Crawlies with Cri: Bowl and doily weaver (Frontinella pyramitela)

This week’s crawly creates quite the fancy table setting, but if you’re a fly and they ask you to dinner, politely decline. Meet the bowl and doily weaver (Frontinella pyramitela). As you can see by the photo and illustration, their common name is perfection.

Bowl and doily weavers are ambitious hunters. The females are under one-quarter of an inch long, but their webs are large – up to several inches across.
Generally, the females build the fancy webs. Males can, but usually will just hang out in a female’s web instead – if she lets him.
While many spiders weave sticky webs to trap prey, bowl and doily rely on their savvy design. The spider hangs out on the underside of the bowl portion and waits for her meal to come to her.
The tangle of lines above the bowl causes flying insects to fall into the bowl. The spider then envenomates dinner before pulling it through the bottom of the bowl. She’ll then take it down to the doily portion of the web and either have it as a snack or wrap it up for a later meal.
The bowl portion also catches leaves and debris, keeping the doily portion clean for dining and the doily provides protection for the spider from any potential predators who might try to sneak up on her from below. Brilliant design all around.
After eating or storing her food, the spider repairs the hole in the bowl portion then settles back underneath it to wait.
Bowl and doily spiders are in the Family Linyphiinae AKA sheetweb spiders. Their cousins, Sierra dome spiders, prefer to build – you guessed it – domes to capture their prey; flying insects will tangle in the anchor webbing then fly up into the dome and get caught.
Bowl and doily spiders can be found throughout most of the continental United States. The only area they don’t inhabit is the center north section around the Dakotas.
Bowl and doily weavers won’t set up their fancy tables in your house; they want and need to be outdoors. As their large range across the U.S. indicates, they do well in a variety of habitats. Temperate woods offer home sites on tree leaves and low-growing shrubs. They may also be found in alpine forests on evergreens and in more tropical, humid areas, too.
Most of the time you’ll come across abandoned webs as they are built to last and often the spider will move to a different location.
Finding a bowl and doily, or a pair in the web is lucky. Now is a good time to look as they are most active in July and August, though like all sheetweb spiders they can live up to one year and will catch a lot of garden pests for you in that time if you’re lucky enough to have them in your yard.