Are Golden Orb Weaver Spiders Poisonous? Unraveling the Truth

Golden orb weaver spiders are a fascinating species known for their large size and intricate web designs.

These spiders can be found in various parts of the globe and are often spotted in gardens and forests.

Despite their intimidating appearance, many people wonder if they are poisonous or pose a threat to humans.

They do have venom, but it is typically harmless to people. While their bite may cause some localized pain, swelling, or redness, it’s rarely a cause for serious concern.

However, individual reactions may vary, and some people might experience more severe symptoms. It’s essential to remember that golden orb weaver spiders are beneficial creatures, as they help control the population of insect pests.

So, the next time you encounter one of these magnificent spiders, take a moment to appreciate their beauty and ecological importance, knowing that they pose little risk to us.

Are Golden Orb Weaver Spiders Poisonous
Golden Orb Weaver

Are Golden Orb Weaver Spiders Poisonous?

Venom and Fangs

Golden orb weaver spiders have venom stored in their glands and fangs to subdue their prey. However, their venom is not lethal to humans. Their fangs are quite small and less capable of penetrating human skin.

Numbness and Pain

If a golden orb weaver spider bites a person, it might cause mild symptoms like:

  • Localized pain
  • Numbness
  • Swelling

These symptoms usually go away within a few hours.

Treatment and Medical Attention

When bitten by a golden orb weaver spider, the treatment usually involves:

  • Cleaning the bite area with soap and water
  • Applying a cold compress to reduce swelling

In most cases, no further medical attention is required.

Harmless to Humans

Although golden orb weaver spiders are venomous, they are generally harmless to humans. They are not aggressive and will only bite in self-defense. The risk of allergies or severe reactions to their bites is very low.

Self-Defense

Golden orb weaver spiders prefer to escape from threats rather than attack. They use their large webs to create a barrier between themselves and potential danger.

To summarize:

FeatureGolden Orb Weaver Spider
VenomousYes
Poisonous to humansNo
AggressiveNo
Bite symptomsPain, numbness, swelling
Medical attention necessaryRarely
Self-defense mechanismEscape, web as a barrier

Golden Orb Weaver Spider: Identification and Habitat

Physical Appearance

Golden orb weaver spiders belong to the genus Trichonephila and are known for their striking appearance. Some key features include:

  • Large size, with females up to 3 inches long
  • Abdomen marked with bright colors, usually yellow or orange
  • Legs covered with hair-like structures
  • Cephalothorax region with a pattern of stripes or dots

They are often confused with other large spiders like the black widow or banana spiders, although there are differences in colors and patterns.

Behavior and Habitat

These spiders are diurnal species and are known for their strong, distinctive webs. They are a type of orb-weaver spider and create bold, circular web patterns. Their behavior includes:

  • Building large webs that are up to 4 feet in diameter
  • Feeding on grasshoppers, flies, and other small insects
  • Sensing vibrations via sensory organs in their legs, called tarsi

Orb weaver spiders can mainly be found in a variety of habitats such as forests, gardens, orchards, and near water sources.

Worldwide Distribution

Golden orb weaver spiders have a wide geographic distribution across different continents. They are found in:

  • North America, specifically in the Southeast United States
  • Central and South America, stretching from Argentina to Peru
  • The Asia-Pacific region, including countries such as India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and
    Myanmar
  • Africa, with sightings reported in areas like Guyana
  • Oceania, with some species like the nephila and the araneidae occurring in Australia

Golden orb weaver spiders adapt well to various environments and climates, which contributes to their widespread existence.

Diet, Webs, and Prey

Food Preferences

Golden orb weaver spiders primarily feed on various insects. Some examples of their preferred prey include:

  • Grasshoppers
  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Ants
  • Moths
  • Beetles
  • Locusts
  • Cicadas
  • Wasps

These spiders are not known to be picky eaters, preying on a range of diverse and available insects.

Web Characteristics

Golden orb weaver spiders are famous for their intricate webs. The webs display unique characteristics, such as:

  • Large size: Webs can reach up to 4 feet in diameter
  • Bright yellow color: The silk threads carry a golden hue
  • Strong: The silk is known to be very sturdy

Prey Trapping

The spiders use their webs to actively trap prey. When an insect gets caught, the golden orb weaver takes several steps to secure its meal:

  1. Immobilize the prey: The spider delivers a paralyzing bite
  2. Wrap the prey: Using silk, the spider wraps its catch securely
  3. Storage: The bound prey is saved for later consumption

Golden orb weaver spiders are also known to tackle prey larger than themselves, demonstrating their impressive hunting abilities.

