Black-And-Yellow Garden Spider
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I constantly extol the beauty and gracefulness of spiders and I know that some of my readers probably shake their heads in disagreement when I do. Many people just don’t like spiders, I know that. That said, today I’m presenting one that should win over even the firmest arachnophobe. This is the Black-and-yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia). These spiders are the largest of the orbweavers. A big female would easily fill the palm of my hand. And, for my money, they rank as the most beautiful of all spiders.
Black-and-yellow Garden Spiders have a range that includes all of the United States. I remember seeing them as a child when I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and many years later when we lived in Atlanta. They seem to appear out of nowhere in late summer and early autumn, often stringing their large and extremely elaborate webs in sunlit areas between ornamental shrubs in backyards. This spider is immediately recognizable by its large size. Few other species of orbweaver come close to it. The black and creamy yellow pattern on the top of its abdomen is another instant identifier as is the elaborate zig-zag pattern of silk at the center of its web. The big individuals that one sees are invariably females. Males of this species are tiny, growing to only a fraction of an inch in length.
As common as these spiders may be in other parts of the United States they are not a common sight in Arizona. The conditions here are for the most part too arid for these spiders. But, there are exceptions to that rule. I found these spiders (each photograph is of a different individual) in St. David, Arizona, a tiny hamlet about 40 miles southeast of Tucson, residing next to a man-made pond. There were at least a half-dozen of them within a few yards of each other. They’d strung their webs between reeds and tall grasses at the pond’s edge and they were fattening themselves on large grasshoppers that blundered into the webs.
Like nearly all spiders Black-and-yellow Garden Spiders are quite timid around people. These individuals were unhappy when I fired off my flash as I photographed them. They’d often retreat to the corners of their webs, as far from me as possible. After a minute or so, they’d reestablish themselves at their webs’ centers and I’d resume photographing them. These spiders can bite if molested, but their bites are not dangerous to humans. I am advised that a bite from one of these big spiders is less painful than a bee sting and will produce nothing worse than local swelling and itching for a couple of days. However, why would anyone molest one of these beauties?
The first image made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400 f4-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4X extender @ 560 mm, aperture preferred setting, ISO 500, 1/500 @ f14. The second and third images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and stabilized by monopod, ISO 160, f10 @ 1/160.