Argiope: The Common Garden Spider
A couple of weeks ago I spotted a new garden visitor. She constructed her web between the coneflowers and the coreopsis in close proximity to lots of buzzing, flying insects. Smart girl.
I’m delighted to welcome her to the garden, although I admit it is a love-hate relationship. I’m pretty sure that I would scream like a little girl and hurt myself trying to get rid of her if she ever touched me. (those legs…) At the same time I would be really concerned about hurting her because she is one of the good guys…gals.
Commonly known as a garden spider, this argiope (rhymes with calliope) is known by many names: yellow orb-weaver, writing spider, zigzag spider, and zipper spider, but more appropriately, Argiope aurantia. And, yes, she is a she. As with most spiders, the females are quite large while the males are fairly small and typically hanging out on the perimeter of a female’s web or off hunting for a mate. (Some things never change.)
She is considered an orb weaver because she spins a circular web, and her web is a thing of beauty. It’s large. It’s round. It’s created with such precision that any human would envy, and it even has a bit of decoration added to it.
I am completely fascinated by spiderwebs. How do they do it? I know that they start by releasing strings of web that eventually attach to a twig, leaf or branch and these strings become a scaffolding from which they work. But I can’t help but marvel at the webs that stretch across entire roadways or are tucked up in a corner of a building with one of the support strings located some place off in the distance. How long does a spider have to wait for the wind to carry her string across a road…a distance that must be enormous to her? And then the weaving work is masterful.
The argiope adds stabilimenta, the heavy zigzagging, to its web. It is believed that this weaving may add some structural stabilization to the web as well as prevent birds from flying through it. Others believe that the stabilimenta may attract prey.
I noticed that the web of this particular spider started to bounce while I was photographing her. This was a signal to me that she was feeling disturbed and by bouncing her web, it was an attempt to make herself look larger and warn me to stay away.
Argiopes are most active during the day when there is a large number of potential prey flying about the garden. They are carnivorous and feed on insects that become trapped in their webs. Once an insect becomes entangled, the spider will bite her prey to paralyze it and then proceed to wrap it.
As creepy as these spiders look, most gardeners are happy to have them take up residence in the garden. Why? The argiope spider is consider a garden beneficial because they eat many of the “bad” bugs. They are a natural pest control, and probably a sign of a healthy environment. They elicit a sort of boastful pride in a gardener.
Argiopes are not aggressive nor is their bite harmful. If you should have a close encounter with this spider or her web, she is most likely going to run and hide. That’s the very thing that you may want to do after your neighbors witness your screaming, flailing fit that you will most likely throw!