Nephila fenestrata (Black-legged nephila)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthropoda > Arachnomorpha > Cheliceriformes > Chelicerata > Euchelicerata > Arachnida > Araneae > Araneomorpha > Family: Nephilidae > Genus: Nephila

Nephila fenestra female on web at Kirstenbosch, Cape Peninsula. The legs of a male on her underside can be seen.  [photo Norman Larsen ]

Nephila fenestra female on egg sac.  [photo Norman Larsen ]

Nephila fenestra female with much smaller male (top right) on web at Kirstenbosch, Cape Peninsula. [photo Norman Larsen ]

Nephila fenestra female in side view on web at Kirstenbosch, Cape Peninsula. [photo Norman Larsen ]


The female, with a body length of 20-30mm, is almost entirely black and the first, second and fourth pairs of legs have a brush of bristles on the tibia. The third pair of legs is the shortest with no brush. The abdomen is elongated (long oval) and is cream to yellow with the caudal section (towards the tail end) black or blue with speckles infusing forward into the yellow. There is a huge variation of abdominal patterns with the amount of black or blue on the abdomen. The key feature to identify this species is the black legs and window pattern ventrally.

Distribution and habitat

Nephila fenestrata, the Black-legged nephila, occurs over most of South Africa, excluding the arid central and western regions, and is the only species of Nephila to occur in the Western Cape. Since 2002 this species has crossed over the Hottentots Holland mountain range and is now the most commonly seen orb-web spider on the Cape Peninsula. It can be seen from January till the end of June or even to the end of August, usually in forested areas or near areas with trees allowing for suspension of their large orb-webs. In Kirstenbosch and Newlands Forest one can easily see 30 or more of these spiders on a walk.

Derivation of names

The specific name fenestrata (Latin: windowed) refers to the window-like pattern on the ventral side of the abdomen.

Prey capture

See under Nephila.

Side-on view of Nephila fenestrata web showing the knock-down strands of silk in front and behind the main web. Also note how the top section of the web is missing, a characteristic of webs made by adult Nephila. [photo Norman Larsen ]

Mating and reproduction

See under Nephila.

Ecological interactions

See under Nephila.


Text by Norman Larsen

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