When Garden Spiders Live Large

by on August 29, 2008

Golden orbweaver.Public domain image from the National Park Service.

Golden orbweaver.

Public domain image from the National Park Service.

Look in your backyard right now, and there’s a decent chance you’ll see the ornate webs of our local orbweaver spiders. After feeding on insects all spring and summer, banded garden spiders and yellow garden spiders get big and very noticeable in fall, just before they lay their eggs and die.

These common arachnids, both from a large group called orbweavers, are best known for their spiraling webs found in many gardens.The banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata) and golden orbweaver (Argiope aurantia) emerge from their egg sacks as small, fully formed web spinners in spring. They start building by creating a bridge from a shrub branch or window frame to another point, and, through complex geometric patterns, they create a sticky insect trap. The spiders eat their webs and rebuild them at night, and start catching insects again the next day.

For these garden spiders, creating silk is a specialized process. Strands of silk shoot from an apparatus on the spider’s abdomen called the spinneret and twist together to form a tight thread. Silk can be altered depending on its use: only the silk in the outer spiral of the web is sticky, as this is where most insects will be caught.

Orbweaver Egg Case
Yellow orbweaver egg case. Public domain photo from NBII Image Gallery.

After catching an insect, the spider uses its legs to turn the prey while spinning silk over it. The spider immobilizes its food with a venomous bite (harmless to humans) before dining.

As the spiders grow, male spiders leave their webs to mate. Sitting on the edge of a female’s web, a male pulls its strands, using vibrations to get her attention. Even though they have eight eyes, orbweavers have very poor vision, so vibrations are the most effective tool for communication during mating season. After mating, a female lays her eggs and creates a thick, papery egg sack to protect them.

Keeping the egg sack safe is a precarious business, and the spiders die in winter, so the babies are on their own after that. A mother spider often suspends the sack on her web to protect it from predators, but the web can become damaged and other spiders and insects might take over part of the sack to hold their own eggs.

The spider young hatch in fall, but wait out the winter in the sack before they emerge and start the process over again.

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29 comments:

Terry on November 10th, 2012 at 11:04 am

Got one of these spiders right now over my pond in the back yard. She was sitting in the middle of the web for the past few week now she is large and hiding in some Junipers at the edge of the web. Laying eggs? Time will tell. My wife has asked if it is poisonous, like Black Widows…I don’t know..that’s why I’m here looking them up on the web!

Terry
Hayward, CA

Dan Rademacher on November 10th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Hi Terry, Hope you found that they aren’t poisonous. Harmless, and they eat lots of bugs, so they’re good to have around in the garden.

nancy morand on October 8th, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Can you tell me if it would be wise to try and protect the
Egg cases for the winter and how should I do it ? Mama was here in my garden
for 2 months and ladt night astorm damaged her web
and she is now gone. SHE MADE TWO EGG CASES !
Im in Connecticut and we have hard winters somrtimes.
I want these babies to make it.
Thank you for your expertise.
Nancy

Eric Simons on October 9th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Hi Nancy, I think they should be fine on their own — these spiders are pretty good at managing without intervention! Keep us posted in the spring.

NancyMorand on October 9th, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Eric- A HUGE thank you from across the continent !! I appreciate your expertise on these gorgeous
Spiders. Here’s to lots of babies come spring !!
Nancy

Gene Bray on July 22nd, 2014 at 8:01 am

Does anyone know of a source for purchasing Golden Garden Spider egg sacs?

Bay Nature staff on July 23rd, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Hi Gene,

Unfortunately, we don’t have information about this. Perhaps a garden center like Berkeley Horticultural Nursery might be able to help you. Best of luck in your spider sac search!

chuck on August 27th, 2014 at 9:48 am

I know the spider dies in the winter has anyone brought the spider inside and release in the spring? We were thinking on putting her in our greenhouse for the winter in all our plants to try and save her? and leave the 2 egg cases outside?

Mitxh on September 12th, 2014 at 12:14 am

I have been feeding one for weeks and after an especially big juicy black cricket ( took her all night to eat it) I brought her inside. It has been four or five days now and on the second day she layed her eggs. I noticed she was tiny compared to what she was so I gave her another jucy cricket but she wont eat. I was on here trying to find out if they ate after laying eggs then decided to share. So I guess I am now going to hold on to the eggs till the first day of spring and then take them outside. We will see. I just wantes to watch the cycle looks like i have a few months to wait.

Mitch on September 12th, 2014 at 12:19 am

Gene,
I may take a couple more in over the next week or so. If you are ever in the indiana area I would be happy to share a few egg sacks, if possible.

