September 28, 2021

I believe I have mentioned how my sister has been working with my mom to prepare her for a move.  That has meant going through the boxes, clothes, and memorabilia that one can accumulate while living in the same location for the last 30 years.  While they were busy on the inside of the house, they had paid little attention to what was going on outside the front door.  Today I received a text with a photo of the spider that had made a web between the posts on the front patio that was four feet across (just over a meter).  It was black and yellow in color with a one-inch (2.5 centimeters) body and about three inches (7.5 centimeter) of legs.  The web went up in one day.  As mom exclaimed when she saw the web, “She has been busy!”

This time my sister looked online, and then sent me the link.  The Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Aurantia Argiope) belongs to the orb weaver family of spiders.  It is common to parks and gardens in North America and is known for the huge webs it builds in the fall that span several feet.  The black and yellow garden spider is sometimes called the writing spider, due to the elaborate silk web it weaves.  While the garden spider leaves the support strands, it eats the circular interior part of the web and rebuilds it each morning with fresh silk.  The spider may be recycling the chemicals used in web building, or it may be consuming the minuscule insects and organic matter that had attached to the web.  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.  You would think the bright yellow would give them away even in the web.

Black and Yellow Garden spiders breed twice a year. The smaller males roam in search of a female, and then build a small web near or even in the female’s web.  Males court the females by plucking the strands on her web.  Like other spiders, the female is just as apt to eat the male as embrace his advances.  The male will often have a safety drop line to fall from the web should she decide to eat him.  After inserting the second palpal bulb into the female, the male dies.  Then he is sometimes eaten by the female anyway.  The female builds up to four nest sacs that hatch the young spiders the next spring.  While some of the little spiders remain nearby, others exude a strand of silk that gets caught by the breeze, carrying them to more distant areas.

Thoughts:  Black and yellow garden spiders are largely unnoticed for much of the year as they grow and molt toward maturity.  By fall the female spider is huge and the enormous web that is built attracts attention.  As menacing as the spider seems, they are harmless.  The black and yellow is another of the orb weavers (Pholcid) who rarely bite unless under duress.  Instead, they act as a valuable pest control by trapping insects and even small lizards in their web.   My sister told me she accidently bumped the web, and the spider began to shake it vigorously.  While this initially may have scarred her, she had read this was done to trap an insect or scare away predators.  Knowing why it reacted meant it no longer scared her.  When we get to know why people react as they do, it can make their actions less scary as well.  Do the work.  Follow the scienced.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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