Overview

Brief Summary

This is one of the largest and most colorful orbweaving spiders from northeastern to southwestern North America. Like many orbweavers, Argiope aurantia is sexually dimorphic: females are up to 3X larger than males. The abdomen has two anterior lobes and the dorsal surface is black with large, bright yellow spots or patches. This spider is a significant predator in prairie and grassland ecosystems and is also commonly seen in urban gardens.

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Comprehensive Description

Original Description

Lucas, H. 1833. Description d'une espece nouvelle d'Arachnide appartenant au genre Argyope de Savigny. Ann. Soc. ent. Fr. 2: 86-88.

Basionym

Argyope aurantia Lucas, 1833

Synonyms

Nephila vestita C.L. Koch, 1839
Epeira cophinaria Walckenaer, 1841
Epeira ambitoria Walckenaer, 1841
Epeira riparia Hentz, 1847
Epeira sutrix Hentz, 1847
Argiope riparia Emerton, 1884
Argiope riparia var. multiconcha Treat, 1887
Argiope personata O. P.-Cambridge, 1893
Argiope cophinaria McCook, 1893
Argiope godmani O. P.-Cambridge, 1898
Miranda cophinaria F.O. P.-Cambridge, 1903

Chresonyms (Usages)

Argiope aurantia Simon 1895
Argiope aurantia Kaston 1948
Argiope aurantia Cloudsley-Thompson 1956
Argiope aurantia Levi 1968
Argiope aurantia Breene et al. 1993
Argiope aurantia Dondale et al. 2003
Argiope aurantia Paquin & Dupérré 2003
Argiope aurantia Levi 2004

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Female on the left:
Argiope aurantia female on left
Photo credit: Bev Wigney

Description:
Carapace yellowish-white with brown markings and with silvery setae. Sternum as in male. Abdomen with paired lobes at anterior end (largest as she nears egg laying), black with conspicuous paired yellow spots, venter black with white margins and 3-4 pairs of white spots.


A = 5.68 mm, A+B = 17.13 mm, C = 4.49 mm

The Nearctic Spider Database

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Male on the right:
Argiope aurantia male on right
Photo credit: Bev Wigney

Description:
Carapace brownish, covered with white setae. Sternum black with white median longitudinal band. Legs brownish. Abdomen black on dorsal surface with indistinct paired yellowish white longitudinal bands. Venter is black with paired indistinct longitudinal bands.


A = 2.8 mm, A+B = 5.77 mm, C = 1.97 mm

The Nearctic Spider Database

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Distribution

These spiders are found from occur from southern Canada south through the lower 48 United States, Mexico, and Central America as far south as Costa Rica.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Physical Description

Morphology

As is true in many spider species, females of this species grow to much larger size than males. Adult female body length ranges from 19 to 28 mm (3/4 to 1 1/8 in.), while males reach only 5 to 9 mm (1/4 - 3/8 in.). In both sexes, the shiny, egg-shaped abdomen has striking yellow or orange markings on a black background. The forward part of the body, the cephalothorax, is covered with short, silvery hairs. Legs are mostly black, with red or yellow portions near the body.

Like other orb-weavers (family Araneidae), this species has three claws per foot, one more than most spiders. Orb-weavers use this third claw to help handle the threads while spinning. Also in common with other orb-weaving spiders (and most, but not all spiders generally), A. aurantia has a venomous bite that immobilizes prey that is caught in its web.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Dewey, J. 1993. Spiders near and far. New York: Penguin Books.
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Ecology

Habitat

This species prefers sunny areas among flowers, shrubs, and tall plants. It can be found in many types of habitats, though is not common in the Rocky Mountains or the Canadian Great Basin.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; scrub forest

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

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The web is built among goldenrod or other tall herbs, in open sunny fields, meadows or flower gardens.

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Trophic Strategy

Like all spiders, black-and-yellow argiopes are carnivorous. They spin an orb web to capture small flying insects such as aphids, flies, grasshoppers, and Hymenoptera (wasps and bees). A female can take prey up to 47mm in diameter, up to 200% of her own size (Nyffeler et al. 1987)

The web can be up to two feet across. The spider hangs, head down, in the center of their web while waiting for prey. Often, she holds her legs together in pairs so that it looks as if there are only four of them. Sometimes the spider may hide in a nearby leaf or grass stem, connected to the center of the web by a nonsticky thread which quivers when prey lands in the web.

