The Yellow Garden Spider

Updated on August 10, 2015
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill volunteers at community gardens & learns about gardening through the MD Master Gardening Program & MD Master Naturalist Program.

Argiope aurantia

A yellow garden spider prepping a moth for dinner.
A yellow garden spider prepping a moth for dinner. | Source

Yellow garden spiders wear white hats.

They're big and bright and . . . well, sort of creepy looking, especially when they're "wrapping up" a pretty butterfly or moth for dinner, but despite all that, yellow garden spiders (Argiope aurantia) are great to have in the landscape.

Like toads and salamanders, yellow garden spiders are sensitive beings.Their presence in your yard is a sign that the ecology is a healthy, balanced one. They're also insect predators that can be handy to have around.

Yellow garden spiders go by many names, including black-and-yellow argiope; black-and-yellow garden spiders; golden garden spiders; golden orb-weavers; yellow garden orb-weavers; yellow garden argiope and, because of the zigzag lines (stabilimenta) in their webs, they are sometimes called writing spiders.

Yellow garden spiders eat relatively large prey, including  butterflies & moths.
Yellow garden spiders eat relatively large prey, including butterflies & moths. | Source

Beneficial predators

Yellow garden spiders catch, kill and eat a wide variety of prey, including garden pests as well as beneficials.

Yellow garden spider webs are strong enough to entangle both small and large prey like grasshoppers, moths and praying mantis. And the female spiders are strong and agile enough to subdue the large prey that they trap.

Male yellow garden spiders are about a quarter of the size of the females, which can grow to be over an inch in size with large, fat abdomens.

In this way, yellow garden spiders are comparable to praying mantis. Like praying mantis, they eat just about anything, from pests like mosquitoes, stink bugs and aphids to beneficial pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies.

If you see a yellow garden spider in your landscape, don't squash it! It's one of the good guys (most of the time). It even wears a big white "hat," its cephalothorax (head and thorax).

The egg sacs of the yellow garden spider are large & brown.

The egg sac of a yellow garden spider.
The egg sac of a yellow garden spider. | Source

Female yellow garden spiders, webs & egg sacs are large & easy to spot. This winter, even on the bleakest days, I could see their egg sacs in the shrubbery, a welcome sign of life in the otherwise barren landscape.

A yellow garden spider egg sac can hatch over 1,000 spiderlings.
A yellow garden spider egg sac can hatch over 1,000 spiderlings. | Source

Spring spiderlings

In late summer, female yellow garden spiders produce three or four large, papery egg sacs.

Rounded and brown, the sacs look as if they're made from paper bags.

To keep the sacs safe over the winter, the female spiders weave them into their webs.

In our shrubbery, a female yellow garden spider wove several webs for her sacs, attaching them to stems and leaves with webbing.

The webbing not only holds the sacs in place, but it also provides them with protection from the elements and predators, such as ants, wasps and birds.

Each sac can release up to a thousand spiderlings. Only a very few of the babies, however, survive their early spiderling-hood.

Yellow garden spiders spin strong, distinctive webs.

Would you welcome the yellow garden spider in your yard?

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Like yellow garden spiders, Araneus marmoreus is a common orbweaver spider.
Like yellow garden spiders, Araneus marmoreus is a common orbweaver spider. | Source

Last year, I noticed three pairs of yellow garden spiders in our garden.

One couple set up housekeeping in a Golden Hinoki False Cypress, another in a Miss Kim lilac bush, and another in a barberry shrub.

Although I never saw the males, I knew they were there because of their webs.

Separate living quarters

Not only are male Argiope aurantia much smaller than their female counterparts, but their webs are smaller, too. In fact, their webs are actually small structures positioned near or even within the larger structure of the female's web. The females' webs are large— often more than two feet in diameter. The male spiders will sometimes spin a little web near their edges.

The males live only a year and often move from female to female. Their little webs are comparable to temporary living quarters.

Yellow garden spiders have extra claws.

Argiope aurantia are orbweavers. Like all orbweaver spiders, they are fast and prolific spinners that have three claws per foot on each of their legs. That's one more claw than most spiders have. Orbweavers use their extra claws to help them handle the threads as they spin, allowing them spin complicated webs in a few hours.

The zigzagging line in a yellow garden spider's web is called a stabilimentum.
The zigzagging line in a yellow garden spider's web is called a stabilimentum. | Source

Lightning bolts web decorations

Yellow garden spider webs create zigzagging lines that look like lightning bolts down the middle of their webs. These lines are called stabilimenta, named such because they were first thought to provide structural support (stability) to the webs.