Mitxh on September 12th, 2014 at 12:21 am

I have been feeding one for weeks and after an especially big juicy black cricket ( took her all night to eat it) I brought her inside. It has been four or five days now and on the second day she layed her eggs. I noticed she was tiny compared to what she was so I gave her another jucy cricket but she wont eat. I was on here trying to find out if they ate after laying eggs then decided to share. So I guess I am now going to hold on to the eggs till the first day of spring and then take them outside. We will see. I just wantes to watch the cycle looks like i have a few months to wait. And would be happy to share with anyone in the Indiana area if possible.

Catalena2 on September 19th, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I would love to know if anyone has had success bringing this awesome spider inside for the winter months. Is it possible for her to last multiple years?

Magma on September 28th, 2014 at 4:48 pm

We have 4 spiders with 5 egg sacks in our garden! Wow! When will the egg sacks birth the babies?

Alexa on October 14th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I had 3 spiders in the bushes outside of my front door. I noticed the biggest one went missing, then the second one went missing a few days after. Now there is only one left. I noticed 2 egg sacs over the weekend. I actually miss them!

Stephanie on October 20th, 2014 at 5:48 am

I had the same question as Nancy regarding protection of the egg sac. I’m in Texas, so not the harshest place, but we are predicted to have another bad winter like last year. I was away from home for a couple of months. My Hubby said he had seen her just two days before my arrival. Like Alexa, I miss her. She was an awesome “wasper”. I can see her egg sac. I don’t want to move it, but was thinking of putting up something just to block the coming north winds.

jacque on November 8th, 2014 at 9:08 am

you guys are awesome for trying to help out these webweivers! Just wanted you to know …long island ny ps had a yellow one on my deck in aug -2012 right before hurricaine sandy hit oct. 26th it made a very cool web iv never seen before..it was huge ,legs included maybe a lil bigger than a half dollar.and the web had a thick strip going threw the rest of the web..it made the web between the posts on the side of the deck.very cool spider,i acualy wasnt afriad of it lol

Bay Nature staff on November 8th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Jacque – and for not being intimidated by the orb weaver who made a home on your deck!

alicia on November 17th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Hi, I have one of this spider, for a month I being watching at her, my husband an I feel bad seeing her outside in cold weather, so we seaside to bring her in, today I see her building her egg, amazin . I am a person afraid of spider, but this one just catch my attention. My cuestion is, it is danger to keep the egg inside home or have to let it be outside?

Kera on August 4th, 2015 at 5:43 pm

I have one of these on my porch. Our whole family has fell in love with Jane. Not enough to touch her lol,but we watch her n talk to her everyday. My 8 yr old daughter loves her. She’s actually the one who named her. The male has been in her web for a few weeks now . N I’m pretty sure I spotted 2 eggs sacks today. I read tht she will die in the winter. We live in north Florida. So my question is, will she definitely die in the winter? Can I make an enclosure for her to bring her in? N if so do I need to leave the egg sack? From wht I read above the egg sack should be fine. But I really wanna try n help her make it through the winter.

Linda garza on October 1st, 2015 at 9:35 pm

I was watching a writing spider outside and I seen her make two egg sacs but now she’s gone should I protect her sacs cos fall is here and we gets lots of rain here in s.c and what has happened to her we miss her I was scared of her but I thought she was beautiful and we watched her do her egg sacs was beautiful she was yellow and green , why does she dye is that where she’s gone

Linda garza on October 1st, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Can someone email meback about our spider we called her cCharlotte. Now we have her sacs so what do we do I’m scared of them to tho. Linda Garza s.c. my email should be on here thanks

Bay Nature Staff on October 29th, 2015 at 11:42 am

Hi Linda, Thanks for your question – and concern for “Charlotte”! We asked naturalist Trent Pearce from the East Bay Regional Park District about your spider and her eggs, and here is his reply: https://baynature.org/articles/ask-the-naturalist-where-has-charlotte-gone/

Vickie on October 12th, 2015 at 10:24 am

I have a garden spider that was in my kitchen window between screen and window. I cracked the window and now she has come inside. Could someone tell me if she will live inside? Thx

Deanna Bowling on October 13th, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Mama left a lovely sac at the edge of my porch in San Antonio, Tx. But workmen are coming in two weeks to work on the screens there. Another site said I cannot safely move the sac. Does anyone know whether I can move it? I was thinking of taking it to another safe spot with a net so as to avoid putting any pressure on it. Will this work? Please e-mail me if you have suggestions.

