Orb Weaver Garden Spider
Argiope aurantia

Orb Weaver Spider is also known as Garden Spider, Black and Yellow Garden Spider, or Banana Spider. These are fairly large spiders, and while harmless to man, no one likes to come face-to-face with a large web. The body is generally hairless, and often patterened. The legs are hairy. There are numerous orb weaver spiders in this area.

Juvenile Black and Yellow Garden Spider

Like all spiders, Black-and-Yellow Argiopes are carnivorous. They spin an orb web to capture small flying insects such as aphids, flies, grasshoppers, and wasps. A female can take prey equal to 200% her own size.

The web can be several feet across. The spider hangs head down, in the center of the web while waiting for prey. Often, she holds her legs together in pairs so that it looks as if there are only four of them. Sometimes the spider may hide in a nearby leaf or grass stem, connected to the center of the web by a nonsticky thread which quivers when prey lands in the web.

Web construction is complicated. To start the web, Argiope firmly grasps a substrate like a grass stem or window frame. She lifts her abdomen and emits several strands of silk from her spinnerets that merge into one thread. The free end of the thread drifts until it touches something far away, like a stem or a flower stalk. She then creates bridge lines, and other scaffolding to help her build the framework of the web. She builds a hub with threads radiating from it like spokes of a wheel. She switches to sticky silk for the threads spiraling around this hub that will actually catch her prey. It may take a few hours to complete the web, then she eats the temporary scaffolding and the center hub. Argiope spiders often add heavy zig-zagging portions in their webs, thus the name Writing Spider. The entire web is usually eaten and then rebuilt each night, usually in the same place.

A male will build a smaller web on the outer edge of a female's web. When the female is receptive he mates with her. The egg sac contains 300-1000 eggs. The sac is attached to the web, near her resting place at the center. Having completed the egg sac the female dies. The tiny spiderlings verwinter in the sac and emerge in spring.

Argiope spiders are active in the daytime. When disturbed, the spider might first vibrate the web aggressively, but if that fails to deter a predator she will drop to the ground and hide. Adults are often captured by wasps and birds.

These spiders can be found in meadows and gardens. They prefer sunny areas among flowers, shrubs, and tall plants.

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Copyright material D. N. Searcy