Today, however, scientists debate the purpose of stabilimenta. Do they attract prey? (Some studies show that the zigzagging lines actually reduce the number of prey captured by up to 30 percent.) Some researchers propose that the purpose of stabilimenta is to deter birds from crashing into the webs.

Yellow garden spiders bite if provoked.

Yellow garden spiders are not aggressive with people, but they will bite if they are provoked. If you grab a female near her egg sac, for instance, she is likely to inject venom into you just as she would into prey caught in her web— but with a much less devastating result, of course.

For most people, yellow garden spider bites are comparable to bee stings and mosquito bites. The damage is negligible— a little itchiness, a little redness and slight swelling.


Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Jill Spencer

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      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        9 months ago from United States

        Hi Ashley & Laura, I'm not sure what happened to your female yellow garden spiders. They may have been eaten by a bird or other predator. If you had a hard frost, that also might have killed them. Alternatively, they might have simply gone to another location to set their webs, although from what I've read, they usually stay with their sacs. If you live in a warm climate, it's more likely a predator got your spider or it moved to a different locale. They don't survive cold weather, and sacs won't hatch until spring. Although our winters are not particularly harsh here, our yellow garden spiders "disappeared" last year when the weather turned cold, leaving their brown, papery sacs behind to hatch in spring.

      • profile image

        Ashley Monts 

        9 months ago

        @Laura I am wondering the same. I’ve had a yellow garden spider in my flower bed for several weeks. Today, he is gone and is his web. Completely gone. Did he just pack it up and move along? So strange.

      • profile image

        Laura 

        10 months ago

        I had a Yellow Garden Spider in my hydrangia. She produced three sacs. Was up early yesterday and watched her fix her web. She had two large bugs wrapped up. When I went outside today, she is gone as is her web. Just disappeared. Is this common? Do they go off to die and dismantal their web? The sacs are there, and look unharmed. She has been in my plant for well over a month now that I know of. Just wondering if it is common for the female to disappear like this?

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        10 months ago from United States

        Hi Dominique, perhaps you're thinking of the webbing they produce. (:

      • profile image

        Dominique 

        10 months ago

        I want to know what does it mean when a garden spit on white gooey stuff.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        2 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Good job with this! I'm a big fan of the critters myself. Glad to see someone else preaching the gospel of beneficial spiders!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        3 years ago from United States

        Hi mary615, thanks for your comments. May all your spiders be friendly ones! lol

        sharkye11-- Vengeful garden spiders? It sounds like a Twilight Zone episode! Love it. Thanks for stopping by. Jill

      • Sharkye11 profile image

        Jayme Kinsey 

        3 years ago from Oklahoma

        Congrats on HOTD! I love these spiders! I was always told by my grandmother that it was bad luck to kill them, and if you knocked their web down they would write your name when they rebuilt it and you would die within the year. Naturally, I always respected them growing up, and still go out of my way to protect their webs!

        Lovely hubs with great pictures! I hope it saves some garden spiders!

      • mary615 profile image

        Mary Hyatt 

        3 years ago from Florida

        Congrats on this HOTD! I've never seen this particular spider. Your photos are outstanding!!

        We have many varieties of spiders where I live, and some of them are not very friendly!

        Your photo of the Zinnia is so pretty. I have some in bloom now that is that exact color.

        Voted this UP, etc.etc.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Congrats on HOTD, too!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        3 years ago from United States

        Hi Barbara! They're amazing, aren't they? And so big and bright that they hardly seem real. Thanks for stopping by! All the best, Jill

      • profile image

        BarbaraCasey 

        3 years ago

        I'm not usually a spider person, but was captivated by the saga of a spiny orb weaver a couple of years ago when it made its web off our apartment balcony. I couldn't get close enough to take pictures like yours, though. What a wonderful pictorial lesson you've given.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        3 years ago from United States

        Thanks for commenting, Rebecca, Donna & Kristen. I'm delighted and surprised to get a HOTD! Yay! --Jill

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Jill, thanks for sharing your vast wealth of knowledge on these yellow garden spiders. I never saw them before. Very interesting and voted up!

      • purl3agony profile image

        Donna Herron 

        3 years ago from USA

        Hi Jill! Just wanted to stop by again and congratulate you on your HOTD! I still don't like spiders, but your accolade is well deserved :)

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        I recognize the zigzag line. I will try not to kill any spiders until I check them out after reading this. Lovely hub. Congrats! Well deserved HOTD.

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 

        3 years ago from Oklahoma

        I remember these spiders from childhood on the farm. Beautiful and they only do good.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hey Kenneth. Now we have a black snake and two box turtles, too! I actually wish the snakes would go back to the woods. They tend to hang around the front steps, alert with heads up, making me think they might dart inside if they got the chance. I miss the toads which, thanks to the snakes, aren't as prevalent now.

