Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spider Sunday: Cat-faced Spider

Here in the western United States, one of the most common orb weavers is the Cat-faced Spider, Araneus gemmoides. I do not find them to be that conspicuous, however, because the spiders hide in their retreats by day, emerging only at night to sit in the hub of their spiral snares.

This species is known in parts of Canada as the “Jewel Spider,” but its more common name of “Cat-faced Spider” is more descriptive. Araneus gemmoides is one of the angulate orb weavers that often sport a pair of conical humps near the front of the top of the abdomen. These “horns” mark the “ears” of the cat face, with variable markings on the abdomen reinforcing the feline moniker.

One variation, the “Cheshire Cat-faced Spider,” has only a smiley-face….Ok, I’m making things up now, but the pattern of markings is highly variable in this species. One reasonably consistent mark is a short, white vertical stripe on the front edge of the abdomen, usually crossed by two white chevrons.

Mature females are large spiders, especially when gravid, their abdomen full of eggs. They vary in body length from 13-25 mm. Males, in contrast, are a mere 5-8 mm as adults.

Cat-faced Spiders spin rather small webs in proportion to their body size, the prey-catching zone spanning maybe one foot or so, even if the foundation lines of the snare may stretch several feet between anchor points. The occupant invariably sequesters herself in a curled leaf or other retreat by day, sometimes still monitoring the web via a signal line running from her retreat to the hub.

As darkness falls, the spider emerges to repair its web, or simply spin a new one, after which she may settle in the center of the web, head down, to await potential prey.

In optimal situations, several individual spiders may spin their webs in close proximity. My friend Margarethe Brummermann showed me a small group of these spiders that occupied a cliff face in Peppersauce Canyon on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains in southern Arizona. Much attention is paid to the fact that A. gemmoides will spin its webs on or about homes and other buildings, but they are likely taking advantage of outdoor lighting that attracts large numbers of insects within range of their webs.

Females apparently spin only one egg sac in late autumn. The spiderlings emerge the following spring and disperse. Young spiders have exaggerated humps on their abdomen, like the one shown below. Perhaps they have to “grow into them.”

The Cat-faced Spider ranges from British Columbia and Saskatchewan east to Michigan and south through the Dakotas, Rocky Mountains, and Pacific states to Arizona. Look for mature individuals in late summer and throughout the fall.

101 comments:

  1. I live in north Idaho. For years I've noticed cat spiders that off and on make their webs and live beneath the covering of our deck. Recently, for the past few weeks we've had one particular cat spider occupying the post and rail of our covered deck. Yesterday I noticed his/her web looked a bit damaged in need of repair. I found an ant and tossed it into the web. The spider ran out immediately and started its process of wrapping a cocoon around the ant. This morning I came outside and upon inspecting the spider I noticed he was gone! Not a trace of where he was exists. Not even a shred of his web remained. This strikes me as odd since before I've never noticed a cat spider just up and leave like that. I'm wondering why since he's had it made right where he was..

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    1. Thank you for sharing your observations. I wish I could tell you what happened. I do know that once they become mature, *male* orbweavers cease to spin a web and simply go looking for females until they die. Apparently, with the last molt, they even lose the *ability* to spin webs.

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    2. I have a beautiful female cat faced spider in our back porch lean to. She dissapeared for a day or so but came back. I think she was there all along but was getting ready to re-spin her web. They tend to take it down periodically to make a new one. She has a gentleman caller in her web with her today and he has been in there since yesterday. Not sure how long it takes? Anyways, they are just wonderful to watch and learn about.

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    3. Thank you for sharing your observations, Amie! I'm not sure how long it takes for a male to "make his move," either :-)

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    4. I live in Eastern Idaho, and we have two large female cat face spiders. They are up under the edge of the roof and have webs anchored all the way down to the ground. I thought one up and left, but she only relocated to a more sheltered spot. One afternoon right before a thunderstorm, they both quickly gathered up their goods, and brought them up to their hiding spots. So fun to watch. I always leave the porch light on to bring them a little extra food. In the spring we have seen the egg sacks hatch. So many baby spiders!!! Thanks and love this blog!

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    5. Thank you for the kind compliment; but thank you most for sharing your observations and story! *That* is the kind of thing *I* love.

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  2. Where do they go/ what do they do in the harsh, cold winter? There's one on my house - been there most of the summer. I don't mind her out there, but I don't want her coming inside!

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    1. Hi, Erin. Don't worry, the adult spiders die with the first hard freeze. The next generation overwinters in the egg sacs laid by the females. They do not make those egg sacs indoors.

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    2. I don't want mine to die. Can I keep her inside for the winter and 'grow' her?

