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Facts About Banana or Golden Orb Spiders

Updated on October 03, 2016
PaulGoodman67 profile image

Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Banana spider (golden silk orb-weaver) pictured in Gainesville, Florida, USA. The spider's red body with white and yellow markings can be seen, as well as its black and yellow stripey legs.  The spider's golden-colored web can also be seen.
Banana spider (golden silk orb-weaver) pictured in Gainesville, Florida, USA. The spider's red body with white and yellow markings can be seen, as well as its black and yellow stripey legs. The spider's golden-colored web can also be seen. | Source

To avoid confusion, I should firstly point out that there are three different types of spider in the world that are sometimes referred to as "banana spiders". This article is concerned with the golden silk orb-weaver, a spider that is mainly famous for its brightly colored, intricate webs and lives in North America, as well as certain other parts of the world.

This article is not about the Brazilian wandering spider, which is an extremely venomous spider found in Central and South America. Nor is it about the Argiope appensa, a black and yellow spider that can be found on several islands in the Western Pacific Ocean.

The golden silk orb-weaver spider is also known as the golden orb spider, the golden orb weaving spider, the golden orb weaver, the writing spider, or the giant wood spider. It is typically a black and yellow spider with stripy legs, although they can vary in color from reddish to greenish yellow.

What we'll cover here:

  • Ten facts about banana spiders you don't already know
  • Size
  • Habitat
  • Webs
  • Human uses of banana spider silk
  • Benefits in the farm or garden
  • Venom
  • Reproduction

Ten Facts About Banana Spiders

Banana spiders are fascinating because:
1. They are also known as the golden silk orb-weaver, the writing spider, and the giant wood spider.
2.They grow up to about two inches in size, not including leg span, and females are larger than males. With the legs, some are over five inches in size.
3. There are banana spiders in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the southeastern United States, from Texas to North Carolina.
4. Web silk is golden in color.
5. The female normally eats the male after mating.
6. Their species is the oldest surviving spider genus. Fossil remnants are 165 million years old.
7. Textiles can be made with their golden silk, including a shawl woven in 2004 and a cape in 2012.
8. Fishermen in the Indopacific Ocean make balls with the spiders' silk. After being tossed into the ocean, the balls unravel and form a net to catch fish.
9. They are mildly venomous, causing redness, blisters, and pain at the bite area.
10. Their Latin name, Nephila clavipes, means "fond of spinning."

Size

They grow up to about two inches in size (not including leg span). If you do include leg span, however, some species of the spider can be measured at over five inches in size.

Female banana spiders are larger than males. The biggest banana spider ever known was a 2.7 inch female found in Australia). The female of the species is the biggest spider in Florida to be found.

Mature female Nephila clavipes from Davie, Florida.  Nephila spiders are known to be the oldest surviving genus of spiders, with a fossilized specimen discovered to be from 165 million years ago.
Mature female Nephila clavipes from Davie, Florida. Nephila spiders are known to be the oldest surviving genus of spiders, with a fossilized specimen discovered to be from 165 million years ago. | Source

Habitat

There are species of banana spider in Africa (including Madagascar), Asia, Australia, and the United States of America.

In the U.S., the species is called Nephila clavipes and can generally be found in the southeastern states, appearing as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Texas.

Banana spider web at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA.  Nobody is certain why the webs are yellow, but evidence suggests it serves two purposes: brightly lit silk attracts bees, and in the shade, the silk blends in as camouflage.
Banana spider web at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA. Nobody is certain why the webs are yellow, but evidence suggests it serves two purposes: brightly lit silk attracts bees, and in the shade, the silk blends in as camouflage. | Source

Banana Spider Webs

The yellow silk of the banana spider's web gives the golden orb its name. The silk appears golden when it shines in the sun and the webs are extremely complex. They can be as wide as one meter across.

The yellow coloring serves two main purposes, according to scientists: First, the sunlit web attracts and traps bees that are drawn to the bright silk strands. Second, the color blends in with background foliage, acting as camouflage in darker and shadier conditions.

The spider starts by building a non-sticky spiral and then fills in the gaps with sticky silk. The banana spider can vary the color of the web to maximize its effectiveness in terms of background light and color. The web needs regular maintenance in order to keep it effective for ensnaring prey.

Uses of Golden Orb Web Silk

There have been tries to make clothes from the spider silk in the past. At the Paris Exhibition of 1900, for example, there were two bed hangings created and put on display.

In 2004 a shawl was produced by a textile designer (Simon Peers) and an entrepreneur (Nicholas Godley), which used the silk from golden silk weavers collected in the wild. It took over three years to finish and the shawl was as exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History in 2009.

