The black and yellow garden spider (or golden argiope) is a spectacular and sometimes alarming spider that we see in early fall. This orb weaver makes a flat, wheel-like web with silk lines radiating out like spokes from the center. Webs are usually in sunny overgrown areas where tall grass or brambles can support the web structure, which may be up to 2 feet across.
The black and yellow garden spider likes to hang head down in the center of its web. While resting, the spider often holds its legs together in pairs so there seems to be 4 legs rather than 8 (Figure 1). Because of poor vision, the spiders rely on vibrations of trapped victims to indicate that their web has captured a meal.
These spiders may take prey that is as much as twice their size by using their long legs and silk to efficiently immobilize the struggling meal.
A zig-zag or zipper pattern from the center to the bottom of their web has led to them being referred to as “writing spiders.” The “zipper” was once thought to provide structural stability to the web or to attract flying insects. Another idea is that the zipper provides the web higher visibility so that birds are less likely to fly through and destroy the web.
The black and yellow garden spider is not aggressive but may bite if harassed. The bite is reported to be similar to the pain of a bee sting.
By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist