golden orb weaver

Immature Gold Orb Weaver

Immature Gold Orb Weaver

Mature Golden Orb Weaver

Mature Golden Orb Weaver

Argiope aurantia

This spider has many aliases. Some of them include: Golden Orb Weaver, Yellow Garden Spider, Yellow Orb Weaver, Writing Spider, Black & Yellow Argiope, and the Corn Spider. I called her “Awesome”.

The top spider lived on our front porch (Holly Springs, NC) for a few weeks. The bottom spider made it’s home at the Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC.

Zig Zag

These spiders are called writing spiders because of the zig-zag that crosses vertically through it’s web. It’s called a stabilimenta or web-decoration. Many different weavers make these web decorations and in a variety of forms from an X to a cross to horizontal zig-zags, etc. As far as the purpose of the pattern – it’s not really understood. Some people think that it is to alert birds and other larger animals so that they avoid the nest. Some people thing that it makes the spider appear bigger and more dangerous – again helping to keep it safe from predators. Even more, the web decorations may use ultraviolet light reflections to attract prey.┬áDaily the females will eat the bulk of their web and rebuild it.┬áPop-culture reference: it is thought that E.B. White used the web decorations of similar spiders as the idea of Charlotte’s Web.

Habitat

So, Wikipedia says that these spiders are common in the 48 states and other areas – but I never encountered one before moving to NC where they seem pretty common over the warm summer months. The create webs in fairly safe areas that aren’t exposed to too much wind. The webs can get as big as 2 feet in diameter. They are general pretty stagnant when they establish a home. That’s why the female above became a pal. She made her web right by our front porch and stayed there for weeks.

She dealt well with my peering curiosity every time I entered and left the house. Though, when I got to close she would hold tight in the center of her web and vibrate furiously! She would send the whole web bouncing but she held tight. Clearly a defensive move but others suggest that they also do it when they catch prey to ensure that they are thoroughly snagged.

Mating

Like many species, sexual dimorphism means that the males are significant smaller and more boring than the females. The males can get to be 3/4 of an inch. The females can reach 3 inches in diameter. They mate once per year, after which the male dies and it usually consumed. The females die when winter comes. The egg sacs, up to 4, release their teeny tiny spiders in the spring. These bitty babies are so small that they look like bits of dust in the web. Some let out thread to catch the wind and take them to a new home (just like in our favorite children’s spider story). Then it starts again. The females, when immature, are generally more narrow like the the top photo above. Toward the end of the summer they start taking on a rounder shape and prove to be an impressive size. The photo below – that spider was big. She was the most impressive spider I have seen in a natural habitat. I couldn’t get too close to her trampling plants but I wish I could have taken some closer shots. There was a male at the corner of her web that I did photograph, but he’s so small that he’s hard to make out. Must have been somewhat intimidating…

Anyhow, like most spiders – these big ladies are not at all dangerous to people. They can bite if you mishandle them but the bite will likely result in some itching, redness, and slight soreness that goes away pretty quickly. They are impressive hunters and non-aggressive so if you see them hanging out neat your porch – let them stay.


Comments

  1. Quote
    Jesse Zerwas said 24 July, 2009, 5:37 pm:

    I have lady living in my window seal outside. Shes about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. I catch some crickets and put it in its web. I’m sure she thanks me everytime. When I go around her sometimes, she starts to jump on her web like a trampolin. Feel free to write me back.

  2. Quote

    She became our first pet spider so to speak. It was so sad when she died.
    We enjoyed watching her make and remake her webs. We fed her big black crickets and beetles.

    She got so big. One evening we saw her not moving and thought she was dead. We wiggled the web and she moved. But over the next few days she slowly stopped moving. Then one morning we went out and soon as I opened the door I felt web on my face and followed it and she had moved to a corner of the front door and built a beautiful acorn looking sac. I have pics but don’t know how to post them She was awesome and so is the egg sac.

    I miss her!

  3. Quote

    I live in the mountains of Northern VA, near the Shenandoah River and we have at least 4 on the front porch, 2 on the side porch and who knows how many in the front yard. They are Everywhere. However, being so beautiful- I don’t mind. And it is interesting, literally every 1-2 days they get bigger. You can actually watch the progression.

    Thanks for the site, although we have them Everywhere, I didn’t know a lot about them.

    Joan

  4. Quote

    I have one on my porch. I live in Charleston, West Virginia in a wooded area. This is the second one I have seen in a few years around my house. I have a picture but I dont know how to post it

  5. Quote

    I have a 3″ girl living in my yard behind the garage. (I’m near Greenville, SC.) Her web is an impressive two feet wide with anchor strands extending ten feet to the roof! I found this page while searching to discover what she is – great info.

  6. Quote

    This beautiful lady moved into my yard next to one of my plants and is getting bigger as winter nears. I tried to post a picture of her. She is quite impressive with her markings. She doesn’t seem to mind that i take pictures so close to her. The zig zag web that she puts in the middle always seem to be the same. I live on a farm with many acres so i hope I can find more Orbs. Need to figure out how to post her pictures.

    Hutch

  7. Quote

    We live in N. Utah. I have over 200 tomato plants and have MANY of these beautiful spiders in them. My kids are scared of them but I think they are georgous! They just move over when I am out there picking.

  8. Quote

    A female Yellow and Black Argiope spider lives between my deck and my house. She layed her eggs 3 days ago and she regained her weight quickly. Even though the eggs will hatch soon, the spiders won’t hatch until spring.

  9. Quote
    jerod watson said 9 July, 2013, 8:09 am:

    I see them all the time and a place I used to live in yatesville, GA every summer was like an invasion we would get sometimes up to 20 of them around our house as well as on-the-job front and back porch

  10. Quote

    I have a beautiful lady about 3 inches who is slowly growing bigger as the summer progresses. She has her web on the west side of the house up in the corner by the eves where insects fly, dirt dabbers, June bugs, locusts and what not. We just periodically go out and look at her in wonder, and watch her grow. It is hot today and she is still in the middle of her web. It seems she doesn’t mind the day light and hot sun but apparently it’s a good time to catch prey. I live in Oklahoma and we live next to a field and wooded area ~ I’ve seen this species once before and they are harmless and quite beautiful. My husband calls them a field spider, but he grew up in the country and has seen many of them. I look forward in watching her lay eggs and watching (mind you I am not a spider lover, I think these are amazing) as long as they do not come indoors or bother me, I am fine with having them live right in back yard and porch.

  11. Quote
    Genevieve said 1 June, 2014, 10:19 am:

    I had one of these living on the patio where we used to have a pool set up – there were stiff-stalked weeds growing and she made her nest there. I remember once there was a bee floating around and she was in the midst of eating something else, and when the bee would hover close to her web her front legs would go wild trying to swat it away! She certainly didn’t want that bee getting her meal! :^)

    I love these ladies, which is saying something considering how I dislike spiders so! They are too beautiful and I always hope they come back every year. They look nothing like this back home on the Isle of Skye. We had orb weavers there – but mostly browns and reds, very different.

  12. Quote

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