Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Species Spotlight: Halloween Spider

The Halloween spider, as it is known in central Illinois, is also called the marbled spider or the spectacled spider. The common name refers to the pattern found on its abdomen. The color pattern ranges from white, to yellow, to orange with a dark pattern of grays and blacks. Black lines are also found around the light spots.

By early fall the females have matured and are 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch long. They can be found in their webs until cold weather, usually late November. The males are much smaller, about half as big as the females, and live only through October. During October, the female will lay her egg sac, which is about half an inch in diameter. This egg sac is a flattened sphere of loose white silk and contains over 600 orange eggs.

This colorful spider is found throughout the United States and Canada, absent only from the desert Southwest. One reason for its absence from the desert is the spider prefers a habitat with some moisture, such as swamps and along the banks of streams. Usually the spider's web is made in shrubs and tall grass; occasionally it is found in the low branches of trees in moist woods.

The Halloween Spider is related to the familiar black and yellow garden spider. Both are known as orb weavers, referring to the type of web they spin. Their webs are vertical, two-dimensional snares known as orb webs. The orb web has been called "a refinement of art for a mess of flies!" Almost invisible in ordinary light, sticky lines stretch across space as a tough but yielding net into which flies and other choice prey blunder. 


The Halloween spider, Araneus marmoreus Clerk.

The plane of the web is practically vertical and a single line connects the hub (the center of the web) with the retreat (a place above the snare, where the spider spends the day). For the Halloween spider, the adult retreat consists of leaves bound together with silk. Young Halloween spiders make their retreats entirely of silk.

While hiking in the fall, take time to look for this colorful spider. To see this unique creature, which resembles a tiny jack-o'-lantern, within its leafy retreat is far better than curling up with that large bag of trick-or-treat candy--and it's far easier on the waistline.

Susan Post, Center for Economic Entomology.

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