Spiders… big spiders… oh my!

golden silk spider

Golden silk spider, Jacksonville, NC 2013

Eastern NC is home to two quite large spiders:  the black and yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) and the golden silk spider (Nephila clavipes).  The range of the golden silk spider has moved northward recently.  According to David Stephan, retired Entomologist, NCSU, there have been more reports of this spider in the past five years than in all prior years combined.  So far, the golden silk spider has been sticking to the coast (up to Carteret County), with one inland county report (Bladen County).

Both spiders – and their webs – can be rather startling when you come upon them suddenly.  The female of both types is a large colorful spider that, including legs, can be 5” in diameter.  Sometimes, you can see a much smaller, brownish spider on the web with her; that is the male.

The golden silk spider has venom similar to the black widow, but much more dilute.  It is a very mild mannered spider that won’t bite unless pinched.  People bitten report localized swelling and mild pain.  The spider shown has been politely living two feet away from a porch door.  Other than having to duck under the web, there have been no issues with her presence.

Both spiders have one generation per year.  Around September, the female will form an egg sac roughly 5/8” to 1” in diameter.  The male dies fairly soon after mating (and is often eaten); the first hard frost will usually kill the adult female.  The young in the sac will overwinter and hatch out the following spring.  If you see a sac in an inconvenient location, you can try moving it.  The spiders are very good at capturing insects that may be harmful to your trees and plants.

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