In 2012 the same pair succeeded in making a larger garment, a cape. Both the shawl and the cape were shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

A cape made from Golden Orb spider silk exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Created by textile designer, Simon Peers, and entrepreneur, Nicholas Godley, who previously produced a shawl for the American Museum of Natural History.
A cape made from Golden Orb spider silk exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Created by textile designer, Simon Peers, and entrepreneur, Nicholas Godley, who previously produced a shawl for the American Museum of Natural History. | Source

Banana Spiders in the Garden

Both adult and juvenile banana spiders are predators. They are considered very beneficial farm and garden insects, as they eat a wide range of flying prey, including small- to medium-sized flying insects:

  • mosquitoes
  • bees
  • butterflies
  • flies
  • small moths
  • wasps
  • grasshoppers
  • stinkbugs
  • leaf-footed bugs
  • beetles and dragonflies (rarely)

Banana spiders are rarely found in areas of row crops, because they need places to build their webs, but they are one of the most common orb-weavers in citrus and pecan groves.


The name of the spider's genus: "Nephila" comes from Ancient Greek.  It means "fond of spinning", derived from the words: "nen" (to spin) and "philos" (to love).
The name of the spider's genus: "Nephila" comes from Ancient Greek. It means "fond of spinning", derived from the words: "nen" (to spin) and "philos" (to love). | Source

Banana Spider Venom

Are these spiders venomous? The short answer is yes, but only mildly. The venom is similar to that of a black widow spider, but nowhere near as strong and not fatal under normal circumstances. A bite will typically cause symptoms such as redness, blisters and pain around the bite. These symptoms will normally go away after a day or so.

Allergic reactions to the venom are rare, but may cause breathing problems and muscle cramps. If this happens, then medical advice should be sought immediately. It should also be noted that like most spiders, orb weavers can be useful to people, especially gardeners, because they kill insects, such as fruit flies.

Reproduction

Banana spiders molt in several stages. About four days before reaching her final molt, a female stops eating and repairing her web. She is sexually active at this point. When a male approaches her for copulation, he vibrates his abdomen using a plucking motion. This activity arouses the female and prevents her from eating him (at that point).

Once inseminated, the female spins at least two large (about an inch in diameter) egg sacs on a tree. These sacs each hold hundreds of eggs and are surrounded by curly, yellow silk. The male guards her as she does this. After the final molt, females can live up to a month, while males live from two to three weeks.

Females may change web sites and male partners throughout adulthood. Banana spiders have one generation per year in North America.

© 2011 Paul Goodman

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    • melbel profile image

      Melanie 2 weeks ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

      Wow, that's a beautiful web! I used to live on Merritt Island for a short while and the wildlife there is amazing! More resources should be put toward making more of the island a wildlife sanctuary! Great article on the banana spider, I didn't know there was a North American species!

    • profile image

      George Plungis 4 weeks ago

      When I first came to Daytona Beach in 2003 I'd see banana spiders around the Tomoka River and at Hale Plantation in Gainsville. They have walking trails in woodsy areas. Is it my imagination but are these fascinating spiders disappearing? Also I had a job that I delivered with and every once in a while I'd stop the truck to pick up a land turtle that was in the road but haven't seen a turtle in a long time. I think wild life is slowly disappearing, it's not just the tigers & geraffes that are going away.

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      Edith Bevis 5 months ago

      I have a banana spider next to my electric meter. She has 4 egg sacs at the top of her web. She's black & yellow. I don't bother her. No male, maybe she ate him. She has been out back about a month. In Newbern,TN. 10/16/16.

    • profile image

      Andrea Mcmanus 6 months ago

      Why does female eat the male after mating

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      Gina 6 months ago

      Does this spider spit.can this spider jump

    • profile image

      margaret 6 months ago

      I have been watching a banana spider outside my bedroom window for a few weeks. Suddenly it has disappeared. The web is intact so where has she gone?

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      Heather 7 months ago

      I have one much larger than any of the pictures i see on this sight. My neighbor also has one very large in size. Down the middle of their web is a beautiful stiching which i don't see in any webbing in these pictures either.

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      Robin 7 months ago

      We have the same spider who moved into my petunia plant. She started out small and we have watched her grow into a huge beautiful black and yellow spider. Then she started catching the big Japanese wasps. She is very interesting.

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      Joe 7 months ago

      Well, I thought my spider was an argiope, and a friend said it was a banana spider. I checked your website, and it's a banana spider. It's a beautiful spider.

