Are Golden Silk Spiders Poisonous? Debunking Myths and Facts

Golden silk spiders, also known as banana spiders or Nephila Clavipes, are familiar sights in warm and tropical regions.

They are known for their size and vibrant yellow and golden-colored webs, which might appear intimidating.

Many wonder if these spiders are dangerous as they may encounter them in their gardens or local parks.

Though they possess venom designed to subdue their prey, golden silk spiders are not considered a threat to humans.

In fact, their bites are often compared to a bee sting, with symptoms such as mild pain, itching, and redness that typically subside within a few hours.

Are Golden Silk Spiders Poisonous
Golden Silk Spider

Golden Silk Spider Overview

Species and Physical Features

The golden silk spider, also known as Trichonephila Clavipes, is a member of the genus Nephila. This species is known for its striking appearance, featuring:

  • Yellow, gold, brown, white, and orange colors
  • Large size with long legs
  • Elongated abdomen

Males and females display sexual dimorphism, with females being larger and more colorful than the smaller, inconspicuous dark brown males.

Distribution and Habitat

Golden silk spiders are commonly found in:

  • Southeastern United States
  • Central and South America
  • Caribbean Islands

Their preferred habitats include forests and wooded areas, where they construct their webs to capture prey.

Appearance

These insects have a tubular abdomen that is golden, and orange in color. The abdomen has a row line of paired white dots running the length of it.

If you look closely, you will notice side speckles and white dashes. They have spindly legs that are long and also gold with brown bands.

Are Golden Silk Spiders Poisonous?

Venom and Potency

Golden silk spiders, also known as Trichonephila Clavipes, are not considered highly venomous. Their venom is mild and typically causes minimal effects in humans. Some possible symptoms of a golden silk spider bite include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Numbness

Comparing golden silk spiders to other venomous spiders, such as the black widow spider, we can see significant differences in venom potency:

Spider SpeciesVenom Potency
Golden Silk SpiderMild
Black Widow SpiderHighly toxic

Are Bites Dangerous?

Golden silk spider bites are generally harmless to humans. The pain and redness caused by a bite are typically mild and temporary. In most cases, no medical intervention is needed.

However, individual reactions can vary, and those with allergies to spider venom may experience more severe symptoms.

Let’s take a look at some of the main differences between golden silk spider bites and black widow spider bites:

  • Golden silk spider bites are usually not dangerous, while black widow spider bites can be lethal if left untreated.
  • The symptoms of a golden silk spider bite tend to be mild, while black widow spider bites can cause strong pain, muscle cramps, and even breathing difficulties.
Pair of Golden Silk Spiders

Web Structures and Silk

Types of Webs

The golden silk orb-weaver, also known as the golden silk spider, is known for its distinctive webs. Some key features of these webs include:

  • Golden silk: The spider’s silk has a unique golden hue, giving it the name “golden silk orb-weaver.”
  • Orb-weaving: Like other orb-weaver spiders, the golden silk orb-weaver creates circular, wheel-shaped webs.

These webs help the spider catch its prey effectively, while also demonstrating their expertise in web construction.

Strength and Applications

Spider silk, especially from golden silk orb weavers, is known for its impressive properties. Some highlights include:

  • Strength: The silk is stronger than steel and has a toughness comparable to Kevlar.
  • Stretchiness: The silk is elastic and softens before stiffening when pulled, allowing it to absorb energy from impacts.

These unique properties make spider silk a desirable material for many applications, such as:

  • Medical sutures: Due to its biocompatibility and strength.
  • Bulletproof vests: Their toughness and flexibility make them suitable for protective gear.

Below is a comparison table of some critical characteristics of the golden silk orb-weaver’s silk and Kevlar:

PropertyGolden Silk Orb-Weaver’s SilkKevlar
StrengthStronger than steelComparable strength
ElasticityHighLow
Energy AbsorptionHighHigh

Diet and Prey

Common Types of Prey

Golden silk spiders primarily feed on various insects. Some examples of their common prey include:

  • Flies
  • Beetles
  • Grasshoppers
  • Mosquitoes
  • Cicadas

These insects are usually found trapped in the spider’s golden silk web.

