Araneus diadematus - Garden cross spider
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
As we head further into September and closer to autumn, the Araneus diadematus - Garden cross spiders are out in abundance and at the height of their mating season! They are one of our largest native spiders, in legspan and mass, and they can get relatively sizeable given favourable conditions. Somewhere around 12-20mm from some of the adults I've seen lately!
They are a common sight all around the UK and their colours and patterns vary greatly depending on the environment that they are found in. They have a prominent set of markings on their abdomen that make them easy to identify. This commonly comes in the form of a cross, as their namesake implies, but there are slight variations that look like a fleur-de-lis or a sword. Incredibly, they can change their colours depending on their environments and can completely change in a matter of days from what I have seen personally. I recently observed a large female change from a light uniform peachy colour to a dark tan with tiger stripes within just three days, which is amazing!
These beautiful spiders have spent the summer maturing, gaining size and putting on weight in preparation for reproducing towards the end of the season. They mate around this time of year and then produce their eggsacs. The females will then stay with the eggsac into the autumn, where she'll die off with the drop in temperatures. The spiderlings emerge the following summer and continue on the cycle for another year!
These spiders are easily a personal favourite and despite their commonality, I will still stop to photograph every one I see. There's never any two the same, and the tiny variations in pattern and colourations make each one equally as interesting as the last!