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Long-Jawed Orb Weaver LONG-JAWED ORB WEAVERS & ORCHARD SPIDERS
Critter Files/Spiders/Long-Jawed Orb Weavers & Orchard Spiders
By Blake Newton & Susan Romero
University of Kentucky Department of Entomology
   
 
TAXONOMY

KINGDOM: Animalia | PHYLUM: Arthropoda | CLASS: Arachnida | ORDER: Araneae | FAMILY: Tetragnathidae (long-jawed orb weavers & orchard spiders)

 
Other Names: Tetragnathids, stretch spiders
 

WHAT IS A LONG-JAWED ORB_WEAVER?
LIFE CYCLE
ECOLOGY
PEST STATUS
COMMON KENTUCKY LONG-JAWED ORB WEAVERS
COLLECTING & PHOTOGRAPHY
LONG-JAWED ORB WEAVER FACTS
MYTHS, LEGENDS, AND FOLKLORE

 
WHAT IS A LONG-JAWED ORB WEAVER?
The spider family Tetragnathidae includes 2 types of spiders that are closely related but look very different: the common Long-Jawed Orb Weavers, and the Orchard Spiders.
Fangs of long-jawed orb-weaver.
Fangs of long-jawed orb-weaver
(B. Newton, 2003)

Long-jawed Orb Weavers are named because of their large chelicerae (fangs), which are, in some species, longer than the spider's cephalothorax.  

Orchard Spiders also have long fangs, but their bodies are usually not as long and skinny as common long-jawed orb-weavers.  In fact, orchard spiders look almost identical to "true" orb-weaver spiders (family Araneidae) until you get a close look at the long fangs.  All Tetragnathid spiders have 8 eyes.

Like true orb-weavers, long-jawed orb-weavers and orchard spiders build webs that resemble a circular grid.  However, the webs of spiders in this family usually do not have as many radii, or "spokes," as those of true orb weavers.  As with all spiders, long-jawed orb weavers have 8 legs, 2 body parts, and no antennae.

Typical Orb Web
Typical Orb Web
SIZE: Body length up to about 1"
 
LIFE CYCLE

Simple metamorphosis: like all spiders, young long-jawed orb-weaver spiders hatch from eggs and look like tiny adults.  They shed their skin as they grow.  Most spiders in this family live for less than one year.  They mate and lay eggs at the end of the summer.  The young spiders hatch during the following spring.

 
Shown below is the shed-cuticle (called "exuvia") of a long-jawed orb weaver hanging from a grass blade.  Like all insects and spiders, young long-jawed orb weavers must shed their cuticle as they grow, a process called "molting."  Most insects and spiders do not grow or molt once they become fully-grown adults, but some primitive spiders (like tarantulas) continue to grow and shed their their skins as they age.
 
Shed skin of a Long-Jawed Orb Weaver
Shed-cuticle of a Long-Jawed Orb Weaver (B. Newton, 2005)
 
ECOLOGY

Long-jawed orb weavers and orchard spiders are very similar to regular orb-weavers.  They build their webs in strategic locations to catch flies, moths, and other insects.  Birds and other small animals often eat these kinds of spiders.

 
PEST STATUS

Long-jawed orb weaver are not considered pests, and their bites are rare and are not dangerous except to allergic individuals.

 
COMMON KENTUCKY LONG-JAWED ORB WEAVERS & ORCHARD SPIDERS

COMMON LONG-JAWED ORB WEAVERS
GENUS: Tetragnatha
We have few species of Common Long-Jawed Orb Weavers in Kentucky, but some are very plentiful and easy to find.  The most commonly encountered ones, like the two pictured below, are in the genus Tetragnatha.  They are long (2" leg span) and skinny.  Most are tan with white and yellow markings and are common in low-growing vegetation and in row crops.  Some have extremely large fangs.   Large species like these are commonly found in sycamore branches that overhang streams and lakes.

 
Long-Jawed Orb Weaver in the Tetragnatha genus
Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha genus (B. Newton, 2004)
   
Long-Jawed Orb Weaver in the Tetragnatha genus
Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha genus (B. Newton, 2004)

GLENOGNATHA FOXI
GENUS & SPECIES:Glenognata foxi
This long-jawed orb-weaver is quite different from the others shown on this page. Glenognatha foxi is a very small (about 2 mm long) and round spider. However, like other long-jawed orb-weavers, the males have long, curving chelicerae, so they are easy to identify as tetragnathids. Glenognatha builds small webs (4–5 cm in diameter) very close to the ground in lawns and crop fields. Males can often be seen running along on bare soil or leaf litter, and can be recognized by their large, dark, balloon-like palps (see picture below). Both males and females are easily recognized by their distinctive color pattern.

 
Glenognata foxi
Glenognatha foxi male (left, K. Welch, 2009) and female (right, S. Romero, 2009).
The arrow points to one of the male’s ballon-like palps

ORCHARD SPIDERS
GENUS: Leucauge
We have a few species of Orchard Spiders in Kentucky.  They are in the long-jawed orb-weaver family too, but they more closely resemble true orb-weaver spiders (family Araneidae) than they do other members of the long-jawed orb-weaver family.  Orchard spiders often have bright green, white, and yellow markings.  The Leucauge species shown below was photographed in the Laurel River Lake area in Kentucky.  It is also very common in the Bluegrass region.

 
Orchard spider, Leucauge genus
Orchard spider, Leucauge genus (B. Newton, 2002)
 
COLLECTING & PHOTOGRAPHY

Long-jawed orb-weavers and orchard spiders are very common in yards, forests, and in crops like corn and soybean.  Look for their webs a few feet off of the ground.  Large (1" long) species of Tetragnatha are very common in tree branches that overhang lakes and streams.  Often, a long-jawed orb weaver will remain still in its web so that you can take a good picture.  If you are interested in collecting one of these spiders, remember that they can bite and should never be handled, although they aren't typically dangerous.  All spiders should be preserved in alcohol.

 
LONG-JAWED ORB-WEAVER FACTS

Long-jawed orb weavers (Tetragnathidae) and true orb-weavers (Araneidae) are the only common kinds of spiders that make orb webs. The webs of most other kinds of spiders appear disorganized compared to orb webs.

Although most of the long-jawed orb-weavers in Kentucky look like one of the two kinds pictured above, species in other countries can look very different.  Take a look at these pictures of European long-jawed orb-weavers by Ed Nieuwenhuys: www.xs4all.nl/~ednieuw/Spiders/Tetragnatidae/Tetragnathidae.htm

 
MYTHS - LEGENDS - FOLKLORE

Do you know any myths, legends, or folklore about long-jawed orb-weaver spiders?  If so, let us know.


Original document: 25 May 2004
Last updated: 1 Feb 2010

Photos courtesy R. Bessin, B. Newton, K. Welch, and S. Romero, University of Kentucky
The Kentucky Critter Files are maintained by Blake Newton, Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky.
Contact: blaken@uky.edu

   
University of Kentucky Entomology/Kentucky Critter Files/Kentucky Spiders/Long-Jawed Orb Weavers