Madagascar Golden Orb Weaver

Family: Nephiliidae - Golden Orb Weavers

Order: Araneae - Spiders

Class: Arachnida

Phylum: Arthropoda (Chelicerata) - Arachnids and relatives

Kingdom: Animalia

Red List status: Not listed

Nephila inaurata madagascariensis (Vinson, 1863)
Madagascar golden orb weaver. Sept Lacs, Tulear Region, Madagascar

Southern Africa to the Seychelles, including the island of Madagascar.

Other common names: Red-legged orb weaver, golden silk spider, palm spider


A very large orb-weaving spider, characterised by long, slender red legs and a highly elongated, silvery and black abdomen which may have prominent yellow markings. Females may be 20 times the size of adult males, which have more rounded abdomens with darker, black and red markings.

Web: An extremely large, classic orb web, notable for both its strength and its characteristic golden colour. Webs are typically sited up to 6 m from the ground, although may be considerably higher in anthropogenic habitats where aggregations of Nephila webs may extend between telegraph wires. Webs are attached to trees, shrubs or poles by conspicuous traplines.

Similar species: N. i. madagascariensis shares its range with subspecies of N. pilipes and N. senegalensis, which resemble it superficially. The Madagascar golden orb weaver can most reliably be distinguished from these relatives by its red legs (black in N. pilipes, banded yellow in N. senegalensis).

N. i. madagascariensis in its characteristic golden web.




This spider can be very common in disturbed areas, including urban centres. However, it can be abundant in a variety of habitats, including riparian forest with low levels of disturbance.



While individuals may construct isolated webs, as do most spiders, golden orb weavers may occur in large aggregations, with numerous adjoining webs holding hundreds or thousands of individuals. Only female spiders construct webs; males occupy a female's web.



One of two subspecies of Nephila inaurata, N. i. madagascariensis has often been regarded as a full species, Nephila madagascariensis (e.g., in Garbutt et al, 2001).


See the Woodland Park Zoo's exhibit on Nephila madagascariensis from the 2004 Masters of the Web exhibition here.


Garbutt, N., Bradt, H. and Schuurman, D. 2001 Madagascar Wildlife: A visitor's guide 2nd Edition. Bradt Travel Guides, Chalfont St Peter, United Kingdom: 138pp

Griswold, C.E. Araneae, Spiders In: Goodman, S.M. and Benstead, J.P. 2003 The Natural History of Madagascar. University of Chicago Press, London: 1709 pp

Leeming, J. Nephila of Southern Africa. The Tarantula's Burrow

Waite, C.T., 2000 Spider Lab: Nephilinae

Ragno del Palme, Flickr

Range            Description            Habitat            Behaviour            Taxonomy            References

                            Female            Male

Body length:         60 mm            3 mm

Legspan:             200 mm+        10 mm


Web diameter: 1 100 mm (in captivity)

Nephila inaurata madagascariensis feeding on an unidentified dragonfly. Sept Lacs, Tulear Region, Madagascar.