence of a threat?" or "Can/Do any spiders destroy their own web in the presence of a threat?" ... which one you are asking? since you've wrote "she crawled back into her hiding spot behind the shutter. Next time I looked over, her web was completely gone... We are wondering if something happened to her web, or if she took it down intentionally. If she did, is this behavior common in spiders?" $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Sep 24 '16 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ I've also seen several times (but then I was a kid), if I disturb a spider who is weaving a web; it ruptures own incomplete web before leaving the place. (But I can't conclude it is their behavior or just coincidence, also their species was not-identified, normally) $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Sep 24 '16 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ @SanjuktaGhosh Thanks for the welcome! And sorry for the ambiguity - I was mostly interested in the web tear down, but I was not sure if it was specific to the spider species or not so I included as much info as I could. I am not aware of the species so I figured if anyone identified it it would be a bonus :) $\endgroup$ – plast1k Sep 24 '16 at 23:44
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Building a web costs a lot of energy. From Wikipedia: "It is common for spiders to eat their own web daily to recoup some of the energy used in spinning. The silk proteins are thus recycled." https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_web

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting! I had no idea $\endgroup$ – plast1k Sep 26 '16 at 12:56
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This is an older question, but just for the information, here are a couple of points that might be helpful:

  1. Some (not all) spiders do tear their webs down and 'recycle' the silk when the web has been damaged to the point of being unsuitable as a snare. I don't know if any spiders simply cut the web loose and let it fall if they're disturbed, but I would doubt it - perhaps the gusty wind did something?
  2. You were right - it is a 'she'; a female Araneid of some sort, to be more precise - the candy-striped legs and orbweb tell you what she is, and the large abdomen and general size tell you she's a female. From the photo I can't hazard a guess* as to which spider, or group of spiders, within that general category she might be, but she is an orbweaver of some kind. You didn't ask, but since all known orbweavers are completely harmless to people, she is too.
  3. Some of the larger orbweavers in this group can get quite large and spin very large webs. The largest I ever had made an orb about 3' across on a structure which stretched from the eaves to the ground, or about 10' top to bottom. Her abdomen was maybe a bit large than an inch across, and with legs included, she would have been rather larger than a pingpong ball. I used to feed her various things I found, and I discovered that she would happily eat small toads as well as large insects.

I include a link to one of the orbweavers which have that red tarsus - unfortunately, there are more than just one orbweaver with that feature, but if I was pressed to offer an ID, I'd go with this one provisionally: Neoscona crucifera. These Barn Spiders (and there are at least two spiders known by that name..) can get quite large, and make a reasonable fit with your photo. The reddish color on the tarsi is fairly dull, not a bright red, so I lean away from N. domiciliorum and other orbweavers that might turn up in your area, although of course I'm not a fanatic about it..

https://bugguide.net/node/view/28154

*well, I guess I wasn't completely honest here..

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