Comparison Table: Golden Orb Weaver vs. Wasp

FeatureGolden Orb Weaver SpiderWasp
DietVarious insectsInsects and some plant-based food (nectar)
WebBuilds large, bright yellow websNo webs; some species build papery nests
Prey TrappingParalyzes, wraps, and stores prey in websInjects venom to paralyze, brings prey to nest for larvae to consume
PredatorsFew natural predators; occasionally other spidersVarious predators, including birds, reptiles, and other insects

Overall, golden orb weaver spiders are effective predators that use their unique webs and hunting techniques to consume a diverse diet of insects.

A golden orb weaver eating a different spider

Reproduction and Breeding

Mating Rituals

Golden orb weaver spiders have unique mating rituals. Males approach females with caution, often plucking the web to signal their presence. This helps in preventing females from treating them as prey.

Egg Sacs and Offspring

  • Females create silk egg sacs to protect their eggs
  • Multiple egg sacs can be produced each breeding season
  • Each egg sac contains hundreds of eggs
  • Offspring emerge as tiny spiderlings

Pros and Cons of Golden Orb Weaver Spiders’ Reproduction

Pros:

  • A large number of offspring increases survival chances
  • Protective egg sacs ensure the safety of eggs

Cons:

  • Many offspring may not survive to adulthood
  • Competition for resources among siblings

Comparison: Golden Orb Weaver Spider vs. Yellow Sac Spider

FeatureGolden Orb Weaver SpiderYellow Sac Spider
Body lengthUp to 1 inch0.25 – 0.5 inch
Egg sac locationWeb or nearby vegetationHidden in Silk retreat
Number of eggsHundreds per sacSmaller count

The Benefits of Golden Orb Weaver Spiders

Natural Pest Control

Golden orb weaver spiders, also known as Nephila plumipes, belong to the family Araneidae. These spiders are beneficial in gardens because they prey on pests such as beetles, arachnids, and even birds.

  • They help reduce the need for chemical pest control.
  • They won’t harm pets or humans, as they aren’t considered poisonous.

Some examples of pests they control in gardens include:

  • Various species of beetles
  • Smaller arachnids like other spiders and mites
  • Small flying insects, which can damage plants

Silk Uses in Gardens

Golden orb-weaving spiders produce silk that’s unique and useful. People can take advantage of this silk in gardens, strengthening plants’ support or using it as a natural material for garden art.

  • The silk is strong and durable
  • It can be collected without harming the spider

Here’s a comparison table contrasting the golden orb weaver silk with other silk types:

Silk TypeStrengthDurabilityCollection Method
Golden Orb WeaverHighHighNon-harmful
Common Garden SpiderMediumMediumNon-harmful
Domesticated SilkmothLowLowHarmful (kills)

By encouraging golden orb weaver spiders in gardens, you can reap the benefits of natural pest control and utilize their remarkable silk.

It’s an eco-friendly way to maintain a healthy garden while appreciating the beauty these spiders bring to the environment.

Human Interaction and Safety

Reducing Fear of Spiders

Golden orb weavers, like many other spiders, are non-aggressive towards humans. In fact, these spiders play a crucial role in our environment, controlling pests by preying on insects.

To help reduce your fear of spiders, it is essential to understand that most encounters with these creatures are not dangerous:

  • Rarely bite humans
  • Help maintain a balanced ecosystem
  • Provide a natural form of pest control

By appreciating their vital role, we can learn to co-exist with these arachnids and diminish our fear.

When to Seek Help

While golden orb weaver bites are rare, it is important to recognize when you need medical assistance. Typical symptoms of a spider bite include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain at the bite site

However, some severe symptoms warrant immediate care:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Intense pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Severe swelling

Remember, it is always best to consult a doctor if you suspect a spider bite and exhibit unusual symptoms.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the beautiful golden orb weaver spiders may appear intimidating, but they are generally harmless to humans.

They have intricate web designs which help them to capture prey. This trait makes them beneficial for natural pest control.

Yes, these insects have venom which is capable of causing mild symptoms. However, the fangs are small and not strong enough to penetrate the human skin.

