As Rob Whyte says in his introduction to orb-weaving spiders, “When people imagine a spider most have in mind an orb weaver of some kind … with the spider waiting at the centre.” Most spiders in the family Araneidae, Orb-weavers, do in fact build this style of web but some subfamilies adopt other tactics; on the other hand, members of some other families, such as the large golden orb-weavers (Nephilidae) and the long-jawed orb-weavers (Tetragnathidae) do also build orb webs although they, “tend to be less sophisticated and often irregular instead of a neat spiral arrangement of the prey-capturing threads,” according to Wikipedia’s excellent overview of the family.
I have been looking them up since recently finding two rather large ones in my garden at night.
Orb-weaver 1 is was the first I discovered. She was a bit casual about removing and rebuilding her web, often leaving some of it up all day (it didn’t bother us because it was high off the ground above some pot plants). It must have been a good location, because I saw four large butterflies in it (one of them, a Migrant, is here), as well as smaller insects, over the course of a week. I am reasonably sure she is an Australian Garden Orb-weaver, Eriophora transmarina.
Orb-weaver 2 was more disciplined about taking her web down at first light and rebuilding it each evening – a good thing, since it was at chest height across a pathway in our garden. (Guess how I discovered it. Yes, I walked into it in the dark. I was really sorry for wrecking such a beautiful web.) She may be a Knobbled Orbweaver, Eriophora pustulosa, although she is even knobblier than any of that species I have seen pictured (back view here).
Both of them could easily be long-term residents which escaped my notice for weeks by building their webs anew each night and taking them down each morning.
I should, in fact, get out at night more often – with a camera, I hasten to add. We all know that some animals and birds are nocturnal and that’s also true of smaller creatures. In fact, one spider enthusiast I met a while ago was quite surprised that I did all my spidering in the daytime, because he did all of his at night. We actually learned quite a bit from each other!
Just for completeness: Three families of smaller orb-weavers are very common in our garden – St Andrew’s Cross Spider (pics here but watch out, since one or two appear just because the text mentions the name), Silver Orb-weaver (pics here with its green and orange cousins) and the spiny Gasteracantha sometimes called the Christmas Spider. All of them leave their webs up 24/7.