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    3. KW: I would probably discourage you from following that impulse. Sometimes we can "love animals to death." She'll have a better life, even if it is a slightly shorter one, outdoors. Putting any wild animal into captivity causes it great stress, at least in the short run, but some individuals never recover from the trauma at all.

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    4. I have a serious question for you then sir; I have one of these spiders that I caught indoors. Put it in a container and put a book over it. I forgot about it, and now on the bottom of that book covering the container is a large egg sack. What can I do without killing it? How long would it take them to hatch if kept indoors over winter?

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    5. Please forgive me for getting a chuckle out of your story....You should have until next May or June before the spiderlings emerge (assuming mom was fertile, as they will lay eggs regardless before they die). I would suggest keeping the book out in the garage or a shed or something if you are concerned about an indoor emergence. I have learned just about *anything* is possible in the invertebrate world. Happy holidays!

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  3. I didn't know that this spider even existed until one of my friends posted a picture of it on Facebook, wanting to know what it was. A Google search led me here and the pictures are pretty cool. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

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    1. Thank you for appreciating what I do, Melissa!

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  4. There is a cat-faced spider on the outside of one of my windows and I was wondering if they are poisonous?

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    1. Please see one of my more recent posts, "Is it poisonous?". Thank you.

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  5. We have one of these beauties on our front porch.My teenaged son has been feeding it for the last few weeks. He is wondering if ,before the 1 st hard freeze he could catch it and put it in a terrarium ...would it survive? I told him I would check around to see if this was an option....any info/ advice is greatly appreciated

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    1. Barilyn: She probably wouldn't last much longer regardless of whether you had her in captivity, but I've never tried that myself. You might be better off addressing this question to the Arachnoboards forum, or InsectGeeks.com. Those communities are full of folks with years of experience in breeding spiders and other arachnids. Good luck.

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  6. We have had a cat face spider in the house all year long. It's a little bit intimidating to see it sitting on the counter every now and then. How often do spiders need to eat? Should I go buy some crickets/bugs and feed it? I don't want it to starve.

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    1. Hi, Christi. Don't worry, spiders are built to go long periods without eating. Weeks, even months, can go by with no ill effects on the spider. Further, spiders *do* have a finite lifespan, no matter how attached we get to them. Pat yourself on the back for simply caring!

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    2. hi my name is jacob i was wondering how long they live up to and what do they eat like what i should give them daily

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    3. I need the information of its niche, life spand, and its symbiotic relashionship

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  7. We have had a mama spider above our patio door since fall and I watched her everyday and made sure she was still there and then sadly one day she disappeared. I knew it was going to happen but still. Anyways now that it is spring the only thing I have noticed about the nest is it has little white spots and im not sure if those are the babies or the eggs. Will I noticed if they hatch? anyone have any ideas if they are eggs and how will the nest change once they hatch?

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    1. Hi, Heidi. Without seeing the egg sac ("nest"), it is difficult for me to draw any kind of conclusions....but when orbweaver spiderlings emerge, they stick together for a bit near the egg sac. They will be big enough to recognize as spiders and not eggs. They will also move around, eventually dispersing to "balloon" to far-flung destinations.

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  8. I've had a large female cat-faced spider living on my porch with her beautiful web. By day she hides under the edge of a rock on the railing. I've been enjoying observing her feed (yes, some of those meals were tossed into the web) and spin new webs every few days. Three days ago her web was gone and she was under the other side of the rock. Yesterday she disappeared. I've never seen one disappear like that before. Do they just up and relocate?

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    1. They *can* up and relocate, but she may simply have exhausted her lifespan. If the web location was profitable in catching prey, she would need not relocate I would think.

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  9. Hi Bug Eric,
    My name is Laurie. I love Cat face spiders. I love it when I find them around my house and do what I can to protect them. The first time I found one on my porch I watched it all summer. Occasionally tossing a grass hopper in it's web. What I noticed that summer is I didn't have any other bugs around my porch. From that point on I was a fan. I loved her web. It was absolutely spectacular. I try to educate people about these incredible little spiders. So they aren't afraid of them. Especially kids! This year I have several around my house. It's been fun teaching my grand kids about them.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Laurie!

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  10. Do cat faces put their egg sacs in the middle of their web?

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    1. Excellent question! No, these orbweavers generally adhere their egg sacs to an object on the periphery of their webs.

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  11. I've been watching a large female cat face spider near my front porch. She's always been alone until last night, when a mini-me version was in the far edge of her web. Later, they were right next to each other playing what appeared to be patty-cake. Later, the mini-me disappeared. Do you think they were mating and then she killed him?

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    1. Probably courtship at least. There would be a dead spider in her web if she had killed him.

