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Fear not the Yellow Garden Spider!

Yellow Garden Spider

By Saundra McBrearty, Outreach and Volunteer Specialist
Halloween is around the corner and nature offers endless inspiration for unique and colorful costumes! I was inspired recently while strolling in a garden. There I was greeted by a dazzling Yellow Garden Spider balancing on a big orb web spanning two feet across. Garden spiders are known for their brightly patterned abdomens and are grouped in the genus Argiope, which, in Latin, means “with a bright face.” There are dozens of species within this genus, but the most common members found in North America are the yellow and black, banded, and silver varieties.

These truly are beautiful spiders, and their webs are just as mesmerizing. Investigating, I found a distinct zigzag decoration of dense silk woven down the center of its web; the zigzag is known as a sabilimentum, and scientists ponder various theories for its purpose. Perhaps the zigzag acts as camouflage for the spider lurking in the web’s center. Or, it may attract insect prey. Maybe it warns birds of the presence of the web, which is otherwise difficult to see. After all, spiders don’t want birds to destroy their handiwork! Interestingly, only spiders active during the day construct these decorations in their webs. 

After mating in the fall, the female Yellow Garden Spider eats the male, then she dies soon after laying eggs. Spiderlings hatch in the spring. Yellow Garden Spiders rarely venture inside houses, and their bites are harmless to humans.

I think a Yellow Garden Spider costume is the perfect attire to wear during Preservation Parks’ free Trick or Treat Trail taking place at Gallant Woods Park on Sunday, October 21 from 1-4 pm. Bring the family and enjoy the enchanted forested trail, hay rides, pumpkin decorating, and scare crow judging, as well as farm activities across the road at Gallant Farm.

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