By Linda Shirey, Certified Texas Master Naturalist
Early Saturday morning while I was looking over my two-lot “estate” in Rockport, I saw a tiny “crab” in a spider web between a pine tree and a shrub. Being the inveterate Master Naturalist, or at least photography bug, I grabbed my camera and started clicking away. After many shots (macro, zoom, flash, no flash, different angles) and aching arms, I realized I was photographing its backside. So then more shots. Then came the Photoshop stage. After I finally got a couple good pictures, I decided it was time to try to identify my “crab.”
It is a Spinybacked orb weaver, Gasteracantha cancriformis. This is a female, about half an inch in size. The males are only an eighth of an inch, so are very hard to see. It is a beneficial spider, since it preys on pests that are present in crops and in suburban areas. It also preys on flies, moths, mosquitoes, small beetles, wasps, bees, and other flying insects and is harmless to humans. Females die after producing an egg mass; males die about six days after implanting sperm in the female. I found a website with lots of information on the spinybacked orb weaver.