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  12. HI I had a huge cat faced spider outside my window. It would hide in the corner during day n by night it would be in the middle of its huge web. Well after a few weeks I had to move and so I thought I'd take it with me n I captured it and am wondering how I would take care of it?

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    1. Josh: Are you able to release her outdoors? That would be the best option. If not, setting her up in large, vertical terrarium would work if you had a couple of long sticks you could cross that would serve as a frame for her web. Virtually any insect could be tossed in periodically for her to eat. If you are simply talking about the time it takes to transport her, she should be fine. Spiders are built to fast for long periods (easily a week or two), and don't run out of oxygen very quickly in a small container. They *do* need water, which can be furnished in a soaked half cottonball.

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  13. I have a sweet girl in my little garden...we named her Cecelia after Cecil the African lion we sadly lost earlier this year...seemed appropriate :) I love this beautiful creature and want to give her the longest life possible. I assume the are our "Charlotte" and away they drift and new Kitten faces appear. Can we do something to prolong her life? How can we encourage the new ones to stick around?

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    1. I love this sweet story! There really isn't much you can do to prolong her life, but if she found your yard and garden to be hospitable, then there is no reason why her children won't, either. I'd just let nature take its course. You're already doing more than the average person. :-)

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  14. We have a gorgeous female above our front porch whom we call Charlotte simply because her web is so much like the storybook one. I am normally terrified of spiders but she has been there since June when we first moved in and my entire family has become quite attached to her. We have an 11, 3 and one year old and I think she's such an amazing learning experience for them. She's in an ideal spot just above a bush that attracts tons of honey bees and near our porch light that has constant moth traffic. I stumbled across your blog while googling the lifespan of the cat spider. I have to admit I may shed a few tears when she's gone and now I'll make it a point to try to spot an egg sac. My husband and I thought we saw and intruder spider a month or so ago but now I believe it was a male. If you would have told me a year ago how invested I'd be in a spider, I'd tell you that you are crazy haha! She's beautiful and I wish there was a way for me to post her photo. We've taken several. We are east of Denver.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story! If you can post your images elsewhere, and then include a link, I'll publish *that* comment here, too.

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  15. Please help! What do they eat? Crickets ants? I saved one and I want it to live thru the winter but I don't know what to feed it. Alive or dead bugs??? Save paco (I named it paco)

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    1. I do not recommend intervening in natural processes of life and death, but....Orbweavers prey on live insects, but not ants. A cricket thrown in the web every week or two (they do *not* need to eat daily, or even weekly, really) should suffice. Your spider is likely a "she," too. :-)

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  16. Hi, we have what I think is another cat faced spider on our front porch wall here in Colorado Springs. I posted a picture at https://www.facebook.com/dan.wilson.33865?fref=tl_fr_box&pnref=lhc.friends
    on facebook. Hope that works. Enjoyed your site here. Dan Wilson

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    1. The image cannot be seen by anyone other than your Facebook "friends," but thank you for trying! Thanks for the compliments, too.

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  17. Is it true that catface are not only good for keeping bug populations down but having them around your home will also keep the populations of other (potentially dangerous) spider species controlled as well.

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    1. The webs of orbweavers in general are designed to catch flying and jumping insects, not other spiders.

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  18. I have a large female that has been at my house for most of the summer. Are their life spans just one year, or will she hang around longer if she doesn't have an egg sac this year? Thanks for the help. Her name is Bob (even though I know she is female) but me and my kitty cat both love to watch her. If they do only have a one year life span, how do they get so large so quickly? Mine is a mighty big spider. thank you.

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    1. You don't mention where you live, but, generally speaking, orbweavers live only about a year. They don't get big *that* quickly, we simply notice them more at this time of year when leaves fall, and the webs become more conspicuous. Also, larger spiders usually get the best "web sites," so to speak. In southerly latitudes, the spiders persist longer because there is a later killing frost.

