Last week I shared information about the web stabilimentum of some of our large and showy orb weaver spiders. The Golden Silk Orbweaver, commonly referred to as a “banana spider” due to her large, yellowish abdomen, is one impressive orb weaver that does not spin these web designs. Even so, the nearly three-foot diameter webs offer a unique opportunity — for those brave enough to come closer — to learn more about spider life.
Golden Silk Orbweaver spiders spin those huge, elastic and tough webs from several varieties of silk, one of which is yellow in color. Seen in the sunlight or viewed up close, such as when you’re attempting to pull it off after you’ve walked through it, you’ll be amazed by the saffron-bright fiber. Stiff, sticky and seriously tough, it is actually hard to pull these away from their moorings and the frame strands are not yellowish, but white. Viewed closer, you will notice the sticky central sections have the yellow coloration.
Stretched out across open areas where light is more likely to draw pollinating insects, these webs have entangled many of us who enjoy hiking or walking in the woods. Thankfully Nephila clavipes, though venomous, is considered harmless to humans. Only “biting” to protect herself, her venom is milder than a bee’s, causing only mild localized swelling and redness.
This spider is a housekeeper I can relate to as she only takes care of what needs to be done each day. Unlike many other orb weavers, she does not spin an entire new web, but rather repairs are completed on damaged sections of the large web as needed. That said, her “messy” large oval web may contain her molted skin, discarded prey, or much smaller males.
These tiny males are found this time of year in the webs of matured females so that mating can commence. Along with multiple males, there may also be tiny, silver spiders resembling a drop of mercury. These are kleptoparasitic spiders, which live within this orbweaver’s web as a freeloader. Sneaking over to steal a meal from the spider’s wrapped prey, they enjoy dinner without the bother of spinning their own webs to catch it.
While males are so small you might overlook them, her nearly two-inch long abdomen and boldly patterned, tufted legs make her quite impressive to behold. Nearly spanning a grown man’s hand, the size of females is often distressing to those who don’t care for spiders, but she is greatly beneficial, providing excellent insect control.
After mating, females will lay several hundred eggs within a large, yellowish sac spun from their silk. These are typically placed nearby the female’s web in a sheltered location and she perishes soon after.
Enjoy this special sight of fall in our region as cooler temperatures begin to arrive and taking a walk becomes more inviting. Rather than shriek and run, stop and savor-even for just a moment-the nature around you.