The black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) is one of the most frequently encountered spiders on residential and commercial properties throughout the United States. These spiders are most often seen in sunny areas among flowers, shrubs, and tall plants. Unlike black widows, cellar spiders, and domestic house spiders, the black and yellow garden spider is an orb-weaving spider species. Orb-weaving spiders build sizable, durable, and circular webs that resemble a nearly symmetrical orb, and most people find orb spider webs to be far more pleasing to the eye than the tattered indoor cobwebs that frequently become a nuisance. These webs are commonly spotted among shrubs, ornamental plants, and overgrown vegetation located alongside the foundation walls of homes.
Black and yellow garden spiders are not hairy like wolf or Parson spiders, but they are relatively large, as adult females are a little more than 1 inch long on average, while adult males are about ⅓ the size of females, and these measurements do not take leg-span into account. The spiders are easy to recognize due to their shiny black abdomen that features yellow and/or orange markings. Their webs are usually around 1 or 2 feet in diameter or larger, and the webs are located between 2 and 8 feet above the ground. Although black and yellow garden spiders are considered beneficial for their habit of preying on insect pests that damage ornamental plants, there exists a very small number of case reports describing medically significant bites inflicted to humans by these spiders.
Due to their large size, black and yellow garden spiders are able to feed on just about any arthropod predator that becomes stuck in their web, and they are also known predators of birds, lizards, shrews, a few species of wasps, and even humans. The US Navy Field Guide lists garden spiders as being capable of inflicting medically harmful bites that may result in minor necrotic lesions in very rare cases. However, a recent University study found that black and yellow garden spider venom does not contain compounds that induce necrosis. Black and yellow garden spiders are rarely spotted in homes, but indoor sightings occur on occasion. These spiders are also shy around humans, but gardeners should be mindful of this species’ painful, but harmless, bite.
Have you ever encountered a black and yellow garden spider within your home?