Saturday, January 5, 2008

Writing Spider

Writing Spider, Scribbler, Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia)

The Garden Spider (Areneus sp.)gets its name because people often find its large web in their backyard fruit and vegetable gardens. These spiders usually build their webs a few feet off of the ground between plants to catch insects that fly past. Garden spiders weave a distinct "zigzag" shape in the center of their webs. Another common name is the Writing Spider probably because someone thought the thickened web strands looked like some kind of writing.
The yellow and black garden spider is one of the largest spiders in our area, sometimes close to 2 inches in length (and that's not including the legs!). Despite their formidable appearance, garden spiders are not dangerous.

These Spiders were a fixture in my days growing up here in South Eastern North Carolina. For some reason they have always carried a bit of mystery to me, like they were special because they could "write" or maybe because if they wrote your name in their web, you were surely doomed.

We had a bumper crop of them this summer, probably because we are one of the few people to use herbicides and fertilizers to keep the grass golf course perfect. It was also one of the driest years on record. It was cool to see so many in one place. Usually they have laid their large brown egg sacks and died by October, but we had one that made a web across the kitchen window and she hung on much longer. Just before Christmas she had not moved for a couple of days so I went out to check on her. I blew very lightly on her and she bolted up to the top of the window and stayed there. The next morning as I made coffee I glanced out to see if she had returned to the middle of her web. She was nowhere in sight. I feared the worst and felt bad for having disturbed her in her last days. After my Espresso was pressed, I walked out expecting to find her dead on the back deck but instead she was wrapping up her third egg sack. She had already laid two which I thought was amazing because I had never seen one fill more than one egg sack. She rebuilt her web and lasted until after the new year.

If you find one in your garden, let 'em be - they're the good guys!

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