Up Close with the Garden Spider


Black and Yellow Argiope aurantia

Spiders! For many people the very word sends them running for a can of bug spray.  I admit, I do not like spiders in my house.  I really don't want the extra housekeeping chore of wiping down cob webs, but I do recognize that spiders play a very important part in our environment.  If I have a spider in the house, he gets sent out the door and not sprayed.

This past fall, I was working in my garden when I spotted the spider in the photo.  It is a common Black and Yellow Garden Spider or orb weaver. "Orb" means that it spins it's web in a circle.  The web can be about two feet in diameter.  If you see a zig-zag of white silk in the web, that was made by a male spider.  The male spider is smaller and he will make a much smaller web than the female. The web and can be found on shrubs, tall plants or flowers.  Males and females will build webs near each other or together. The web is normally two to eight feet up from the ground.

This spider is beneficial to the garden because it feeds on other insects that can damage our flowers, leaves and buds.  Even though spiders are beneficial, they do eat the good bugs along with the bad bugs. When an insect gets stuck in the web, the spider will feel the vibration and come running for the kill. This garden spider prefers a sunny location with no winds to build their web. It is also a busy spider, because each night it eats most of it's web and builds a new one for the next day. It is active during the day hours and is harmless to humans.

Garden spiders breed once a year and after mating, the male dies and sometimes is eaten by the female. The female lays her eggs in a sac that is attached to the web. The female guards the egg sac from predators for as long as she can. This sac can contain over a thousand eggs in it, and like in the story of "Charlotte's Web", the female weakens and dies.  The baby spiders hatch from their eggs in the fall but continue to live inside the sac during the winter. When the weather warms, the babies leave the sac to start their life in the garden.

The next time you are working in the garden and see a spider, "think" before you "spray".  Mother Nature has already provided a safer way to deal with insects in the garden than insecticides and one that is safe for humans and other creatures that make the garden their home.

Happy Gardening!