Web Orb Spiders
Orb Weavers are difficult to distinguish from other kinds of spiders that live in webs, especially cobweb spiders. The best way to tell the difference between orb weavers and cobweb spiders is by looking at the web itself: the webs made by orb-weavers are very organized, and resemble a circular grid like Charlotte's web.
The webs of cobweb spiders appear disorganized and messy. Orb weavers have 8 eyes, and they usually have large spherical abdomens. Like all spiders, orb weavers have 8 legs, 2 body parts, and fang-like mouthparts called "chelicerae."
Simple metamorphosis: like all spiders, young orb-weaver spiders hatch from eggs and look like tiny adults. They shed their skin as they grow. Most orb weavers only live for one year. At the end of the summer, female orb weavers produce a large amount of eggs (sometimes hundreds) that they wrap in a silken egg case. The young spiders hatch in the spring.
Orb weavers are very common in Michigan, and can be found almost anywhere. They need weeds, fences, trees, walls, or other upright structures to build their webs. Orb weavers will eat almost anything small enough to get trapped in their webs, especially small insects and other spiders. Like most web-building spiders, orb weavers tend to have poor vision: they don't need to see very well to hunt because they can feel; whenever prey gets caught in their webs.
Orb-weaver spiders are considered beneficial to humans. They eat flies, mosquitoes, ants, and other pest insects. Although many can give a painful bite, no Michigan orb-weaver spiders are considered dangerous to humans (except to rare individuals who have severe allergic reactions to insect and spider bites).