Orb Weaver Spider Captures Cicada

Orb Weaver Spider – Neoscona crucifera

color photo neoscona crucifera with cicada prey

Live spider with cicada prey photographed at DuPage County, Illinois

On a hot August day, I watched this very ambitious female orb weaver capture a cicada perhaps 3 times her size. I happened upon the drama only after she had made the initial snare and I suppose she had already delivered the paralyzing bite to her prey as there was no struggle left in the unfortunate bug. The cicada had been trapped in her web about 4 feet off the ground, and the spider was in the process off transferring the “prey bundle” to a lower, less conspicuous position.

color photo neoscona crucifera with cicada prey

She did this by a series by a complicated series of web modifications whereby the entangling original orb spokes were all severed (while still maintaining the structural integrity of the support web), resulting in the prey “bundle” hanging from a single thread attached to one long line. The spider somehow kept moving the attachment point down that one long line, although I could not quite tell how she was doing it.

color photo neoscona crucifera with cicada prey

The spider kept returning to this leaf at the bottom of her zip line. She made some sort of modification, then ran back to the cicada and lowered it 3-4 inches at a time until it rested at the bottom where she secured it for feeding. At no time did the spider bear the weight of the prey, it was all done with silk. Amazing!

It was a feat of engineering that simply reinforced my admiration for these top predators. Humans can barely set up a crane without it falling over and killing people, and here is an organism single-handedly, so to speak, moving three or four times her own weight the equivalent of 100 stories through thin air, in a matter of about 5 minutes.color photo neoscona crucifera with cicada prey

A job well done, she goes to rest in her web where she offered up her underside (ventral) view. She’ll dine later. lol

color photo neoscona crucifera ventral view

It was a thoroughly macabre spectacle, one which I unabashedly enjoy. I love spiders. I can’t help it. I wish so many people did not hate them.

Spiders in the genus Neoscona are some of the most common and abundant orb-weavers. They are found on all continents. [3]


  1. Bugguide.net, http://bugguide.net/node/view/1991
  2. Arthur V. Evans, National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America
  3. Berman, J. D., & Levi, H. W. (1971). “The orb weaver genus Neoscona in North America”  Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College. pp. 465-500.

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