August was the best month for spiders! In addition to my favorite Orchard Spiders, I found loads of the little funnel weaving spiders and a few little crab-like Spiny Backed Orb Weavers. But the best were two of the largest that I’ve seen yet:
The first find was the Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Argiope aurantia. My go-to website for identifying bugs is Insect Identification.org (http://www.insectidentification.org) where I learned that the large females weave a web about knee-high off the ground. That’s exactly where this one was. The zig-zag section of silk running up the center of the web is called the stabilimentum. A scientific publication suggests this stabilimentum is not for capturing prey but for defense, i.e., advertising the presence of the web so birds will avoid flying through it. I’m not sure what birds would be flying at knee level but it did work on me because the stabilimentum is what caught my attention. The female of this species lays her eggs in a brown papery sac, which she attaches to the side of her web. I visited almost every day for two weeks, hoping to see this, but we were out of town for a week and when we returned, the spider was gone, web and all.
The same week, I found a Golden-silk Orbweaver, Nephila clavipes. This spider was huge – over two inches in length! It is nick-named the banana spider because of the shape of her body. The strands of her web were also quite thick and yellowish, hence the common name.
We spent a while examining her and realized she was surrounded by a lot of smaller spiders, which we later learned were males, hanging out and waiting for the right moment to mate. We’ve been going back daily and she seems to be attracting more males – the count was up to 14 today! It will be interesting to see what happens.