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    2. Hi, i recently moved from California to Idaho. And i hate spiders... i HATE them. And one day this monster appeared in front of our garage. You can see it as soon as you pull into the driveway. My mom told me to leave it. Well i came to realize that she made a very clever web system and little hideout. And i started appreciating the fact that she kept to herself and stayed outside and didnt try to come in like other spiders and i thought it was rather majestic to look at her. I would watch her take down and rebuild her web, hang out in her little funnel during the day and center of her web at night. I threw a giant moth in her web and she capyured it, "i was freaking out" i dont like moths either... well as the time went by i started to give her giant moths every night and talking to her. I started trusting her and i like to think she trusted me too because she just watched me when i came close and if a friend came up to her web she would curl up or run back to her cave. I even came to touch Her back TWICE. She loved giant moths, one night she had two that i gave her and she wrapped them together. I did lots of research on cat faced spiders and named her Arabella. All of my friends thought i went insane because they know how much i dislike spiders. So i realized they make their egg sacks and die. So i decided i was going to save her egg sack to help me cope with her death by seeing her babies. The cat faced spider in the back of the house made an egg sack and watched it for a day and disappeared. I wondered where she had gone to die. I couldnt wait until my Arabella made an eggsack but all the other spiders alreafy finished theirs and she hadnt. I thought she would be the first because she was the biggest!!! I figueed if she didnt make a sack i would just take her body and have a little funeral for her or at least say goodbye. The first cold came a few days ago and sge wasnt pating much attention to her web and she wasnt hooked onto it with a string to feel the vibrations with one hand like usual. So i thought she was dead, i touched her and she moved one foot so she was still alice, i thought maybe shes getting ready to make a sack so i left her. Next day same thing... and then the 3rd day my mom told me she was gone... her web and home completely in tact and she was just gone...

      Now here is where i am confused.... to disappear like that, does it just mean her time was over or could it have been something else... and if her time was over where do they go to die? Because the one out back disappeared too. And my final concern, why didnt she make an egg sack? She had the best spot around the house, She has the best web system compared to the other catfaced spiders, She seemed very happy, And she was the biggest. She was HUGE.... so why not make an egg sack? Did the cold sneak up on her??? All the other spiders made theirs.

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    3. Thank you for sharing your story, Andi. I wish I had answers for you, but I really don't. Much of spider life remains a mystery to us, and certainly individual spiders face unique circumstances. She may well have mated and reproduced, but done so somewhere else. Perhaps a male never found her. Hard to say. In any event, she certainly accomplished something wonderful: helping you get over a phobia. Thanks again for sharing this.

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  19. We have a lovely female above our back door. She is about the size of the tip of my thumb (the whole area of my fingernail.) I wouldn't let my husband put up the gutter above the door, because I didn't want to disturb her.Noe that the snow is coming, I will be sorry to see her go, but at least the husband can put up the gutter. By the way, I am in Reno, NV, and we got our first snow today.

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  20. Hi I live in Denver and have one that has made its home under a lamp post and connects it to a tree near by. We have had so much fun watching her starting in August. It has now snowed a few times and she is still under the lamp post. Was wondering if she is still alive or if she has passed and her body is just still there. She has not made a web in weeks. I think she is one of the coolest spiders I have ever seen. Thanks for h having a post. Karen

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Karen! Your spider is potentially still alive, but she will eventually perish after a hard frost or two. Their durability amazes me, too. Happy Holidays to you, hope you find her offspring *next* fall. :-)

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  21. I have sponsored spiders for the last two years by feeding them flies because it is fun to watch. The one from this year lived on the inside of my bathroom window and made a nest in the upper corner of the room. After laying the eggs she got so much smaller and just sat on top of the nest from like November 7-10. I thought she was dead and she left her body like that to look scary to anyone of anything that might have messed with the nest but now she is back up and going for the last couple days! Honestly i had hoped she had passed so i could insulate the window more but she is back and kicking with, actually, a bit of an attitude! She gets all pissy if I go in the room now and makes aggressive body language with her legs ( I guess anyone is entitled to act out a little after giving birth to hundreds of baby eggs, but...). I have no intention of hurting her or the egg sac till it hatches, but will she die soon? Or could she last all winter in the warmth? What is the longest she might linger? They are sooo cool.
    ~Paul, Ft. Collins Co.

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    1. Those are very good questions, Paul. Not really sure I have an answer. There is much variation in outcome given differences in an individual spider's genetic "fitness," how well insulated it is from the cold, access to food, etc, etc. They don't live forever, though! I would be surprised if she survived to Thanksgiving, but....

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  22. We've had a cat-faced spider living in our bushes outside all summer. As it's gotten colder and colder (we live in Colorado Springs) she has slowed down a lot. I read that if she is really big it means she has an egg sac and should lay it by late fall. She's still huge and I don't see an egg sac anywhere near her. I'm not really a spider person as I freak out and scream when I see them but I absolutely adore this cat-faced spider. I've anchored and umbrella over the bushes and then when we got our first tiny snow I cover her even further by zip-tying a sheet over the whole bush to protect her. I still don't see an egg sac. She's gotten very slow and stopped weaving her web (she likes to redo it a lot). I want to bring her inside in a glass aquarium. I need real advice about if I should do this or not. We are in a blizzard warning and snow is falling. I just went out to check on her and she's moving around way more than she has recently. I'm worried about her but don't want to disrupt her if she may still lay her egg sac. Would she still be really big if she had laid her sac already and I just didn't notice it? Please, any advice would be greatly appreciated. She's so pretty and I have to admit that I have actually petted her back on many occasions (just couldn't resist). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I am realistic in that I know she won't live forever but I don't want to see her pass away before she has a chance to lay her eggs.