      • profile image

        Kenneth Avery 

        4 years ago

        Hi, Dirt Farmer,

        You have king snakes? Wow! You are one blessed person. Oh, how I would love it if I were physically-able to travel to see your place. Sounds like Eden to me.

        I do enjoy your work. You are a talented writer as well. I am grateful for our friendship and our mutual followings.

        Kenneth

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hi Kenneth! Spiders really are fascinating, and I've enjoyed keeping track of our yellow garden spiders. We now have several snakes in the garden-- king snakes, I think. I'd love to get a few pictures of them, but never seem to have the camera handy when I come across one. Appreciate your comments and your kinds words. All the best, Jill

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 

        4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hello, Dirt Farmer,

        I love spiders. Spiders of all kinds, types, shapes. Loved this hub and voted it up and away---great job. Well-written and presented.

        Keep up the great work.

        Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Al.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hi Deb. You know how it is -- now you'll start seeing yellow garden spiders everywhere! Nice to hear from you. Hope you're keeping well. --Jill

      • aviannovice profile image

        Deb Hirt 

        4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

        Great info, Jill. I never knew about these.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hi there, Peggy W! Thanks for the pin. Yellow garden spiders seem to be just about everywhere, I guess, including the Lone Star state. Have a good one! All the best, Jill

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hi Lisa! Thanks for stopping by. Seems like lots of hubbers have yellow garden spiders in their yards. We must be doing something right! Have a good one. All the best, Jill

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Nice to see again, too, Glimmer Twin Fan! Thanks for much for sharing this hub. (:

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        4 years ago from Houston, Texas

        I have also seen these spiders but never knew anything special about them. Thanks for the education about them. They are very pretty as spiders go! Ha! Pinning this to my butterflies and insects board.

      • LisaRoppolo profile image

        Lisa Roppolo 

        4 years ago from Joliet, IL

        I've had these in my garden as well. I leave them alone. If I'm trying to work in an area where there is one, I carefully relocate it.

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Claudia Mitchell 

        4 years ago

        Nice to see you again Jill! We love our yellow spiders in our yard. I never really considered their benefits, just that they are beautiful to look at. Shared around.

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 

        4 years ago from Wales

        Spiders are not my favourite members of nature but this hub was so interesting.

        Voted up for sure.

        Eddy.

      • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

        Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

        4 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Jill - yes it snowed in south-central PA. I had to cover up my strawberries. I am very ready for SUMMER!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hi Ms. Dora! I guess everybody's afraid of something. Frogs & toads are my bugaboos. Don't ask me why. Although I'd never kill one, I wouldn't want to cuddle up to one, and last year when I accidentally squeezed a toad while weeding (I thought he was a clump of dirt) I about had a heart attack! Hope you're having a good spring! All the best, Jill

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Absolutely, Maren! Hey! How are you? I've been so busy that I've been away from HP for a while, but it's nice to be back & great to hear from you. Btw, it snowed here last night. Did you get the same?

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        4 years ago from The Caribbean

        Jill, I am afraid of all spiders, but I'm glad I read your article. It is interesting and I learned a few hats. Now I'll look for the white hat to help me with identification. Thank you.

      • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

        Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

        4 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Ok, Jill, when i see a spider the size of a quarter wearing a white hat, I'll say hello and not cause any harm to it. *Smile*

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        You're so accomplished at knitting! It's art when you do it, so I'm not surprised you work on it year round. I'm still in the pee wee league. Right not, I'm on a sabbatical! lol But I'll get back to it once the weather gets cold again.

      • purl3agony profile image

        Donna Herron 

        4 years ago from USA

        Hi Jill - Yes, I knit year round :). In the summer, I like to start holiday gifts or work on larger projects. Plus, knitting is a great activity for vacation travel. Are you still knitting?

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hi purl3agony! Well, I certainly wouldn't pick one up, no matter how harmless they are, but like you I appreciate helpful spiders like the yellow garden spider. They're so big that many people find them scary, I think, and might kill them because they think they're dangerous rather than beneficial. Always good to hear from you. Will you still knit once the weather turns warm?

      • purl3agony profile image

        Donna Herron 

        4 years ago from USA

        Hi Jill! I'm always happy to read your new hubs, but I must admit I'm not a fan of spiders. Now that I know a little bit more about Yellow Garden Spiders, I can appreciate them. Great hub with really wonderful photos - very interesting!! Voted up!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Thanks for reading, Rebecca. I love to watch yellow garden spiders, although I haven't seen them capture a praying mantis as is in the video. That's a little too "Wild Kingdom" for me! All the best, Jill

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        I've seen these fellas. I didn't realize what they were called OR that they were a gardener's helper. Thanks!

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