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      Brendan 7 months ago

      I see them every time I go swimming at the natural spring about 5 miles from my home, they're gorgeous and very docile I am happy to know they aren't very venomous!

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      Ansley 7 months ago

      I live in Alabama. We have them every year. Four of them have built webs on our back porch this summer. Have to weave around to avoid the webs. I leave them alone because they are so interesting to watch. How long do they live? Article was very informative.

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      Biblette 8 months ago

      they eat hundreds of bugs; mosquitoes, wasps, gnats, etc. The ones who have been building webs at my house for 20 years have a 3 inch body and four inches of legs. I am delighted with the huge webs under my second floor eaves just outside my window. Today i saw the male on the web, moving around while she just hangs from the center, waiting. For him?

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      Claudette 18 months ago

      I've had a banana spider living over my backyard pond for at least 2 month plus and made 2 sacs at different times. This morning she was gone and web is almost completely gone. Did she wander off and pass away or changed her location? Would she leave the area of which her sacs are? Weird not seeing her anymore

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      kelly 2 years ago

      They are beautiful spiders. I seen one around my storage shed last week and it had made a beautiful web. However it is still a very creepy looking spider.

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      DuvalFL 2 years ago

      I live in Jacksonville, FL and my backyard that backs up to a nature preserve has about 10 large banana spiders around my back porch. They weren't there 2 weeks ago and now it's covered with them. Guess that explains why wasps are not building nests on my porch.

      I've seen them every year since I live in FL. So not uncommon, but my girlfriend was freaking out when I pointed them all out to her today. This was the first time I've seen several webs in close proximity of each other. I got some decent pictures today, but will try and get some more that show all the webs tomorrow.

      You wrote a great and interesting article, thanks!

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Stopped by because I'm thinking about writing a hub on the banana spider myself and have a nice picture of one that was hanging from the outer eave of the garage. It is a colorful spider, certainly. The one I saw, however, was bigger than two inches--closer to four, I'd say, measuring from the tip of a front leg to the tip of a back one.

      The garments from the spider's silk are amazing. I don't weave myself, but I have met people who do. The silk must have a fair strength (I've never messed with it). The fact that some native fishermen use the silk is also interesting.

      I also didn't realize that these spiders were among the oldest living genus on earth.

      Known to eat small birds? (That IS a strong web!)

      Voted Up, Useful and Interesting.

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      RoadRunner 3 years ago

      -_- Do you really mean poisonous? Or Venomous? Poisonous means it will have a detrimental effect if you eat it, venomous refers to the bite.... (And yes some people really do eat spiders!) :)

    • profile image

      jeff 3 years ago

      what about baby's dose she stay with them

    • profile image

      Beca 3 years ago

      I found one in my house today I'm not sure if it is a banana spider but it looks like one and it's web is white not golden.is this a different type of spider and if so what type? If its a different type is it harmfull?

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      meowman2013 4 years ago

      Thanks it was very helpful!

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      Aline 4 years ago

      Yea thanks I live in Louisiana and the other day I went Muddin in the woods and ran right through the web of a banana spider's web. The spider and the web were on my head-_-!

      I didn't know if they were poisonous so thank you for giving me that information.

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      stacy 5 years ago

      i'm scared of them.aaaaaaaaa!

    • eternals3ptember profile image

      Col. Duke LaCross (...Okay, maybe I lied) 5 years ago from Sherman Oaks (Not the Nice Part, Unfortunantly)

      Loved the hub, although it left me slightly confused. In Okinawa, a tropical island south of mainland Japan, I saw spiders almost 5 inches across that everyone called "banana spiders," does the 2 inches refer to their main body, or are legs included?

      The one's in the jungles on Okinawa looked darker and their abdomen was more angular, but the web was still rather large (I managed to see several up close; I almost walked face first into one) and golden.

    • PaulGoodman67 profile image
      Author

      Paul Goodman 5 years ago from Florida USA

      Generally they eat various insects that fly into the web, such as flies, bees, wasps, moths. They have been known to eat small birds, however.

    • profile image

      morgan 5 years ago

      what do banana spiders eat ?

      plz respond a.s.a.p i need to know this now

    • profile image

      Jake Harris 5 years ago

      awesome

    • profile image

      Jake Harris 5 years ago

      thx very helpful.

    • GPSWorldTraveler profile image

      GPSWorldTraveler 5 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Enjoyed reading about Banana Spiders... thank you for writing it, very informative. They look beautiful and the web must be amazing, however, I am glad they do not reside where I live :)

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