A golden orb spider, also known as a golden orb-weaver, is a member of the Nephila genus that spins golden webs. These spiders are found in several parts of the world, mainly in tropical and sub-tropical climates. They come in a variety of colors, patterns and sizes. Females are generally larger than the male spiders and tend to stay in the hub of their web. They remain on or near their webs throughout their lives, feeding on their prey and mating.
The range of the golden orb spider includes parts of Australia, Africa, Asia, South America, Central America and North America. They generally prefer open woodlands, forest trails and coastal shrublands, since these environments provide them with abundant prey and room to spin their webs. They avoid the denser parts of rain forests and old growth forests.
Golden orb spiders display a wide variety of colors, depending on individual species. The colors range from yellow or red to gray, black and brown. Some have markings on their dorsal sides or legs, such as a combination of black or brown and yellow stripes. Golden orb spiders have elongated bodies. Females are much larger than males, with some species measuring up to 2.5 inches (about 6 centimeters).
The web of the golden orb spider is unique among spider species due to its color and structure. They can stretch up to 6 feet (1.82 meters) across, are a bright golden yellow color and are thicker on the bottom half. The upper half near the top of the web, called the hub, is where the female waits for prey and male golden orb spiders for reproduction. They spend nearly all of their time on the web and rely on smaller spider species to rid the web of the debris.
Although most of the prey trapped in the golden orb spider's web consists of flies, moths and other insects, larger webs can sometimes catch small birds and bats. Golden orb spiders bite their prey before covering them in silk and carrying them to the top of the web to eat. Other spider species and some bird and insect species sometimes steal prey from the golden orb spider's web.
Male golden orb spiders remain on the outer edges of a female's web during the mating season and wait for a chance to reproduce. The female wraps her eggs in silk and takes them to a protected area. After about 30 days, the eggs hatch and the young stay in the egg sac until they molt. They generally leave the web about a month later.