An Unexpected Guest
It has been years since I had the privilege of observing a Black and Yellow Argiope Spider over the summer. There have been summers when I have found as many as four or five of these gorgeous spiders. Then, there have been years when I failed to discover even one. This year, on the 4th of July, as my son was lighting fireworks in the road, I observed a small argiope in an overgrown area. I was cleaning morning glories vines from a small garden surrounding some mail boxes when I noticed the telltale zig-zag design on her small web.
During the most exciting years, I have started following them in June, when they are young. At this stage, legs included, they are about an inch long and “ write” large white zig-zag designs on their webs. I have seen another spider approach the web of a small argiope, dash up, bite her and kill her. Watching my little friend fall from her web, was totally unexpected. I couldn’t save her, but the other spider did not live to drain her of her fluids. I didn’t realize other spiders sought out argiopes as potential meals.
The distinctive zig-zag design made by the female Argiope, becomes less detailed as the spider molts and becomes larger. The “writing” in the web design accounts for their common name, The Writing Spider. The spider is also know as a “garden spider” in some areas of the south.
As the season goes on, the spiders molt and grow, staying in relatively the same location. Most of the spiders (of any kind) that an observer will see are females, which are larger than the males. Females of this species are quite large when fully grown, with a large, gray cephalothorax and an abdomen with beautiful black and yellow designs which account for their official name. Their legs are long with grey and brown markings. Both males and females rest with the front four legs pointed forward and the back four legs pointing to the rear of the spider.
Males usually appear in late summer and weave a small web near the females web, in order to mate, and hopefully escape afterwards. The female attaches a papery brown egg sack, to a nearby sturdy weed stem to which she has attached her web. It is rather tear-drop shaped and remains on the dead stem throughout the winter, hatching in mid spring.
I have observed my little argiope for several days now. She has not changed locations. With a vicious storm going on as I write, I will have to check on her in a little while. Even while I was trimming back the morning glory vines and installing a protective tomato cage nearby for the vines to grown around her web, she did not move from her center spot where she had “written”. I have read that the purpose of the “writing” is two-fold. The spider wants to attract insects to her web, but warn larger creatures, such as birds, that her web is there, so they don’t fly into it.
Hopefully, I will get to observe this spider all summer and have an update to write on my observations in the fall!