Understanding their behavior and ecological importance can help us coexist with these creatures and appreciate their beauty.
However, if the bites trigger an allergic reaction, you must seek immediate medical help.

Footnotes

  1. Beneficial Arthropod Alert – Orb Weaver Spiders

  2. Golden orb weaver spider

  3. Spiders | Washington State Department of Health

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about Golden Orb Weaver Spiders. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Banded Legged Golden Orb Web Spider from Gambia

spider from the Gambia…
Hello,
Found your website and hoped you can tell me more about this species… I guess it’s a Nephilia senegalensis annulata or Banded-legged Golden Orb-web Spider. The picture I send you was taken in the Gambia but I also saw these in South Africa, although the webs in the Gambian forests were larger (2-3 meters).

This was surely a female cos she was huge! She’s also eating an insect… In the Gambia, the locals tell that the ones with the grey heads are harmless, but the black-headed aren’t so they kill them when they spot one… any point?


Michael

Hi Michael,
This is the third or fourth species of Nephila spiders we have posted over the years. The North American species, Nephila clavipes, is known as the Golden Silk Spider because of the color of the silk. Your specimen also had gold silk.

In our opinion, the local theory that different color variations of the same species might be dangerous or not is not true.

Letter 2 – Bug of the Month: August 2006 – Golden Orb Weaver

Argiope aurantia
what a great site you have, though it’s late here, and I think I may have dreams of creepy crawlies all night long. I found this spider which I believe is an Argiope aurantia in my front garden this evening while weeding.

I was digging into the middle of the Daylilies when a movement caught my eye….very close movement. This beauty was hanging about 2″ from my nose as I turned toward the movement.

Just reminds us that no matter how much we think we control our flower patches, nature is just waiting to jump out and give us the heebie-jeebies…. thanks
Mike Kunnick
Minneapolis. Minnesota

Hi Mike,
With August rapidly approaching, it is time to choose a new Bug of the Month. We have been considering the Golden Orb Weaver, Argiope aurantia as a perfect candidate, and your photo arrived just in time to be prominently featured at the top of our homepage throughout the month of August.

This gorgeous female is a textbook example of the species, and your photo also shows the stabilimentum, the zigzag pattern she weaves into her web to help camouflage her.

Letter 3 – Bug of the Month: August 2006 – Golden Orb Weaver or Yellow and Black Orb Weaver

Argiope aurantia
what a great site you have, though it’s late here, and I think I may have dreams of creepy crawlies all night long. I found this spider which I believe is an Argiope aurantia in my front garden this evening while weeding.

I was digging into the middle of the Daylilies when a movement caught my eye….very close movement. This beauty was hanging about 2″ from my nose as I turned toward the movement.

Just reminds us that no matter how much we think we control our flower patches, nature is just waiting to jump out and give us the heebie-jeebies…. thanks
Mike Kunnick
Minneapolis. Minnesota

Hi Mike,
With August rapidly approaching, it is time to choose a new Bug of the Month. We have been considering the Golden Orb Weaver, Argiope Aurantia as a perfect candidate, and your photo arrived just in time to be prominently featured at the top of our homepage throughout the month of August.

This gorgeous female is a textbook example of the species, and your photo also shows the stabilimentum, the zigzag pattern she weaves into her web to help camouflage her.

Correction or Not?????
(08/08/2006) Wrong common name
Dear Bug of the Month person:


You have the Bug of the Month as the Argiope Aurantia and are calling it the Golden Orb Weaver. The Golden Orb Weaver is actually Nephila clavipes. The common name for Argiope aurantia is Yellow and Black Garden Spider.
Elizabeth Mule’


Jr. ambassador: American Tarantula Society
Arachnoculture Rules!

Dear Elizabeth,
Oh what a tangled web we weave when we deign to use common names. First we partially agree with you. We have seen Argiope aurantia listed as both the Yellow and Black Orb Weaver and the Golden Orb Weaver as well as the Black and Yellow Garden Spider.

Our hero Charles Hogue calls it the Golden Orb Weaver in his phenomenal book “Insects of the Los Angeles Basin”. We have seen Nephila clavipes listed commonly as the Golden Silk Spider or Banana Spider, but never Golden Orb Weaver.

The golden refers to the color of the silk and not the color of the spider. We have also seen Banana Spider used in conjunction with the Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda venatoria.

