As a young child full of excitement and wonder about the natural world, I recall watching a tiny spider painstakingly weave its large, intricate web. I also remember watching with glee when a fly unwittingly flew into its trap as the spider rushed to devour it. The delicate, artistic web that this little engineer of the natural world builds and the clever hunting tactics it applies to capture prey all happen with such magical precision.
This black and yellow gem you may find residing in your garden is an utterly harmless arachnid called the Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia). Considering that this spider is tiny and powerless, the size and bright color are meant to scare away predators. Its two-foot wide web, found in a sunny part of a garden, is strategically placed to catch the maximum insect traffic. Fascinatingly, the conspicuous central zigzag pattern of its web is actually meant to keep birds from flying into it. For dinner each night, the spider enjoys its favorite meal of moths, flies, wasps, bees and mosquitoes.
Laying over 1,000 eggs, the female keeps the eggs in a papery sac on the web until little spiderlings move out on their own. Lizards love these little spider snacks, while hummingbirds try stealing mama spider’s web silk to line their own nests. Fancy that!
This beautiful spider represents a key ecological link in the food web thriving along the banks of the San Antonio River. Now that you have been introduced to this colorful native, we hope you will be able to overcome any unfounded fear and grow to love and respect this silent, essential part of the bio-diversity found on the San Antonio River Watershed. Surely it is imperative for us to acknowledge that this is their land, too!
- Minna Paul
San Antonio River Authority
The gardener's lovely friend, the Golden Garden Spider,
with a wrapped snack in its fantastic web.