A yellow and black garden spider, Argiope aurantia, took up residence in one of my shrubs near the house and I go to look at it everyday. This spider is the stuff of nightmares for spider-fearing folk and I am not fond of them, but I really appreciate the fearsome beauty of this one. I have always been amazed at how large and striking this variety is. It seems like it should belong in the Amazon rain forest – it is so large and exotic looking. Harmless to humans but lethally fast when it wraps up its prey to make a silk cocoon, watch this video of one taking down a large wasp, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3nuuHBd4Qk.
In this video, it is really interesting to watch the garden spider quickly wrap the cicada eating wasp which is quite large, and the struggles of the wasp even though it is completely enclosed in a cocoon of silk. If you look closely at the wrapped wasp, you can even see the stinger sticking out of the cocoon!
I did a little research on the spider and they actually eat their web every night, except for the anchoring outside strands and make a new one every morning! Sounds like a lot of work!
Another common name for this spider is the ‘Writing Spider‘, because of the dense zig zag ‘writing’ in the center that is very visible and is known as the stabilimentum. Scientists aren’t quite sure what the purpose of this zig zag is, and it is possible that it acts as camouflage for the spider lurking in the web’s center, but it may also attract insect prey, or even warn birds of the presence of the otherwise difficult-to-see web. All I can think of though when I see the ‘writing’ is one of my favorite books, ‘Charlotte’s Web“.
If you remember in “Charlotte’s Web”, Charlotte the spider ‘writes’ words in her web to save Wilbur the Pig from becoming bacon.
It is a classic children’s book which I have never forgotten and I made sure that my daughter read it also. An excerpt:
“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” From Charlotte’s Web by E.B. WHITE
The large spider that you notice perched on the web with their head in the downward position is always a female, up to 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. The male is much smaller and if it is visible, can be found hanging off to the side with a quick escape strand of silk to drop down out of the way of the female, as she will try to eat him. He is good for only one thing! They will mate once during the season and she attaches the sac of about 1000 eggs to the web and it will remain there until the babies hatch out in the spring. I haven’t seen the egg sac yet but am keeping an eye out for it.
The spiders can eat any large insects such as wasps, grasshoppers, and cicadas. They will even go for green anoles and geckos!
- Charlotte the Writing Spider (scitascienda.com)
- She’s Not Poisonous … (serendipityplus.wordpress.com)
- Nightmare scenario (with spider) (natureofphotography.wordpress.com)
- Orb-weavers are cool, once I get past the terror (bangordailynews.com)
- A writin’ spider (wcs4.blogspot.com)
- Arachnophobia and Fascination – A Personal Story (zeejewelry.me)
- Invasion of monster spiders (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (silverbirchpress.wordpress.com)