Web construction is complicated. To start the web, Argiope firmly grasps a substrate like a grass stem or window frame. She lifts her abdomen and emits several strands of silk from her spinnerets that merge into one thread. The free end of the thread drifts until it touches something far away, like a stem or a flower stalk. She then creates bridge lines, and other scaffolding to help her build the framework of the web. She builds a hub with threads radiating from it like a spokes of a wheel. She switches to sticky silk for the threads spiraling around this hub that will actually catch her prey. It may take a few hours to complete the web, then she eats the temporary scaffolding and the center hub. Argiope spiders often add stabilimenta, or heavy zig-zagging portions, in their webs. A stabilimentum may or may not aid prey capture (see below). The entire web is usually eaten and then rebuilt each night, often in the same place.

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )

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Associations

When disturbed, the spider might first vibrate the web to try to make its body look bigger, but if that fails to deter a predator she will drop to the ground and hide (Faulkner 1999). Adults may be captured by wasps such as the Blue Mud Dauber, Chalybion californicum (Landes et al. 1987). They are also eaten by birds, lizards, and shrews.

Overwintering egg cases protect spiderlings from predation. Suspending the cocoon from the web is particularly effective against ant predation. The vast majority, however, are eventually damaged by birds. Cocoons wall layers provide barriers against burrowing larvae of insect predators and ovipositors of parasitic insects, but ichneumonid wasps such as Tromatopia rufopectus and chloropid flies such as Pseudogaurax signatus lay their eggs in Argiope aurantia egg cases. In fact, one study found that in addition to A. aurantia, nineteen species of insects and eleven species of spiders emerged from A. aurantia egg cases. (Hieber 1993, Lockley and Young 1993).

Anti-predator Adaptations: aposematic

  • Landes, D., M. Obin, A. Cady, J. Hunt. 1987. Seasonal and latitudinal variation in spider prey of the mud dauber Chalybion californicum (Hymenoptera:Sphecidae). Journal of Arachnology, 15: 249-256.
  • Lockley, T., O. Young. 1993. Survivability of overwintering Argiope aurantia (Araneidae) egg cases, with an annotated list of associated arthropods. Journal of Arachnology, 21(1): 50-54.
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Known prey organisms

Argiope aurantia preys on:
Arthropoda
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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When disturbed while in the hub (center) of their webs, individuals will often exhibit a threat display by vibrating or violently jolting their bodies. This causes the entire web to vibrate or sway thus making them appear larger to potential predators. If the individual does not successfully deter the intruder, he/she will drop to the ground.

Predators include birds, lizards, shrews, sphecid wasps, and other spiders. Overwintering egg sacs are also eaten by birds as well as parasitized by ichneumonid wasps and chloropid flies (Lockley & Young, 1993).

Reference

Lockley, T. and O. Young. 1993. Survivability of overwintering Argiope aurantia (Araneidae) egg cases, with an annotated list of associated arthropods. Journal of Arachnology 21(1): 50-54.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

These spiders have relatively poor vision, but are quite sensitive to vibration and air currents. Males communicate with potential mates by plucking and vibrating the females' webs.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: vibrations

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; vibrations ; chemical

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Cyclicity

This is an annual species; males are mature in July and August and females from August to October. Eggs are laid in autumn and the sac is papery, round and suspended among fallen leaves. Young winter in the cocoon and emerge in the spring (Dondale et al., 2003).

Reference

Dondale, C. D., J. H. Redner, P. Paquin & H. W. Levi. 2003. The insects and arachnids of Canada. Part 23. The orb-weaving spiders of Canada and Alaska (Araneae: Uloboridae, Tetragnathidae, Araneidae, Theridiosomatidae). NRC Research Press, Ottawa, 371 pp.

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Life Cycle

In areas with a cold winter, the eggs of this species hatch in the late summer or autumn, but the hatchling spiders become dormant and do not leave the egg sack until the following spring. Hatchlings generally resemble small adults, there are no major changes in anatomy or structure as they grow (except the development of reproductive organs).

Development - Life Cycle: diapause

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Life Expectancy

In temperate climates, the great majority of individuals live a little over a year: from their hatching in the fall until the first hard frost in the following year. However, in warmer climates and in captivity females of this species may live for several years. Males probably die after mating in their first year.

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Reproduction

Once they mature, males of this species leave their webs and wander in search of females. When they find them, they wait around the edge of her web, sometimes building small webs of their own. We don't have any information on whether males or females mate more than once, or with more than one partner. Probably each female mates with one or more males.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

After mating, each female produces one or more (rarely 4, usually less) brown, papery egg sacs. They are roughly round in shape and up to 25 mm in diameter; each contains 300 to 1400 eggs. She attaches her egg sacs to one side of her web, close to her resting position at the center.

