I watched this garden garden spider wrap up this honey bee for a number of minutes the other day in the garden. Another bee got caught in the web, but was able to escape just before the spider reached it. Then after a short pause it returned it it's original catch and continued to wrap it up a bit more.
The word 'spider' derives from the Old English word 'spithra' and is related to the German 'spinne', both of which mean 'spinner'. This is never more true of the garden orb web spiders, and in high summer and autumn the beautiful orb webs of the Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus, can be found strung across paths, between shrubs and even in front of doors. The web is spun overnight ready for the next day, and is often remade each day. The old web is consumed to retain important proteins necessary for the re-spinning process. The webs can be up to 40cm across, and are usually about 1-1.5m above ground.
The garden spider spends most their time on or near the hub of the web, feeling for vibrations given off when prey lands on the web and struggle to escape. The prey is then wrapped up in silk, whihc may be stored for a while before being eaten.
The garden spider is one of our largest British spiders and a very common resident of gardens. The distinctive white cross mark on the abdomen has given rise to the alternative names of 'Cross spider' and 'Diadem spider'. The cross pattern is reflected in the scientific name. It is a very variable in colour, and can vary in shades, which can include sandy brown, fox-red and almost black.
Adult female grow to 15mm (body length), and males to 9mm. They are commonly seen between June and November when the first frosts kill them off.
Their distribution is wide and can be found in Europe and much of Asia across to Japan. They are now also found in parts of North America. Besides gardens it can be found in a variety of habitat. In fact anywhere where it can spin its web, from woodland, scrub, hedgerows, building and cliffs.
Both sexes mature in late summer and autumn. In Britain it can take two years to reach maturity. When ready to mate the male approaches the female carefully to avoid being eaten. After mating the mae leaves the female, who then lays her eggs protected in a cocoon. After a few days she dies. The eggs remain in the cocoon until hatching in spring.