Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Aurantia argiope

Habits and Traits of the Black and Yellow Garden Spider

Black and yellow garden spider.
The black and yellow garden spider spins startlingly large webs in the fall. Getty Images/Daniela Duncan

Black and yellow garden spiders go largely unnoticed for much of the year, as they gradually molt and grow to maturity. But in the fall, these spiders are big, bold, and build enormous webs that tend to attract people's attention. There's no need to fear the black and yellow garden spider, scary as it may seem. These beneficial arachnids will only bite under extreme duress, and provide valuable pest control services that warrant leaving them be.

Description:

The black and yellow garden spider, Aurantia argiope, is a common resident of gardens and parks in North America. It belongs to the orbweaver family of spiders, and builds huge webs that span several feet in width. The black and yellow garden spider is sometimes called the writing spider, due to the elaborate web decorations it weaves with silk. Mature females usually weave a zigzag pattern in the center of their webs, while immature yellow garden spiders tend to fill the centers of their webs with heavy silk patterns to camouflage themselves from predators.

Female black and yellow garden spiders can reach an impressive 1-1/8" (28 mm) in length, not including their long legs. Males are considerably smaller at only ¼" (8 mm) long. Aurantia argiope spiders bear distinctive black and yellow markings on the abdomen, although individuals can vary in color and shading. The yellow garden spider's carapace is lined with silvery hairs, and the legs are black with varied bands of red, orange, or even yellow.

Classification:

Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Arthropoda
Class - Arachnida
Order – Araneae
Family – Araneidae
Genus - Aurantia
Species - argiope

Diet:

Spiders are carnivorous creatures, and the black and yellow garden spider is no exception. Aurantia argiope usually rests on her web, facing head down, waiting for a flying insect to become ensnared in the sticky silk threads.

She then rushes forward to secure the meal. A black and yellow garden spider will eat anything that has the misfortune to land in her web, from flies to honey bees.

Life Cycle:

Male spiders wander in search of mates. When a male black and yellow garden spider finds a female, he builds his own web near (or sometimes in) the female's web. The Aurantia argiope male courts a mate by vibrating threads of silk to attract the female's attention.

After mating, the female produces 1-3 brown, papery egg sacs, each filled with up to 1,400 eggs, and secures them to her web. In cold climates, the spiderlings hatch from the eggs before winter, but remain dormant within the egg sac until spring. The spiderlings look like tiny versions of their parents.

Special Behaviors and Defenses:

Although the black and yellow garden spider may seem large and menacing to us, this spider is actually quite vulnerable to predators. Aurantia argiope doesn't have srong eyesight, so she relies on her ability to sense vibrations and changes in air currents to detect possible threats. When she senses a potential predator, she may vibrate her web vigorously in an attempt to appear larger. If that doesn't repel the intruder, she may drop from her web to the ground below and hide.

Habitat:

Aurantia argiope resides in gardens, meadows, and fields, anywhere it can find vegetation or structures on which to build its web. The yellow and black garden spider prefers sunny locations.

Range:

Black and yellow garden spiders live in temperate regions of North America, from southern Canada to Mexico and even Costa Rica.

Other Common Names:

Black and yellow argiope, yellow garden spider, yellow garden orbweaver, golden orbweaver, golden garden spider, writing spider, zipper spider.

 

Sources:

  • National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America, by Arthur V. Evans.
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Hadley, Debbie. "Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Aurantia argiope." ThoughtCo, Oct. 10, 2016, thoughtco.com/black-and-yellow-garden-spider-1968550. Hadley, Debbie. (2016, October 10). Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Aurantia argiope. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/black-and-yellow-garden-spider-1968550 Hadley, Debbie. "Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Aurantia argiope." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/black-and-yellow-garden-spider-1968550 (accessed May 26, 2018).