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Large and Beautiful, the Southern Garden Spider

By Bill Willis and Bill Steinmetz

November 16, 2017

Garden Spider Web
The Garden Spider Web is a work of art and extremely strong. The web comes with a welcome message in the center, indicative of active daytime spider.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis

Story Highlights

  • The Garden Spider is very attractive and a welcome guest in the garden
  • This spider is one of the larger and showier southeastern spiders
  • It can trap large insects like moths and grasshoppers

This year has been a very good year for spiders in the wildflower meadows on Lakeview Drive and the Memorial Garden. Seeing a lot of spiders is often indicative of a plentiful food supply in the form of insects. Garden Spiders (Arglope aurantia) are also called yellow, golden, black and yellow, writing, or corn garden spider.

meadow
There is a predator lurking in this meadow, waiting an unsuspecting visitor.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis

Habitat Set-Up

This spider frequently occupies a sunny location out of the wind. The female eats the center of the web and then rebuilds it each morning, as the web may provide some nutrition. During the day, she moves to the center, where she can make the web oscillate, back and forth. This action helps attract small prey as well as confuse birds or other insect that might prey on her. The male is small and plain and is often nearby in a less showy web. Although their main diet is insects, small lizards may be consumed.

Garden Spider Web
Early morning dew makes the trap glisten, but where is the eight legged lady of the house?
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis

Females may breed twice a year. With males lingering in the wings and intent on mating, a successful interaction is usually possible. He transfers a sperm packet to her. For his efforts he is then either eaten during the process or dies shortly after. Eggs are laid on a silk sheet that is incased into a tough egg sac. Each sac could contain a thousand eggs. It’s possible that a healthy female could produce four egg sacs. The female will guard the sacs until cold weather kills her. The young will emerge when it is warmer and disperse into the surrounding vegetation.

The Garden Spider is not aggressive but will bite if harassed. Their bite is comparable to a bee sting.

Enjoy their beauty and benefits in the gardens and meadows.

damaged Garden Spider Web
A web can be damaged by strong winds pushing plants into it, but the spider will spend the night repairing it.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis
Goldenrod
These Goldenrod are in heavy bloom and attract insects close to the web. The spider's coloration is a close match for Goldenrod.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis
web with female spider
The web may be up to 24 inches wide and reinforced in the center, with the female spider typically staying in the center.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis
Female Garden Spider
A close up of a female spider in her web.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis
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