This unassuming 3mm spider was almost invisible, hanging vertically, upside-down, with its legs in an X pattern in a tiny, five-inch web with a little stabilimentum. It looked like a miniature representative of the genus Argiope, one of the big garden spiders, but in fact this lovely lady is an adult female heptagonal orbweaver, Gea heptagon.
Named for the vaguely heptagonal (seven-sided) shape of their abdomen, with its distinctive pairs of spikes outlined in white, G. heptagon is North America’s only member of the genus Gea. Males and females are about the same size in this species, unlike a lot of spiders where the males are often much smaller than females. Males do not spin webs, instead wandering in search of mates once they reach adulthood.
When startled, these spiders drop vertically down out of their webs and change color, reducing the intensity of their light spots to become camouflaged against the new surface. Some individuals leave unfinished areas near the bottom of their webs, possibly to enable this speedy escape.