Golden Silk Spider
Nephila clavipes
 

In Florida and other southeastern states, the golden silk spider, a large orange and brown spider with feathery tufts on its legs is well know to most southerners. It is particularly despised by hikers and hunters, as during late summer and fall the large golden webs of this species make a sticky rap for the unwary. However, as is typical with most spiders, there is little real danger from an encounter with the golden silk spider. It will bite only if held or pinched, and the bite itself will produce only localized pain with a slight redness, which quickly goes away. On the whole, the bite is much less severe than a bee string. Typically, the webs are made in open woods or edges of dense forest, usually attached to trees and low shrubs, although they may be in the tops of trees or between the wires of utility lines. Prey consists of a wide variety of small to medium-sized flying insects, including flies, bees, wasps, and small moths and butterflies. The spider is also known to feed on small beetles and dragonflies. They are not usually found in row crops, due to requirements of web support, but they are one of the two most common orb-weavers in citrus groves of central and south Florida, In Alabama this spider is especially adept at making webs between rows in soybean fields. The Golden Silk Spider is a special talking point along walking trails at the Turtle Point Environmental Center.

The female spider is significantly larger than the male, ranging from 5 to 6 times the size of the male. Generally, the female body length is about 3 inches long while the male is about 3/4 inch.

Golden Silk Spiders construct a strong web for protection from predators and for the capture of prey. The size and structure of the silk spider web indicates the defense strategies and developmental changes these spiders go through. The presence of a barrier web, an arrangement of silk on one or more sides of the web, is one useful mechanism . These barrier webs help block predators such as birds and damselflies. They are also useful for indicating when prey has been caught through vibrations of the web. In the coastal region these spiders are found most often in areas of high humidity and relatively open space. They live in forest areas along trails and clearings.

 


Photo courtesy Reid Walker, Crestview, Florida


Courtesy George Griffin, Loxley, Alabama
September 11, 2009


Photo courtesy Donna Bell, Flomaton, Alabama

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