Common names often differ from location to location, and occasionally, very localized names, especially if they are colorful or descriptive, come into greater usage thanks to the internet. We will post your comments.

Also when using the Linnean binomial system, never, never, never capitalize the species name. Argiope Aurantia should read Argiope Aurantia.

Letter 4 – Delta Flower Scarab caught by Golden Orbweaver

orange beetle with a triangle on the thorax in an argiope’s web
September 3, 2009
Around noon today, I saw this small beetle get caught in the web of the largest Argiope aurantia spider I’ve ever seen. I live in Fort Pierce, Florida. The beetle has an orange abdomen and legs, but a yellow and black thorax and head.

There is a yellow triangle pointing towards the abdomen on its thorax. What could this beetle be? I don’t think I’ve seen one before.
I’ve also included a picture of the spider, in case you want to use it on your site.
Thanks!
Gary
Fort Pierce, FL

Delta Flower Scarab in Orbweaver's web
Delta Flower Scarab in Orbweaver’s web

Hi Gary,
This lovely beetle is a Delta Flower Scarab, Trigonopeltastes delta.  The beetle gets its common and scientific name from the shape of the marking on the thorax that resembles the Greek letter delta.  

According to BugGuide:  “Adults take pollen and/or nectar. (Possibly eat vegetative parts as well?) Food plants include Goldenrod (Solidago), Feverfew (Parthenium), Coneflower (Echinacea), and Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccafolium).” 

Golden Orbweavers are also called Writing Spiders because of the pattern of the stabilimentum in the web that is believed to help camouflage the spider.  We are quite happy to add your images and letter to our Food Chain pages.

Golden Orbweaver eats Delta Flower Scarab
Golden Orbweaver eats Delta Flower Scarab

Letter 5 – Egg Sac of a Golden Orbweaver

Subject: A curious insect-lover
Location: South Carolina
January 1, 2014, 9:15 pm
Hello, Bugman (using the designation above),
I live in South Carolina, in a neighborhood that is older and has less intrusion from human beings. A wide variety of healthy and I dare say strong insects live here.


A pod has appeared, well, two of them, right in the middle of a series of spider webs on the back of the house where I live. I would like to ask for your help in identifying the pod.

Feel free to say it is a plant; I am terrified of spiders. Whatever cowardice I may have of spiders, I do not harm insects.
I am also including an orb weaver photograph which I thought might help, through gradual exposure, other arachnophobic people to overcome their fear of spiders.

I do consider this photograph my property (I don’t have any feelings about the pod pictures), so please ask permission and give attribution if you use it. The email address is my signature; I own it.

It was very hard to take the picture because my hands shook uncontrollably. This orb weaver (nor any other) is not welcome to crawl on me, but it was welcome to live near my home. Photography is how I try to get over my fear.


Signature: Arachnophobic Spider Lover

Egg Sac from a Golden Orbweaver
Egg Sac from a Golden Orbweaver

Dear Arachnophobic Spider Lover,
What you have called a “pod” is actually the Egg Sac of an Orbweaver.  You did not indicate if they were found in the web of the spider you photographed, which is a Golden Orbweaver,
Argiope aurantia. 

Out of respect for your wishes, we will not publish your spider photograph since we can link to excellent images of Golden Orbweavers in our archive including a magnificent series of a female producing her egg sac.

Hello,
I appreciate your response. I guess it did sound a little narcissistic asking that my little spider photo not be used because I am sure you have many professional examples.

In my defense, I was just remembering how hard it was to take. They are stunning creatures, so thank you for responding. If I ever get the courage to look at the other photos, I will.

I shared the link to this page. I will now wait in horror for the orb weaver pods to erupt in terrifying spiders.
Sincerely,
Arachnophobic Spider Lover

Hi again Arachnophobic Spider Lover,
If it is any consolation, when the eggs hatch and several hundred spiderlings emerge, most will try to balloon away on the wind to ensure that the hatchlings get a wide distribution.

Letter 6 – Egg Sac of a Golden Orbweaver

Subject: Sac??
Location: Virginia
April 4, 2014 11:59 am
What is that??
Signature: -thank you

Golden Orbweaver Egg Sac
Golden Orbweaver Egg Sac

This is the Egg Sac of a large, beautiful, and harmless spider, the Golden Orbweaver or Black and Yellow Orbweaver, Argiope aurantia.