    Thank you,
    Christy

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    1. I am very encouraged by the affection for spiders that so many of you have shown here, but what spiders need most is to be left alone. They are more durable than we give them credit for, and natural cycles of life and death need to happen without our intervention. That means we don't kill them, or otherwise interfere in their daily lives. Thank you again for your appreciation of our arachnid friends.

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  23. All this summer I enjoyed having a female cat-faced spider just outside my front door. She built her web under the railing for my steps and hid during the day under a large rock on the rail. She disappeared for about 4 days after she completely removed her web. I realized she had molted (shed?) when I found it. She left behind an egg sack underneath a rock on my steps. I need to move it before we get snow, but I'm not sure where to put it. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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    1. I would honor the spider's decision of where she put her eggs. I would not bother moving it. You could actually do more damage that way.

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  24. Hi! I am so happy to have found your blog. I have a problem I'm hoping you can help me with. My aunt lives in Durango, CO and has had a female cat spider on her porch all summer. As the weather got colder she worried for her and she placed her in an indoor terrarium. Afterwards I did some research and found the eggs survived the winter and the female died shortly after laying them we became concerned about what was going to happen as her abdomen was very swollen. Well, she laid her eggs! Do you know if they will stay dormant all winter? Or will they mature more quickly because of the warmer temperature indoors? Will the female still perish? And best yet, what should my aunt do with the eggs?! I was thinking she place the whole terrarium outside once the female dies (if she does) but wanted to ask your opinion first. Thank you for all of your insight on these amazing creatures!

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    1. I am getting overwhelmed with comments on this thread....Thank you for sharing your experience, and for the compliments on the blog....I agree the terrarium needs to go outside come spring. Might be best to overwinter it in the garage or a shed, but with exposure to natural changes in day length. That, more than temperature, governs metamorphosis in most arthropods.

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  25. Nancy, out cat faced spider, set up house in our porch in August. I fell in love! In early November the night turned snowy & blutery & would freeze so I brought her in and set up a habitat for her. I assumed she would still perish, but not freeze. To my surprise, she adjusted well & seemed to thrive. I fed her tiny crickets and supplied water. Last weekend she laid eggs--I was so surprised! According to research, I was prepared for her to die soon after. In the process of laying her eggs, her cat face seemed to explode & she looked like a different spider. She didn't die and has spent her days working on the babies nest. Imagine my surprise when this morning she had a new, tiny cat face appearing on her back and is more active than ever. I was planning to put her eggs under our deck and cover them with leaves so they would hatch in the winter. I don't know what to do now! Help! Also, is this the miracle I am assuming it is? I am blown away!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I would overwinter spider, egg sac(s) in the "habitat" in the garage or a shed, and then let nature take its course. Put the habitat back outside in the spring so that the hatching spiderlings can escape.

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  26. Is this a cat spider?https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7FyiXPYyhTMX3R4MHNYSXNGWjg/view?usp=docslist_api

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    1. No, it is not. Resembles the "Cross Orb Weaver," Araneus diadematus, but without knowing the geographic location where the image was taken, I can't be certain.

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  27. Hi Eric. I had a beautiful very large cat spider that lived near my drainage pipe last summer/fall. As you have noted above, she seems to have disappeared with the first snow. I was out cleaning my porch today, and swept out a crevice on one of my sliding glass doors. I had a sticky white substance stick to the broom. In looking closely at this I fear I inadvertently disturbed her egg sac. I can see the tiny spiders, but no movement from them. Is there anything I can do to help them, or have I killed them by disturbing them? I live in New Mexico, and it has been warm here with no frost for over a month. Any help you have would be great, I loved having her last year and would be happy to have another this year. Thank you.

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    1. Not sure that anything can be done now, but if you could just leave the broom outdoors but in a protected spot, the spiderlings might recover and disperse. "Playing dead" is a favorite spider defense strategy. :-)

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  28. I removed the broom head and placed it in a small open ended box near where the egg sac originally was. Is it better to leave it in the box or should I leave it in the open? Thank you.

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    1. I think you did great, just leave it in the box. The spiderlings can easily find their way out when they are ready. :-)

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  29. Hi, all;
    Here in Colorado Springs, (Garden Ranch)our spider's egg sac is still in place next to our front door, looks the same as last fall. Is there any way to predict when they may begin hatching out? And how long does that process take on average? Would love to observe. dan

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    1. Excellent question. Emergence from egg sacs here in Colorado generally starts happening after the last possibility for a killing frost. I have one image of Cat-faced spiderlings taken on May 22, 2012, so I'd say probably after mid-May?

