|Cat-Faced Spider - Araneus gemmoides|
Family Araneidae - Orb-Weavers. Also called cat spider, jewel spider or barn spider.
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This beautiful spider was photographed at Sanders County, Montana.
The markings on this spider's abdomen are thought to resemble a cat's face, complete with bumps that look like ears. I'm not sure if you see the cat by looking from the front of the spider or the back; see what you think. This is a fairly large spider, about 20mm, or almost the size of a quarter dollar. Its habit of building its large orb webs inside barns and outbuildings, and near light sources causes an inordinate number of human encounters. It is completely harmless.
Orb weavers comprise a huge family of spiders, with 3500 species worldwide, 180 of which call North America home. These spiders vary greatly in color, shape and size, measuring between 2 - 30mm (1/16 -- 1 1/4") long. They have eight eyes arranged in two horizontal rows of four eyes each. The males are generally much smaller than the females and commonly lack the showy coloring of their fairer sex. They often spin their own smaller orb web near an outlying portion of the female's, and I've noticed most males give the females wide berth. Indeed, I rarely see male orb weavers, they are so reclusive.
Most orb weavers spin spiraling webs on support lines that radiate outward from the center; the plane of the web may be vertical or horizontal or somewhere in between. Many orb webs are built on human structures, parallel to walls.
Class Arachnida / Order Araneae: Spiders are the largest group of arachnids. They are easily recognized by their eight legs, and there are few creatures great or small that elicit such irrational fear in mankind. The vast majority of spiders are completely harmless and offer beneficial services, chief of which is keeping the burgeoning insect population in check. I am continually amazed at the resourcefulness of these supremely successful predators.
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