–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd
This is the time of year when we see the golden garden spider, Argiope aurantia, in landscapes, gardens, and in unmanaged areas. Golden garden spiders are 1.0 inch (25.4 mm) long, with black and yellow markings on the abdomen, and a silvery cephalothorax (combination of head and thorax) (Figure 1). The spider typically hangs with the head positioned downward in the center of a web that has vertical crossed zigzag bands (Figure 2).
Figure 1. Golden garden spider (Raymond Cloyd, KSU)
Figure 2. Golden garden spider in web. Note the vertical zigzag bands in the web (Raymond Cloyd, KSU)
Golden garden spiders find prey in their webs by sensing vibrations as prey try to escape. Spiders capture grasshoppers in their webs and then wrap them in fine silk (Figure 3). Golden garden spiders typically build webs in open areas instead of inside the canopy of trees and shrubs or inside shelters. The other species in Kansas is the banded argiope spider, Argiope trifasciata, that does not have distinct black markings on the top of the abdomen. However, thin black transverse lines may be present.
Figure 3. Golden garden spider wrapping a grasshopper in silk (Raymond Cloyd, KSU)