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    2. Hi, guys 😺 we have a seemingly immature female, very small lil lady, her body length with front legs tucked long is only a half inch. I rescued her from my inside van and brought to a plant in a window that I knew had fungus gnats. She loves her spot. I am super shocked at her size and this time of year that she made an eggsac, but ahe did and now my sweet man is trippin because he does not want a hatching in the house. Bless his heart. So, my questions 1-Do they ever lay sacs that are not fertilized?
      2-How long til it hatches?
      3-Will the babies instinctively go out the window to bloom or will they try to stay inside?
      4-how many typically remain after they eat each other once out of the sac?

      I am so gratefulto have found this thread. Hope people are still on it with some insight sonI can appease the mind of my housemate with a gameplan ;-)

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    3. We live in northern Arizona near Sedona.

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    4. Yes, females may lay unfertilized eggs....but, you can't take your plant outside for the egg sac to hatch there next spring? As long as the sac is exposed to natural changes in day length, there is little danger of the spiderlings hatching prematurely. Also, they stay grouped together for a time before they disperse. So, you have time to take them outside anyway. Seriously, as long as you are observant, there is basically zero chance of them becoming indoor residents.

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  30. Just had to share- I am so excited the babies appeared this evening!! They're adorable- the size of a pin head and now discovering their new surroundings. I had 7 or 8 adults (that I knew of) last summer. These guys came from a huge mom that posted up near my trash cans. So happy to have them here! (I'm going to add that I have NEVER liked spiders until these fun guys came into my life a couple of years ago. I still don't like other spiders much haha these ones are special).

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  31. Found a lovely lady on my porch last night. The last time we had one was about 5 years ago. I named her Claire. I've really enjoyed this post and the comments on it!
    My dad had one many years ago when I was just a little girl that he used to feed. It took 30 years before I saw another one! Even though I have a definite spider phobia, I do enjoy these spiders.

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  32. I was searching for spiders indigenous to Colorado, when I ran across your blog. I too have a terrible fear of ALL spiders and decided to research what are the GOOD ones to have around. Ever since I first saw a cat faced spider (I had no idea that was their name!) a few years back, on my deck, I was adamant that she be left alone. My kids thought I'd lost my mind at first (unfortunately I passed my 'arachnophobia' on to them.) They honoured my wishes, and left her alone. Then they too began to go sit and watch her as she did her thing. She'd come out when we were up watching her, and either work on her web, or simply sit in the middle of the web and watch us back! We had no idea what happened to her when one day, she was just gone...we've had at least one of these each year since then, and they find our front porch, (that's enclosed, but not sealed) the perfect place for fine dining, spider style! They really do 'clean-up' whatever area they inhabit. We now have our 'first' cat face of the year in the exact same spot as all the others had. I'm curious, do the babies tend to stay around the area their predecessors inhabitated, or would these have 'blown in' from elsewhere? I'm so happy I found your site, as I couldn't describe this spider in a web search, so when I saw your blog, I was thrilled to see such a cool name for this 'pet' of ours!!

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    Replies
    1. What a wonderful story! You just made my day....Most spider offspring disperse as spiderlings by "ballooning" as I see you know already. A few may hang around to take over the territory vacated by their mothers.

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  33. Fascinating creatures, although I have to say I don't think I'd want to get too close!

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  34. Eric,

    I found a cat-face next to my patio door and moved her to a bush near by after feeding her a few mill worms. Her web isn't in a very good location for catching anything but nats, so I have been feeding her bugs as I come across them. Her abdomen is huge. Being that it is fall, she is probably close to prepping her sac. My question is, I have fallen in love with my little friend, how long do they live? Is it true they die after laying their eggs? If I could extend her life bringing her indoors during the cold months and letting go again in the spring I would certainly consider that option. Also, can you post a picture of their egg sacs? If she will die after laying her eggs, I would like to identify where she left her egg sac so I can watch for them in the spring. Let me know your thoughts.

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    Replies
    1. I appreciate your sentiments, Starbuck, but I don't recommend intervening. Yes, females generally perish after laying an egg sac. I have never seen an egg sac of one of these and wonder if they do not conceal them well away from the web. They are probably fluffy, yellow wads of silk about the size of a dime, adhered to a flat surface, but I am guessing a little.

