Furrow Orb Weaver Spider - Larinioides cornutus
Family Araneidae - Orb-Weavers
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Also commonly called foliate spider, after its prominent folium, or pigmented design on the abdomen.
Foliate Spider Female
 mature female above = 12mm, male below =10mm.
Foliate Spider Male
The Orb Weaver Larinioides cornutus, commonly called the furrow, or foliate spider, is very common on human structures, especially under eaves and porches. They live on my back porch by the dozens, males and females alike in their smallish-orb webs.  Unlike their larger sisters amongst the weeds, these beautiful little rascals are strictly nocturnal, hiding in crevices or in foliage retreats from dawn till dusk.

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. Orb weaver males are generally much smaller than the females and commonly lack the showy coloring of their fairer sex, but that is not so with this species: the males are only slightly smaller, and have an equally gaudily-decorated abdomen.

Furrow Orb Weaver Spider
This female took about 30 seconds to completely wrap a moth
Orb weaving spiders often add stabilimenta to their webs. Stabilimenta are conspicuous lines or spirals of silk, included by many diurnal spiders at the center of their otherwise cryptic webs. It has been shown spider webs using stabilimenta catch, on average, 34% fewer insects than those without. However, webs with the easily-visible markings are damaged far less frequently by birds flying through the web. It is an evolutionary tradeoff the spider can influence every time it builds a new web. The inclusion of stabilimenta is influenced by many factors, including prey density and web location.  -- Behavioral Ecology magazine.

Spider chases cricket
Bossy young L. cornutus (< 5mm) chased away a striped ground cricket by continually attacking its antennae.

References
  1. Bugguide.net, "Furrow Orb Weaver, Larinioides cornutus"
  2. Eric R. Eaton, the Balabans, Lynette Schimming, Jeff Hollenbeck, Chuck Entz, kschnei, Bugguide.net, "Genus Larinioides - Furrow spiders"
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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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