Breeding interval: Once per year

Range number of offspring: 300 to 1400.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Each female watches over her eggs as long as she can, but she will die in the first hard frost, if not before.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Faulkner, D. 1999. "San Diego Natural History Museum: Argiope aurantia, Golden Garden Spider." (On-line). Accessed 12 September 2000 at http://www.sdnhm.org/fieldguide/inverts/argi-aur.html.
  • Heiber, C. 1992. The role of spider cocoons in controlling desiccation. Oecologia, 89: 442-448.
  • Hieber, C. 1992. Spider cocoons and their suspension systems as barriers to generalist and specialist predators. Oecologia, 91: 530-535.
  • Milne, L., M. Milne. 1980. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
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Reproduction

Males of this spider exhibit spontaneous, programmed sudden death while mating. Immediately upon inserting his second palp (secondary sperm transfer organ) into the female epigyna (sexual organ), his heartbeat ceases. Foellmer & Fairbairn (2003) postulate that this unusual behavior increases the male's paternity because his palps and body act as mating plugs, thus making them difficult to remove by the female or by competing males.

Life History

A. aurantia webs can be up to two feet across and individuals hang head down, with legs in pairs at the center. Webs are usually decorated with bright, ultraviolet reflecting silk in a vertical and cruciate (cross-shaped) zig-zag pattern. This extra webbing is commonly seen in other spider species' webs and is called the stabilamentum. Hypotheses to explain the origins and adaptive advantage are as varied as the webbing itself (Herberstein et al., 2000):

  • stabilising and strengthening the web
  • hiding and concealing the spider from predators
  • preventing web damage by larger animals, such as birds
  • increasing foraging success
  • providing a sunshield

Although there is a considerable and conflicting body of research on the adaptive significance of A. aurantia stabilamenta, most experimentation reveals prevention of damage and increased foraging success.

References

Foellmer, M. W. and D. J. Fairbairn. 2003. Spontaneous male death during copulation in an orb-weaving spider. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B (Suppl.) 270: S183-S185.

Herberstein, M. E., C. L. Craig, J. A. Coddington and M. A. Elgar. 2000. The functional significance of silk decorations of orb-web spiders: a critical review of the empirical evidence. Biological Reviews 75: 649-669.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Argiope aurantia

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 6 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

TTATATTTGATTTTGGGGCCTCGGGCTGCTATAGTAGGAACAGCAATA---AGAGTATTGATTCGAATTGAATTAGGACAGCCTGGAAGATTTATAGGAGAT---GATCAATTATATAACGTAATTGTTACAGCTCATGCTTTTGTTATAATTTTTTTTATAGTAATGCCAATTTTAATTGGGGGATTTGGGAACTGGTTAGTTCCTTTAATG---TTAGGAGCTCCTGATATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAATAATTTAAGATTTTGATTATTACCGCCTTCATTATTTCTTTTAATTGTTTCTTCAATAGTAGAAATAGGAGTAGGAGCTGGGTGAACAGTTTATCCTCCATTGGCTGGATTGGAAGGTCATGCTGGGAGATCAGTAGATTTT---GCGATTTTTTCACTTCATTTAGCTGGGGCTTCTTCAATTATAGGAGCAATTAACTTTATTTCAACAATTATTAATATACGATTTTATGGAATGACAATAGAAAAGGTTCCTTTATTTGTTTGATCTGTGTTAATTACGGCTGTTCTTTTGTTATTGTCTCTACCTGTATTAGCGGGT---GCTATTACAATATTATTAACTGATCGAAATTTTAATACTTCTTTTTTTGATCCTTCAGGGGGTGGGGATCCAATTTTATTTCAACACTTATTTTGATTTTTTGGTCATCCGGAAGTTTATATTTTAATTTTACCAGGATTTGGAATTGTTTCTCATATTATTAGATCTTCTGTGGGTAAGCGA---GAGCCTTTTGGAAATTTAGGGATAATTTATGCTATAGTGGGAATTGGGGGAATAGGATTTGTAGTATGAGCCCATCATATGTTTTCTGTTGGAATAGATGTTGATACTCGGGCCTATTTTACTGCGGCAACAATAATTATTGCTGTTCCCACTGGAATTAAGGTGTTTAGATGAATA---GCAACATTACATGGTTCT---TATTTTAAGTTTGAGACACCTTTAATATGGTGTATTGGTTTTATTTTTTTATTTACTATAGGGGGGATTACTGGAGTAGTATTATCAAATTCTTCTTTAGATATTGTTCTTCATGATACTTATTATGTTGTAGCTCATTTTCATTATGTT---CTAAGAATAGGAGCTGTGTTTGCAATTTTAGCTGGTATTACATATTGATTTCCTTTATTTTTTGGGATGGTAATAAATGGAAAGAAGACAAAGTTACAATTTTATGTAATATTTGTGGGTGTAAATTTAACTTTTTTTCCTCAACATTTTTTAGGATTAAATGGTATG
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Argiope aurantia

