Location: Los Angeles, California
March 8, 2012
I’ve recently been sorting through some old photos and found these two images of a spider and egg sack that I took in my garden this past Fall. My father told me that country people called them “writing spiders” and said that if you saw your name written in their webs you would die. Both the spider and the egg sack were located in the same part of the garden and I assume the egg sack is from this spider. Can you tell me the actual name of this spider and let me know if I should be excited to have more of them in my garden this spring?
Your father is absolutely correct, at least as far as the name goes. Writing Spider is a perfectly acceptable common name for this spider, as are Golden Orbweaver and Yellow Garden Spider, though if you really want to be technical, you would refer to this species as Argiope aurantia to avoid any confusion. The common name Writing Spider arises from the zigzag pattern spun into the web, a structure known as the stabilimentum. We had never heard the lore regarding death being the outcome of seeing your name written in the web. Tell Dr. Lutz we found that bit of trivia perfectly fascinating. The Egg Sac is in fact that of a Writing Spider. Here is a photo from our archives of a female Writing Spider and her Egg Sac. Spiderlings will hatch in the spring and spin a silken thread to catch the wind in order to disperse, a behavior known as ballooning. If you desire more information, you can always search BugGuide.