Eriophora fuliginea
Eriophora fuliginea

Eriophora fuliginea

Photo by Rosannette Quesada-Hidalgo

Eriophora fuliginea is a beautiful orb weaver spider that belongs to the family Araneae. It is brown with noticeable thick short hairs. Individuals vary in their coloration, with some having a straight white line on the dorsal part of the abdomen, some a set of small white spots or a big white spot like the one in the picture, and some having no white at all on the back of the abdomen. The ventral part of their femurs is usually bright red, but it can also be yellow. Males and females are similar in coloration, with males being smaller than females.

These spiders are nocturnal. During the day, they can usually be found in the vegetation in a resting position, where they press their legs against their body, keeping the bright color on their femurs hidden in order to be camouflaged. They can also be found inside a retreat they build by sticking some leaves together with silk, which is frequently located at the end of one of the upper frames of the orb web they will build at night. Daily, usually just after sunset, these spiders build a big vertical orb web to intercept flying insects. However, webs of this species are very resistant and can span about 80 cm, sometimes catching other larger animals. There is even one report in Panama of an individual of this species feeding on a small bat trapped in the orb web! Every day before dawn, these spiders will eat their web and hide in the vegetation or inside their retreat for the day. They can use the same retreat for several days.

Even though these spiders are fast and voracious predators, they are considered to be harmless to humans, and their venom is not considered to be of medical importance. This species can be found only in the Americas, from Guatemala to Brazil.