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Genome Size

C-value (pg): 1.62

Source: Animal Genome Size Database

Gregory, T.R. and D. P. Shorthouse. 2003. Genome sizes of spiders. Journal of Heredity 94: 285-290.


Cytochrome Oxidase Subunit 1 (COI) Gene

  1 aatcataaag atattggaac tttatatttg atttttgggg cttgggctgc tatagtagga
 61 acagcaataa gagtattgat tcgaattgag ttaggacagc ctggaagatt tataggagat
121 gatcaattat ataacgtgat tgttacagct catgcttttg ttataatttt ttttatagta
181 ataccaattt taattggggg atttgggaac tggttagttc ctttaatgtt aggagctcct
241 gatatagcat tcccacgaat aaataattta agattttgac tattaccacc ttcattattt
301 cttttaattg tttcttcaat agtagaaata ggagtaggag ctgggtggac agtttatcct
361 ccattggctg gattggaagg tcatgctggg agatcagtag attttgcgat tttttcactt
421 catttagctg gggcttcttc aattatagga gcaattagtt ttatttcaac aattattaat
481 atacgatttt atggaatgac aatagaaaag gttcctttat ttgtttgatc tgtgttaatt
541 acggctgttc ttttgttatt gtctcttcct gtattagcgg

Source: NCBI; Barrett, R. D. H. and Hebert, P. D. N. (authors, direct submission)

Accession: DQ127371

Additional voucher sequences: NCBI Entrez Search

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Conservation

Conservation Status

These common and widespread spiders have no special conservation status.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Researchers study the biochemistry of web production and venom action of this spider. Results from these studies may aid the fields of materials science and neurophysiology.

Argiope species are important predators of grasshoppers in rangeland ecosystems.

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Despite this spider's large size and bright colors, it is not a danger to human beings. Unless individuals are severely provoked, they will not bite. The bite and venom are no more severe than those of a bee or wasp.

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Wikipedia

Argiope aurantia

This article is about the North American variety of garden spider. For the European variety, see European garden spider. For the Italian short documentary, see The Garden Spider.

The spider species Argiope aurantia is commonly known as the yellow garden spider,[1][2] black and yellow garden spider,[3] golden garden spider,[4] writing spider, or corn spider. It is common to the contiguous United States, Hawaii, southern Canada, Mexico, and Central America. They have distinctive yellow and black markings on their abdomens and a mostly white cephalothorax. The etymology of its name means "gilded silver-face". Males range from 5–9 mm (0.20–0.35 in) females from 19–28 mm (0.75–1.10 in). These spiders may bite if disturbed or harassed, but the venom is seemingly harmless to humans. [5]

Habitat[edit]

Typical zigzag web

Garden spiders often build webs in areas adjacent to open sunny fields where they stay concealed and protected from the wind. The spider can also be found along the eaves of houses and outbuildings or in any tall vegetation where they can securely stretch a web.

Female Argiope aurantia spiders tend to be somewhat local, often staying in one place throughout much of their lifetime.

The web of the yellow garden spider is distinctive: a circular shape up to 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter, with a dense zigzag of silk, known as a stabilimentum, in the center. The purpose of the stabilimentum is disputed. 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. Only those spiders that are active during the day construct stabilimenta in their webs.

Female

To construct the web, several radial lines are stretched among four or five anchor points that can be more than three feet apart. The radial lines meet at a central point. The spider makes a frame with several more radial lines and then fills the center with a spiral of silk, leaving a 5/16 to 3/8 inches (8 to 9.5 mm) gap between the spiral rings, starting with the innermost ring and moving outward in a clockwise motion. To ensure that the web is taut, the spider bends the radial lines slightly together while applying the silk spiral. The female's web is substantially larger than the male's, who builds a small zigzag web nearby. The spider occupies the center of the web, usually hanging head-down, waiting for prey to become ensnared in the web. If disturbed by a possible predator, she may drop from the web and hide on the ground nearby. The web normally remains in one location for the entire summer, but spiders can change locations usually early in the season, perhaps to find better protection or better hunting.

