Itsy Bitsy Spider

Pete has informed me that we are now the proud landlords of a female black and yellow garden spider (argiope aurantia). Now normally, I’m not too excited about spiders. As a small child, I was chased with a spider (semi-squished in a tissue) held by a relative who shall remain nameless. You know who you are! Apparently, I’ve never gotten over it. Thank goodness my husband is a trained entomologist who can remove any spiders that made it inside our house.

But back to the garden spider. These are, in my opinion, very handsome arachnids. I’ve seen them out in the prairie preserves around central Ohio but never anywhere else. What Pete said was so surprising about seeing this spider in our backyard (and this is only the second one in eight years) is that these spiders travel by ballooning. (Images of a frightened spider riding along in a hot air balloon were quickly dispatched by Pete…) Now if I understood Pete correctly, the spider climbs as high as it can then stands on its tiptoes (Wait – spiders have TOES?) with its abdomen facing up into the air. Then the spider releases some gossamer (the correct term for the very fine silk created by spiders for just this purpose) that forms a parachute of sorts. Air currents lift the silk and take the spider away. In some cases, spiders have been found many miles from land, having been carried away by the jet stream. Since these garden spiders are rarely found in urban areas, this little lady got here after traveling for some distance. Pretty cool!

A little more about these spiders. The female is the large showy specimen, spanning nearly 2.5 inches. The male, by contrast, is very small and inconspicuous. The orb webs (circular with parallel lines) the spiders weave are large and often decorated with a tell-tail zig-zag of white silk. The babies, when they hatch, are bright yellow, and will emerge in the spring.

Until next time!

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