Argiope aurantia-Black & Yellow Garden Spider

Hello folks! How many of these have you seen lately? It is rare these days to see a HUGE Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia). I remember as a kid we always had at least one ever summer along our chicken house. I enjoyed catching grasshoppers and throwing them into the web and watching the spider pounce on them and wrap them up.

When I was living at the mansion in Mississippi there was a big one behind the kitchen one year. A friend came over with his grandmother and a couple of his nephews. Of course we went outside so I told the boys not to bother the spider. When they left the spider was MIA. It seemed like every summer there I saw one or two very small ones on the garden but they always disappeared. I never knew if they made it or were eaten by a bird.

This summer there was a very small one that made a web between the Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ and the porch. I saw it one day and then it was gone. A couple of days ago while taking photos I spotted this one with its web in the Forsythia. I greeted her then went in to get the camera. She was there when I returned ready for her photo shoot.

Of course I had to get online and find something interesting about this spider to share. This species is native to the contiguous United States, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico and Central America.

They have the characteristic black and yellow markings on their abdomen and the white cephalothorax. The latin name means “gilded silver face”. Actually, the genus name in latin for Argiope means “silver face” while the species name, aurantia, means “gilded”. Males look nothing like the females and are smaller and brown.

The Black and Yellow Garden Spider is in the family of orb-weavers (Araneidae). Interestingly, this species has three claws per foot instead of the common two, which she uses to help her handle the threads while spinning her web.

Like most spiders in general, she does produce venom to immobilize their prey once caught in their web. Normally, they won’t bite anything but their prey, but they have been know to bite if they are picked up or provoked. Their venom seems to be harmless to humans.

The females web is quite interesting and there is a long write up about it on many websites. This spider, however, makes the distinctive zig zag pattern, known as the stabilimentum, in the center of her web. This is perhaps to act as a camouflage when the spider is in the center of her web, to attract insects, or makes the web more visible to birds to they won’t fly in to it.

The spider will sit in her web, upside-down waiting for her prey. If there is a predator nearby, she can move her web back and forth to try and keep them from seeing her clearly. She can also cut herself free and drop to the ground.

She eats the center of her web every evening and rebuilds it every morning…

Like a lot of the larger spiders, the females tend to stay in one place much their entire life. She may move to a more suitable spot for more food supply or for better protection. Males roam around in search for a mate and when they find one, they will build their small web close to or even inside the females web. They court the female by plucking strands on her web. He has to be very cautious, so before he approaches the female he will have a “drop line” ready in case she attacks him. OK, this is where it gets weird… If she likes him, he uses his palpal bulbs on his pedipalps to transfer sperm to the female. After inserting the second palpal bulb he dies. Sometimes the female then eats the male… GEEZ!!! Nature is weird! How in the world does he even know how to do that?

During the night she will lay her eggs on a sheet of silky material then cover them with another layer. Then she adds a brownish protective layer then, with her legs, she rolls the sheet into a ball. Sometimes she will suspend the egg sac in the center of her web where she will spend most of her time. Interestingly, she can produce up to four of these, each one containing around ONE THOUSAND eggs. She stands guard over her brood as long as she is able. After a while, as it gets cooler, she starts to become weak and will die before the first hard frost.

In the spring, the baby spiders come out of their sac. They are about the size of particles of dust. Some of the babies stay close while others extrude a strand of silk that will carry them away in the breeze to other locations. I find it very interesting how so many hatch out yet so few actually make it to maturity.

Hmmm…. They actually breed twice a year but the information online is about the second time, I guess. Wonder what happens the first round?

I find it very interesting how so many hatch out yet so few actually make it to maturity.

Yesterday I went out to where the big spider was and her web was all messed up. It isn’t uncommon for this to happen if something fairly large, like a big grasshopper, gets in their web. I went back outside just a few minutes ago to see if she was there and she wasn’t. I looked all around the Forsythia and there is no sign of her. I went over next to the porch and looked under the Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ and the smaller garden spider was still there in her web. I hadn’t seen her for several months and she has grown A LOT! There are many other “fat bodied” spiders along the eve of the house where they are in much less elaborate webs. It is always strange how they disappear during the day.

There were HUGE spiders at the mansion that had webs 20-30 feet in the air stretching from the trees to the side of the mansion. I always wondered how spiders that HUGE could get a web from the trees to the house, some 20′ or so apart. What a marvel of nature!

Well, that is it for this post… I hope you enjoyed reading about the Argiope aurantia, the amazing Black and Yellow Garden Spider. I look forward to reading your comments. Until next time, stay happy, healthy, positive and GET DIRTY when you have the chance!

2 comments on “Argiope aurantia-Black & Yellow Garden Spider

  1. hairytoegardener says:

    I’ve seen this spider before in my old garden, but never knew anything about it. Thanks for the information!


    • You are welcome, Laura. The big one disappeared the day after I took the photo but there are two smaller ones. One is under a Colocasia gigantea leaf and the other between two Yews along the front of the house. NICE! Thanks for the comment!


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