Male

The garden spider can oscillate her web vigorously while she remains firmly attached in the center.[6] This action might prevent predators like wasps and birds from drawing a good bead, and also to fully entangle an insect before it cuts itself loose. However, in a case observed in Georgia, Davis witnessed a Vespa crabro fly into the spider’s web and get tangled up. Upon looking closer it was found that V. crabro was actually cutting free prey that had been caught in the A. aurantia web. In this case, A. aurantia did not interfere or fight with the European Hornet probably because it dropped down and hid nearby.[7]

In a nightly ritual, the spider consumes the circular interior part of the web and then rebuilds it each morning with fresh new silk. The radial framework and anchoring lines are not usually replaced when the spider rebuilds the web. The spider may be recycling the chemicals used in web building. Additionally, the fine threads that she consumes appear to have tiny particles of what may be minuscule insects and organic matter that may contain nutrition.[citation needed]

The garden spider does not live in very dense location clusters like other orb spiders such as the golden orb web spider. The garden spider keeps a clean orderly web in comparison to the cluttered series of webs built and abandoned by groups of golden orb spiders.

Bites[edit]

Argiope spiders are not aggressive. They might bite if grabbed, but other than for defense they do not attack large animals. Their venom often contains a library of polyamine toxins with potential as therapeutic medicinal agents. Notable among these is the Argiotoxin ArgTX-636.[8]

A bite by Argiope aurantia is comparable to a bee sting with redness and swelling. For a healthy adult, a bite is not considered an issue. Though they are not aggressive spiders, the very young, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems should exercise caution just as you would around a beehive.[9]

Reproduction[edit]

Yellow garden spiders breed once a year. The males roam in search of a female, building a small web near or actually in the female's web, then court the females by plucking strands on her web. Often, when the male approaches the female, he has a safety drop line ready, in case she attacks him. After mating, the male dies, and is sometimes then eaten by the female.

Underside

She lays her eggs at night on a sheet of silky material, then covers them with another layer of silk, then a protective brownish silk. She then uses her legs to form the sheet into a ball with an upturned neck. Egg sacs range from 5/8" to 1" in diameter. She often suspends the egg sac right on her web, near the center where she spends most of her time. Each spider produces from one to four sacs with perhaps over a thousand eggs inside each. She guards the eggs against predation as long as she is able. However, as the weather cools, she becomes more frail, and dies around the time of the first hard frost.

Argiope aurantia spiderlings

In the spring, the young spiders exit the sac and are so tiny that their collection of bodies look like dust gathered inside the silk mesh. Some of the spiderlings remain nearby, but others exude a strand of silk that gets caught by the breeze, carrying the spiderling to a more distant area.

Eating habits[edit]

Females of the species are the most commonly seen in gardens. Their webs are usually characterized by a zigzag shaped stabilimentum (an extra thick line of silk) in the middle extending vertically. The spiders spend most of their time in their webs waiting for prey to become ensnared. When prey becomes caught in the web, the spider may undulate the web back and forth to further trap the insect. When the prey is secure, the spider kills it by injecting its venom and then wraps the prey in a cocoon of silk for later consumption (typically 1–4 hours later). Prey includes small vertebrates, such as geckos and green anoles, as well as insects.

Female Garden Spider Consuming A Moth

[10][11]

A garden spider, species Argiope aurantia, capturing and wrapping several honey bees

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pictures of yellow garden spider A. aurantia (free for noncommercial use)
  2. ^ Weber, Larry (2003). Spiders of the North Woods. Duluth, MN: Kollath-Stensons. pp.76-77.
  3. ^ Black and Yellow Garden Spider - Argiope aurantia Creative Commons Licensed
  4. ^ Eaton, E.R. & K. Kaufman (2007). Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. New York:Houghton Mifflin. p.22.
  5. ^ Hammond, George. "Argiope Aurantia". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 14 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Garden Spider Oscillating Web - Video
  7. ^ Davis, M. (2011). "A Hornet (Vespa crabro) Steals Prey from a Spider (Argiope aurantia)". Southeastern Naturalist 10 (1): 191–192. doi:10.1656/058.010.0119. 
  8. ^ "Argiope (spider)". Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Hawkinson, Candice. "Beneficials in the Garden: Black-and-Yellow Argiope Spider". www.tamu.edu. Texas A&M University. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Argiope aurantia at the University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web". Archived from the original on 11 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  11. ^ Gorham, J. R. and T. B. Rheney. 1968. Envenomation by the spiders Chiracanthium inclusum and Agriope aurantia. JAMA 206 (9): 1958–1962.
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