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  35. We have one that set up home on a beam on the kitchen ceiling. It was anchored to the freezer door so I we were careful opening the door for a night. Next morning, the web ess completely cleaned up and moved a couple feet over, he or she was blowing in the breeze if the a.c. vent! Ha! So cute. It was a baby, very short legs. This was a couple months ago and a few days ago we came home and my daughter says, ooh there's two spiders now! Well, it was one spider and a shell, I think! Even before that, I've seen it wrap some pretty impressive bugs, including a giant lace wing. The next day, all carcasses are booted out, web is always clean and invisible. We love this spider but I wish we knew if it was a male or female. I dont think I want a load of babies in the kitchen...or do I? Hehe oh, I'm in south western Idaho.

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  36. Hi Eric. Have a CF since the middle of Summer. She has molted once. Her name is "Kitty". I really love her and my son who is afraid of spiders...really loves her. She lives in the eave near our back patio light. This year, we had a HUGE outbreak of sod webworms moths. Many were able to break free from her web but those that got caught.. she wrapped up...but quickly released. I found that strange. I've only seen her redo her web once. Right now there is only one column left. And then a whole mess at the top. Last night and was hosing off my patio and I decided to mist her and the web real quick. It was a blast watching her remove the water from the back of her HUGE abdomen. I really hope she leaves an egg sac. I so want to bring her in for the winter...or relocate her to the shed. But the shed has wasps in it and I think that's one of her enemies? Anyway...enjoyed reading your blog. Very informative. Oh...how many times do they molt?

    PS to other readers...be very careful when you "pet" you spider. They could be molting if they are still for a long time and it's a dangerous time for them and must remain still and stress free. Just an FYI.

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  37. Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing. Most web-building and re-building is done at night, so you may not always see it. The wasps that would prey on her are not active now.

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  38. Enjoyed a cat-face during the latter part of the summer. A couple of years ago had one in the shed.

    Took some pictures when she was out in the sun light.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210540652169860&set=ms.c.eJxVz8sNwDAIA9CNKiD8vP9idU51lZyewIBbuFVaV0RiOx7~%3BxJtiPwlsQWXZNSNywrDbKjdnS6UXfCIZC~%3BhRYRdcp2caRZMTAX6RMtYcV7k5R6cXd0bppX1rfpf2MHnyBVSjOY8~-.bps.a.10210540651809851.1073741892.1152524559&type=3&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210540652129859&set=ms.c.eJxVz8sNwDAIA9CNKiD8vP9idU51lZyewIBbuFVaV0RiOx7~%3BxJtiPwlsQWXZNSNywrDbKjdnS6UXfCIZC~%3BhRYRdcp2caRZMTAX6RMtYcV7k5R6cXd0bppX1rfpf2MHnyBVSjOY8~-.bps.a.10210540651809851.1073741892.1152524559&type=3&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210540653689898&set=ms.c.eJxVz8sNwDAIA9CNKiD8vP9idU51lZyewIBbuFVaV0RiOx7~%3BxJtiPwlsQWXZNSNywrDbKjdnS6UXfCIZC~%3BhRYRdcp2caRZMTAX6RMtYcV7k5R6cXd0bppX1rfpf2MHnyBVSjOY8~-.bps.a.10210540651809851.1073741892.1152524559&type=3&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210540654409916&set=ms.c.eJxVz8sNwDAIA9CNKiD8vP9idU51lZyewIBbuFVaV0RiOx7~%3BxJtiPwlsQWXZNSNywrDbKjdnS6UXfCIZC~%3BhRYRdcp2caRZMTAX6RMtYcV7k5R6cXd0bppX1rfpf2MHnyBVSjOY8~-.bps.a.10210540651809851.1073741892.1152524559&type=3&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210540655009931&set=ms.c.eJxVz8sNwDAIA9CNKiD8vP9idU51lZyewIBbuFVaV0RiOx7~%3BxJtiPwlsQWXZNSNywrDbKjdnS6UXfCIZC~%3BhRYRdcp2caRZMTAX6RMtYcV7k5R6cXd0bppX1rfpf2MHnyBVSjOY8~-.bps.a.10210540651809851.1073741892.1152524559&type=3&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210540655169935&set=ms.c.eJxVz8sNwDAIA9CNKiD8vP9idU51lZyewIBbuFVaV0RiOx7~%3BxJtiPwlsQWXZNSNywrDbKjdnS6UXfCIZC~%3BhRYRdcp2caRZMTAX6RMtYcV7k5R6cXd0bppX1rfpf2MHnyBVSjOY8~-.bps.a.10210540651809851.1073741892.1152524559&type=3&theater

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  39. Now she has died and left next year's brood next to her body.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210891705625977&set=p.10210891705625977&type=3&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210891711626127&set=p.10210891711626127&type=3&theater

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    Replies
    1. She is most definitely *not* deceased....and the other spider, tiny as it is, is no relation. Fall is the time for spiders in general.

