As I have started off in previous articles, I am not an entomologist. I don’t even think I could be considered an insect enthusiast. I do appreciate them, though, and their place in our world. So, after I stumbled upon this beauty, I became even more excited after some research!
At first she is very intimidating, another one that makes you go “what is that and where are the kids?”. This is a golden silk orbweaver ( Nephila clavipes) and she has gotten a pretty bad name which is not deserved. The problem with common names is that every species has many and some of these are shared between species and they vary depending on what part of the country or world you are in. For instance, this spider is sometimes referred to as a banana spider, but so is another spider, Heterapoda venatoria, and they look nothing alike nor do they hunt or eat in the same way. But, to use just the scientific name is cruel to us “laymen”. They are in Latin and usually about a foot long. So for this article we will keep it simple and mention the Latin name once, but use common names mainly. Continuing on…
The females body size, not including the legs, is anywhere from 1-2 inches and has a long banana-like body. She has golden-colored legs with tufts of dark hair at the joints of three pairs of its legs. It looks as if she has multiple pairs of leg warmers on six legs, leaving two without hair. Now the male looks completely different. He is significantly smaller, about ½ inch, and his coloring, although it matches the female, is not as brilliant. You can usually find a male or two hanging out at the edge of a web waiting to mate.
The golden silk spider is a web hunter that is found throughout Florida, the Carolinas and anywhere else that there is high heat and humidity. The webs are usually built over walkways or anywhere there is a large space between two posts or trees where she can stretch her web. This is done because it is the perfect spot to catch flying insects. These webs can span several feet and in the sun, the strings have a beautiful golden hue to them, thus the name.
Their diet consists of a wide range of insects, mostly ones that we do not want around, like mosquitoes, flies, wasps and grasshoppers. It also includes dragonflies, butterflies and bees. I guess you have to take the good with the bad.
Now what we all have been waiting for…do they bite? Are they poisonous? The answer is kind of. These spiders are very shy and timid. They would prefer to be left alone to do their thing, but they will bite if they are pinched or held. As for this bite, it can leave a small welt for about a day and then disappears. They are venomous and the make up of the venom is similar to that of a black widow, but a lot less toxic. It is practically harmless to humans, but some people might be more sensitive than others. So best bet, if they have to be removed because they have chosen an inconvenient spot, try knocking down their web and they will move to another location where they can get some privacy.
Edwards, G.B. And Marshall, Sam. Florida’s Fabulous Spiders. World Publications. 2004. Pp. 44-45