Meet our Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia). This morning this awesome arachnid greeted me from a flower bed planted with Shasta daisies, lupine, and irises. She’s dazzling and, I’ll admit it, a little daunting.
Is she friend or foe?
Yellow Garden Spider
Although I’ve come across these visually impressive pest predators before I needed a little refresher. Here’s what I found.
Yellow garden spiders are large, orb-weaving arachnids, meaning they spin a circular web… In females, the top side of the abdomen is black with symmetrical patches of bright yellow. The legs are reddish brown at the base and black toward the tips. Males are less striking in appearance—they are smaller with brownish legs and less yellow coloration on their abdomens. Females average 0.75 to 1.1 inches (19 to 28 millimeters) in body length, which is up to three times larger than the males. (Source: National Wildlife Federation)
Obviously a female, this yellow garden spider was definitely on the laaarge end of the spectrum.
If you look closely you’ll see a zigzag pattern woven into the web. I wondered about that. A repair?
The web of the garden spider contains a highly visible zigzagging X-shaped pattern called a stabilimentum. The exact function of the stabilimentum is unknown, but its purpose may be to alert birds to the presence of the web so that they don’t fly through and destroy it by mistake. (Source: National Wildlife Federation)
Wow! Clever spider.
By Any Other Name…
It turns out this savvy lady has intrigued her bipedal admirers enough to inspire a parade of names (Source: Wikipedia) including:
- yellow garden spider,
- black and yellow garden spider,
- golden garden spider,
- writing spider,
- zigzag spider,
- hay spider,
- corn spider, and
- McKinley spider.
I think that my favorite is “writing spider”. Time for a little etymological archaeology￼￼ to disinter the backstory for that name. ￼
Lest your onboard warning system￼ went into high alert when your eyes distinguished the yellow garden spider from the iris spears and other distractions in the photograph above, I have some good news.￼
These spiders may bite if disturbed or harassed, but the venom is harmless to non-allergic humans, roughly equivalent to a bumblebee sting in intensity. (Source: Wikipedia)
While few of us favor a bumblebee sting over, say, a slice of refreshing watermelon on a hot August day, it’s far from lethal (for most of us, anyway). So, despite the yellow garden spiders arresting appearance, you may consider her a friend rather than a foe. Especially if you’d like to prevent pesky insects from eating your plants!￼
￼I close with a curious coincidence. A neighboring farmer shared his discovery almost concurrently. They. Are. Everywhere.