The golden orb spider is named for the strong, golden web that the female builds (2). This web is generally semi-permanent (9) (10), and is usually suspended between trees (2), with each web playing host to a single female and multiple males (9).
Like some other orb-weaving spiders, the golden orb spider uses odour to attract its prey (11). It incorporates rotting, dead organic matter into its web, and waits for blowflies and other prey to be attracted to it and become ensnared (10) (11). The golden orb spider can then either eat its victim straight away, or wrap the insect prey up in silk and cache it for times when prey availability is limited (10).
Breeding in the golden orb spider usually takes place in the autumn, from February to May (7). The mating system of this species is a polygamous one, with several males mating with a single female (6). As in other species within the Nephila genus, male golden orb spiders interact aggressively with one another, with larger individuals preventing smaller rivals from accessing the female (9). Mating, which takes place in the central hub of the web (9), is a dangerous affair for the male spider for yet another reason, as it is at risk from attack and potential cannibalism by the female (7) (9) (12). However, the male’s alertness and agility are usually enough to save him from becoming the female’s victim (12).
The start of courtship is triggered by an insect becoming trapped in the female’s web. Male golden orb spiders attempt to mate while the female is preoccupied with prey, to avoid being eaten themselves. If the female golden orb spider caches the prey rather than eating it immediately, the male will retreat and wait until the female is ready to eat. However, should the female start feeding on its victim at once, the male will approach with extreme caution, and will often use its legs to pluck at the web to test how interested the female is in her meal. If the female golden orb spider ignores the male and carries on eating, the male crawls onto the female’s back to mate (12).
The eggs of the golden orb spider are large and yolky (2), and the female produces one egg sac, containing an average of 383 eggs (7). The juveniles hatch directly from within their case of yellow silk (2) (7). Golden orb spiders have an annual life cycle, which means that the adults die after they have mated and laid eggs (2).