Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider

Argiope aurantia

argiope_garden_spider_female_12-2-11.jpg

Image of a female Argiope garden spider.
Black-and-yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia
Other Common Name
Black and Yellow Argiope; Garden Orbweaver; Writing Spider; Corn Spider; Zipper Spider
Family

Araneidae (orbweaver family) in the Order Araneae (spiders)

Description

The black-and-yellow garden spider is commonly found near houses and in gardens. The small cephalothorax (head) is tipped with silver hairs, and the slightly oval abdomen is patterned with yellow (sometimes orange) and black. A black midstripe with four white spots in the center marks the top of the abdomen. The legs are black with yellow-orange stripes. The upper portion of the legs is a more solid orange yellow. The circular webs, built only by females, can be approximately 2 feet in diameter, and the spider can be found resting head-down at the hub, where a zigzag silk band, the stabilimentum, extends vertically at the center. Males are quite small and are rarely noticed. Young females have a narrower abdomen, generally lack the yellow coloration, and have conspicuous black and white striping on their legs.

Size

Length (not counting legs): ¾ to 1 inch (females); about ¼ inch (males)

FG-0033_Spider_Garden.mp4

Video of a garden spider in the wild.

Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider

a spider with vivid yellow and black markings on its abdomen sits in the middle of its web. Its feet are perched on its web, feeling for an insect to land in its web.
A black and yellow spider in Gasconade county, MO

Young_Garden_Spider_A_aurantia_in_web_7-18-11.JPG

Photo of a juvenile black-and-yellow garden spider in her web
Juvenile Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider in Web
Juvenile garden spiders often reinforce a round section in the hub of their webs with zigzags of thickened silk strands. This helps them hide from predators.

Young_Garden_Spider_A_aurantia_7-18-11

Photo of a young female black-and-yellow garden spider on a leaf
Young Female Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider
This photo was taken in mid-July of 2011, and at that time of the season the female black-and-yellow garden spiders looked like this.

Young_Garden_Spider_A_aurantia_7-1-10.JPG

Photo of a young female black-and-yellow garden spider in web
Young Female Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider
Though she lacks the coloration she'll achieve later, this young female black-and-yellow garden spider holds her legs in the distinctive X pattern and rests head-down in the center of her orb web.

Argiope_garden_spider_8-10-10.JPG

Photo of young adult female black-and-yellow garden spider in her web
Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider
Photographed in early August, this female black-and-yellow garden spider had recently attained adult coloration; note how thin she appears.

Garden_Spider_A_aurantia_8-19-09.JPG

Photo of an adult female black-and-yellow garden spider in her web
Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider
The cephalothorax of adult female black-and-yellow garden spiders is covered with silver hairs, and the abdomen is typically patterned with yellow and black.

Garden_Spider_A_aurantia_egg_case_9-13-09.JPG

Photo of a black-and-yellow garden spider and her egg case
Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider and Egg Case
By mid-September, most black-and-yellow garden spiders are creating egg cases.

Old_Garden_Spider_A_aurantia_11-10-11.JPG

Photo of a skinny old black-and-yellow garden spider resting under a leaf
Old Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider
Most spiders die at the end of the growing season, when hard frosts kill them. If no frosts come, they weaken from hunger.
Habitat and conservation

These spiders build their webs in gardens and in grassy areas near houses. They are also typically found in tall grasslands. Individual spiders take up residence in a particular area and tend to stay there all season. When disturbed, this species often causes its web to vibrate. The bouncing movement and blur makes it harder for predators to get a fix on them. However, if the disturbance is from a trapped insect, the motion causes the prey to get more entangled.

Foods

A variety of insects may fall prey to this spider, especially grasshoppers and katydids. Once an insect is caught in the sticky strands of the web, the spider often shakes the web to make the insect more fully ensnared. Then, the spider further subdues its prey by injecting it with venom and wrapping it securely in sheets of silk. Often the spider repairs the damaged parts of its web before turning again to its prey.

image of Black and Yellow Garden Spider Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Presumed statewide in tall grasslands with tall herbaceous vegetation as well as in vegetation near homes.

Status

Common statewide.

Life cycle

Young spiderlings hatch in spring and disperse by ballooning on strands of silk that catch the breeze. Once mature, they breed only once, with the much smaller male courting by plucking strands on the female’s web. All summer, the females eat insects and create egg cases that can contain over 1,000 eggs each. The egg cases are a little smaller than ping-pong balls and are papery and tan. Each female can create about 4 egg cases in her life and generally attaches them to nearby plants. After creating an egg case, the female often hides for a few days as she recovers from her efforts. Then, she may return to her old web or create a new one nearby. As temperatures cool in autumn, the female slows and dies in the first frosts.

Human connections

Black-and-yellow garden spiders help control insect pests and are especially appreciated by gardeners. Also, because of their colorful patterns, tendency to remain in the same general area all summer, remarkable web architecture, and easily observed behaviors, these harmless spiders are excellent creatures for children and adults to watch. If you are frightened by spiders, this is a good one to simply observe all summer to help decrease your phobia. If a female garden spider takes up residence among your tomatoes, try thinking of her as a weird little tenant who pays her rent by gobbling up grasshoppers.

Ecosystem connections

In addition to their role as predators, these spiders and their egg cases often fall prey to birds, snakes, and even praying mantises. Additionally, certain species of smaller spiders can use black-and-yellow garden spider webs as their own and may feed on the tiny insects caught in the web.