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The heath spider or Araneus Quadratus as it is more correctly known, is one of Britain's biggest spiders with the females being some 15 mm in length. The house spider may be technically bigger, but that is mainly to do with its long legs.
The heath spider on the other hand has small legs relative to its body size. It is of stocky appearance, with a distinctive large, almost spherical abdomen, which almost makes this spider as tall as it is long.
In addition to its large abdomen, it has two other features that make it easy to identify. It has lovely striped legs and four spots arranged like the dots on a dice, on the top of its abdomen. The colours of these spiders vary, but it is common to see them with a beautiful pale orange coloration.
Out on the heath it is usually easy to encounter the spider at the centre of its well-constructed »orb« or cartwheel shaped web. This web is similar to what the common garden spiders produce except it is located nearer the ground.
This is primarily because heath spiders' preferred food is grasshoppers, which they hope to capture after they have jumped into the web. Grasshoppers are also rather robust and unlike flies they put up a vigorous struggle to escape from any web they blunder into. Hence, the heath spider's web is noticeably stronger than that of the garden spider.
It is also quick to scuttle out to any struggling victims to subdue them with a paralysing poison bite.