The golden argiope is one of the more spectacular, and sometimes the most alarming, spider that we see in early fall. They may bite if bothered but are not dangerous.
This orb weaver spider 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.
While resting, the spider often holds its legs together in pairs so there seems to be 4 legs rather than 8. In Figure 1, this spider is feeding on a silk-wrapped insect that it has captured and trussed up. Having poor vision, these spiders rely on vibrations of trapped victims to know that their web has captured a meal. They may take prey up to twice their size, using their long legs and silk to efficiently immobilize the struggling meal.
A zig-zap or zipper pattern from the center to the bottom of the web inspired their alternate name, “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” gives the web higher visibility so that birds are less likely to fly through and destroy the web.
By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist