A Fortuitous Find


By Karen Menard

The luck of the trail was with me as I stumbled upon a “Shamrock” orb weaver spider (Araneus trifolium) at Fallen Timbers Battlefield on a recent, cold morning.  Its name most likely originated from the four-leaf clover shaped pattern appearing on the abdomen of some individuals. Or, it could have just as easily come from the fact that some surprisingly show up wearing green garb.  Yes--green spiders do exist! Cloaked in green or not, this species easily ranks as one the most beautiful orb weavers in Ohio due to its interesting leg bands, intricate body design and diversity of colors.

Coloration actually varies from greenish, white, yellow, brown, or orange to red. Markings can also differ, with our lighter, local individual (pictured) sporting an uncommon dark cephalothorax and muted orange and white patterning.

Its banded legs are another striking feature, covered with hundreds of prickly spines called macrosetae. These stout bristles actually serve as an armor of sorts, protecting the animal by deflecting physical contact away from its exoskeleton and offering a less than palatable dining experience for other potential predators.  In addition, each foot is adapted with an extra claw that aids in the manipulation of silk and allows the spider to move more easily along the non-sticky parts of its web.

Consider it good fortune to have a shamrock orb weaver living in your yard or garden. These creatures and their masterful webs are not only fascinating and beautiful to look at, but they play an important role in our environment by reducing the number of insect pests, keeping populations in check.

Did you know? 
This spider will create a new web every day after consuming the old web in the early part of the day. During the fall, the females lay eggs encased in a silk sac that will hatch in the spring.


Photos: (top) stock photo; (right) Karen Menard taken at Fallen Timbers Battlefield



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