Sharon on November 6th, 2015 at 6:10 am

My spider laid two egg sacs but now its cold and nothibg left to eat. Can I bring her in for the winter.it froze last nite she wont last much longer

Sharon on November 6th, 2015 at 6:11 am

Its getting really cold can I bring her in for the winter

Kyle on November 6th, 2015 at 4:08 pm

I too would like to know if i can bring my beautiful orbweaver inside for the winter. it pains me to think of her dying, even if it is natural. She has been an excellent wasper and has done an impressive job with some of the other flying nasties. She is a spotted orbweaver (bright orange! with a black and white smiley face on her abdomen.) Any advice would be appreciated.

Corrine Malone on December 16th, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Folks, I have done this for serve raps years now, during the summer I find a pretty big Orb weaver in my garden and catch her in a small fish tank net,but if your a fraiddie cat about handling one be sure to have a back up stick for her to dash up and be able to redirect her back into the net, I don’t suggest touching her bare handed although their bite is not poisoniness to us it will hurt if they feel threatened. Anyway I bring her to my back porch (my husband thinks I’m crazy) and place her near my porch light which stays on all night long, so it attacks many insects for her to eat and keep her happy. I help her out by feeding millers and moths to them with a pair of tweezers. If she disappears for a long time I just find another one to take her place. When first frost comes I take her in doors, I bought a clear plastic shoe box type container from PetCo that has holes in the removable top and also a clear plastic door in the center. I put dried leaves and a couple stones and twigs to reach to the top in there but not so many that she stays in the bottom rather than the top . I tried growing crickets for 2 years to feed her as they can be costly to keep buying them to feed her and also crickets grow so quickly the spiders become afraid of them. I read an article about indoor spiders eating fruit flies perfect! I just put small pieces of fruit in the bottom and impaled on the twigs lying against the sides. I water the spiders every couple of days which you can do with a cotton ball you keep moist or droplets of water carefully placed like dew on ear net. Mine is used to a medicine dropper and will take it in her little feelers at her mouth and hold it til she gets a bubble to drink from and takes her bath from,( she cleans all of her body just like a cat does) Last year I had one in a smaller box and she never made a web. I had two Orbs this year one was heavy with eggs the other wasn’t . They were also from different parts of the garden and two different colors but both had the tell tale Celtic looking cross on their back sides. I put the large dark colored lady in the smaller box, as they say that during molting and for approximately 2-3 weeks before laying eggs, these spiders don’t eat, but they do take water. My girl did lay her eggs but would not eat anything. I took my red girl out of her beautiful web in the larger box and barrowed it for my black girl. I have an established colony of fruits flies that keep up with the daily feeding so. With the top on a few gentle up and down and side to side waves of the box will fill the web full of fruit flies and the lady goes crazy catching all she can before they drop off the web. She makes a bloody meatball out of the flies which she turns over and over until all the juices are sucked out. She rolls it all in a few turns of web and either it’s it to the ground or throws it with one hand like a baseball player, lol! Anyway, my black girl used the web only one day, we wondered if she would use another spiders web, and she did but it was like she missed her eggs. She remained perched up in the corner and wouldn’t eat. In the other small cage my red girl went up and sat on the eggs just as if they were hers. After Thanksgiving plus 2 weeks my black girl finally died. I had returned her to her eggs an I tried it 2 more times to get her to eat but she never would do more than drink. I took the eggs out of the small container and relocated them to the bigger box and here I discovered why the red spider was babysitting so well. The whole back side of the yellow webbing was gone and several areas of the ball of eggs were missing. I think my red lady was helping her self to some snacks ! So now I have a question for those with more knowledge than me about these pretty girls . I know they same they hatch in a couple weeks and just stay inside the ball. So my house is a lot warmer than spring time and the yellow ball is no longer intact. I took a cotton ball and replaced it around the egg ball then wrapped the yellow that was left around it and put it in the corner of the big cage, so now that is where my red girl sits. She is growing fast ,I think before she dies she has a egg sack to make. But should I put this egg sack in the fridge or out side even though we are having a very warm winter so far. I think they wouldn’t live because of the insulation being stripped of? Let me know if anyone can tell, I’m on Facebook also Corrine Malone Elmira N.Y. Thanks I appreciate anyone who has done this silly job before me.

Lizzie Reynolds on December 30th, 2015 at 9:50 pm

We have had our “Little Charlotte”, the Garden Spider, living on our kitchen window since May (it’s now late December). I check on her every morning and she has laid 3 egg sacks. Well, I woke this morning and she was gone..her web and her. What happened to her? Did she go and die since she should have 2 months ago… it’s so warm this winter… did she live so much longer than she should have? However, I’m so incredibly sad about her being gone. I even called out organic pest control to not hurt her our her babies in the sacks. I even caught my husband throwing moths in her web at night for her to eat. I miss her so much!!

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