Thank you so much.. it stays

We are very happy to hear that you are tolerant of harmless spiders in your garden.  We hope some of the spiderlings that hatch will remain in your garden, but they will also disperse on the wind, a process known as ballooning

It is possible that the wind may carry some of the young spiderlings many miles from their birth location.

Letter 7 – Egg Sacs of a Golden Orbweaver

Subject:  Argiope egg cases, black widow?
The geographic location of the bug:  Memphis, TN
Date: 10/19/2017
Time: 01:25 PM EDT


The Argiope I sent a photo of in March disappeared (died/was eaten?) a week or two ago. I thought you might want to see the egg cases she left for next spring.
I also include a photo of what I believe is a black widow. (I couldn’t get a shot of the side with the red on it.)


How you want your letter signed:  Laurel

Egg Sacs of a Golden Orbweaver

Dear Laurel,
We did receive an image of a Golden Orbweaver from you in August.  Thanks for sending images of her egg sacs.  Orbweavers are short-lived spiders, living only a single season.  Your other spider does appear to be a Widow. 

Sorry about the date mix-up. I first saw the spider in March.

Letter 8 – Fanmail and Golden Orbweaver

Subject: Love this site
October 16, 2015 9:50 am
Good day everyone,
I just stumbled across this site when I googled “orb weaver, egg sac“.  I have a few golden orbs hanging around and just noticed the sacs tucked away…figured they were either egg sacs or snacks saved for later.

Your site cleared up that question, as well as identified the weaver as a golden one. I wish I had the finances to donate to your site, I find it absolutely fascinating.

However, I’m a Disabled Combat Veteran and on a severely fixed income. If there is anything I could do to help your site, I can donate my time…THAT I have plenty of to spare, please let me know.


We are originally from Buffalo, NY, now in Georgia and I’ve traveled all around the USA and several other countries and have seen many unknown creatures….it’s great to be able to identify some of those critters I’ve encountered throughout the yrs.

I spend a lot of time in the yard and garden these days and seem to come across something new at least once a month.
Thank you to all of you that make this site what it is.


Have a wonderful day and please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.
V/R,
Signature: Jennifer

Golden Orbweaver with Egg Sac
Golden Orbweaver with Egg Sac

Dear Jennifer,
We are so charmed by your fanmail that we are posting it and illustrating the posting with an image of a Golden Orbweaver and her egg sac from our archives. 

Your offer to assist is most generous, but though our tiny staff hasn’t the time to respond to all the email requests we receive, there is no easy way to divide the labor. 

We still manage to select at least one, and on average five submissions per day to format and post live to our site.

Letter 9 – Golden Orb Weaver


To whom it may concern,
I’m not too fussed about knowing what this spider is, but thought I’d send a couple of pictures I took of it. We did have to move it from its web to mow the lawn, but it was a very healthy specimen judging from its food supply.

The web itself was reasonably strong too.
Victoria

Hi Victoria,
Though you did not provide a location in your email, your email address hints at Australia. That helped us identify your spider as a Golden Orb Weaver, Nephila ornata. The common name is due to the color of the silk, not the color of the spider.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

7 thoughts on “Are Golden Orb Weaver Spiders Poisonous? Unraveling the Truth”

  1. I’ve got one of these in my front yard. It’s been doing a brisk bug-catching business since it set up shop. Today I find it’s caught a dragonfly in its web. A bug-catcher caught a bug-catcher. Oh, well.

    I’ve noticed these spiders will shake their webs if they feel threatened. It can be a tad dizzying to watch.

    Reply
  2. Quisiera saber si este tipo de aran’a que en EE UU se conoce como banana spider es peligrosa o venenosa .
    Gracias.
    German Quintero

    Reply
    • Hola German,
      If our understanding of Spanish is correct, we believe you are inquiring if the Banana Spider from the U.S. (Estados Unidos) is dangerous or venomous. Nearly all spiders have venom and a large Banana Spider, Nephila clavipes, could bite a person, but the bite is not considered dangerous. There might be pain, sensitivity and local swelling if a bite occurs.

      Reply
  3. Quisiera saber si este tipo de aran’a que en EE UU se conoce como banana spider es peligrosa o venenosa .
    Gracias.
    German Quintero

    Reply
  4. How long do the spiferlings stay inside the egg sac? I found one recently and I can’t wait to see the spiderlings emerge!

    Reply

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