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  40. I wish I knew if our Boris was a girl or a boy. We think boy lol no idea why but he sure is fun to watch. I put a paper towel rolled up into a small container of water and stuck it up on the fridge for him to easily hydrate..and there's plenty of flies still even after the moth population has decreased due to weather. We throw flies up there and WoW! When one sticks, he is on it like lightening! He rolls it a bit then goes to the center of the web to finish wrapping it, runs it up to the corner and reels it in like a fishing line before he latches on to it. It's the most amazing thing! I'm so grateful he came to us as a baby so hopefully we'll enjoy our pet for the full year. ❤💝❤

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing! I love hearing stories like this. :-)

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  41. Hi, I was just wondering how to tell if a cat-faced is a girl or boy, I have one of these beauties in a large terrarium who is clearly a female considers she layed egg the other day ago but I was wondering for future reference. Also, should I toss the spider some food? she's looking really shriveled after laying the eggs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gender in spiders is only readily apparent after the final molt to maturity. Male spiders have highly modified pedipalps for sperm transfer (they look like boxing gloves). Otherwise, in orb weavers, the sexes usually look similar....You can *try* to offer your female food, but she may refuse it, or be too spent to have the energy to capture it. That is simply Nature's way.

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  42. What a relief to find that I'm not the only cat faced spider lover! My husband thinks I'm crazy for getting so attached to the gorgeous female on our house. My toddlers have loved feeding her and I've got some awesome footage of her wrapping and devouring our gifts. I'm really going to miss her now that's it's getting colder in North Idaho.

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    Replies
    1. Aw-w-w, you are *definitely* not alone! I think there are many "closet arachnophiles" out there. :-) If you are on Facebook, you would be astounded by how many spider-positive groups there are in that social media outlet alone. Take care, stay warm yourself!

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  43. I have a pet orb weaver that I took in Nov. 16 and have been friends with since early Aug. I fed her in her web for a while and then took her in before the freeze. I'm a teacher and my students love her stories pics and videos. Last night she put a large egg sac in the corner of her ceiling and lost a lot of weight too. Can I put her in a new tank and keep her still and winter her old tank and eggs out in the garage? Help!!! I'm crazy about this spider and was terrified of them up til I met her.

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    Replies
    1. I think you have a great plan there, yes. Meanwhile, in the wake of her making an egg sac, she needs rehydration more than anything. I would maybe mist her with distilled water, just a little bit, and/or mist some object from which she can imbibe the water from. She may still die, but as she is weak from her egg-laying efforts, she needs water for at least a few days before she can again make a web to catch food. Good luck, happy holidays.

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    2. Thank you SOOOO much! I did actually mist her yesterday and she seemed to just love it -- but I often wonder if I project all kinds of feelings on to her that I just hope she is having. Now I know she did appreciate the bath and drink. How much time do you think I have before those little (albeit TOO MANY) cuties could/would hatch. I have a couple days, don't I? I read somewhere it could take 1-4 weeks for them to hatch. I also read that they maybe would NOT be fertilized. I also read that she fertilizes them as she lays them... so then she could have met her beau some time ago? THANKS so much! I WAS feeling like I was alone just like the last person... my teens and hubby think I am crackers, but my students all love Charlotte!

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    3. Not knowing where (geographically) you are, I can't really say when the spiderlings would emerge, but it would not make sense for them to emerge when no insect prey is available. They are most likely to emerge next May or June. They will cluster together for a few days or a week, then molt again and disperse by "ballooning." Few will remain even in your yard.

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  44. I'm in super cold Wisconsin. I just wondered if they would hatch FAST inside the warm house if I don't get them out quick enough. Also would they have a chance of being okay in the garage if I leave them there until Spring, then put them outside somewhere safe...

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    Replies
    1. Yes to the garage, that is why I said I think you have a great plan there. Good luck!

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  45. Your page and comments have helped me so much. We had one right by our living room window and ive watched her all summer. I used to be arachnophobic but veganism made me think about respecting all creatures so I made an effort to watch her every day at least 3 times a day and so I got used to her and even started to like her. I'm in Saskatchewan, Canada and we had a very very cold blizzard last week and then I saw that her body color changed and she fell out of her hiding spot into her open nest. I was hoping she'd be in hybernation but now I'm reading here that she probably has died. :( I'm very saddened and I shed tears. We had two more of them on the shed in our backyard. They kept each other company all summer. I haven't seen them anymore but I'm sure they died too. It is so cold here right now. I've seen a smaller black spider in the living room spider's nest so I'm thinking there's maybe babies hiding somewhere.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing your story! It would surprise you to know how many different spiders find the "great indoors" hospitable hunting grounds. Thank you for your sensitivity and curiosity. :-)

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