Occasional Large Captures

In some rare instances, golden silk spiders capture larger prey items. They have been known to ensnare:

  • Small birds
  • Larger insects

However, these events are infrequent and not the primary food source for the spider.

To help you visualize the diet of golden silk spiders, here’s a comparison table of their common and occasional prey:

Common PreyOccasional Prey
FliesSmall birds
BeetlesLarger insects
Grasshoppers 
Mosquitoes 
Cicadas 

Golden silk spiders play a role in controlling the populations of their insect prey, which can be beneficial in controlling pests such as mosquitoes. Although they are not poisonous to humans, they do inject venom to subdue and immobilize their prey.

Reproduction and Lifecycle

Mating Rituals

Golden silk spiders, also known as banana spiders, exhibit unique mating rituals. Males actively search for females and perform a “courtship dance.”

They start by cautiously approaching the female, often plucking or vibrating the silk threads to signal their intentions.

Eggs and Offspring

  • Female golden silk spiders produce one or more egg sacs.
  • Each sac contains several hundred to thousands of eggs.
  • The female guards her egg sacs until the spiderlings emerge.

Females of the species construct their egg sacs using silk, providing protection for their developing offspring. The egg sacs are typically placed in concealed locations, ensuring their safety from predators.

When the spiderlings hatch, they disperse to find their own territories, often using silk threads to “balloon” and travel via air currents.

Comparison Table: Males vs. Females

FeatureMaleFemale
SizeSmallerLarger
Role in CourtshipActive, seeks femalePassive, wait for male
Reproductive RoleMate with the femaleProduce and guard egg sacs

Golden Silk Spiders in Different Regions

North and South America

In the United States, golden silk spiders are commonly found in the southeastern states, such as Florida and North Carolina. In South America, these spiders are present in various countries with humid climates and dense vegetation.

They are known for their expansive golden webs and large size.

  • United States: Predominantly in southeastern states
  • South America: Various countries with humid climates

Asia and Australia

The golden silk spider can also be found across Asia and Australia, where it is known as the banana spider.

Their habitats in these regions are similar to the ones found in the Americas, with a preference for humid environments and dense vegetation.

They continue to display their characteristic large golden webs and vibrant orange and brown coloring in these areas.

  • Asia: Humid environments, dense vegetation
  • Australia: Known as banana spiders, similar habitats

Central America

In Central America, including Mexico, golden silk spiders are commonly found in countries with tropical climates. They thrive in areas with dense foliage, where they can create their signature golden webs to catch prey.

These spiders maintain a similar appearance and behavior to their counterparts found in other regions.

  • Mexico: Tropical climates, dense foliage
  • Central America: Similar appearance and behavior to other regions
RegionCommon NameHabitatAppearance/Behavior
North AmericaGolden Silk SpiderSoutheastern United States, humid climatesLarge golden webs
South AmericaGolden Silk SpiderHumid climates, dense vegetationVibrant orange & brown
AsiaBanana SpiderHumid environments, dense vegetationLarge golden webs
AustraliaBanana SpiderSimilar to America’s habitatsOrange & brown coloring
Central AmericaGolden Silk SpiderTropical climates, dense foliageSimilar to other regions

Interaction with Humans and Potential as Pets

Aggression and Handling

Golden silk spiders are generally not aggressive toward humans. They tend to focus on their prey and avoid human contact when possible. However, as with any spider, handling should be done cautiously:

  • Aggressive: Rarely aggressive, but can be defensive if threatened
  • Handling: Minimal handling is recommended due to the delicate body structure

A comparison with huntsman spiders:

SpiderAggressivenessHandling Recommendation
Golden SilkLowMinimal
Huntsman SpiderModerateLimited
Female (larger and on left) and male Golden Silk Spiders

Housing and Care

Providing proper housing and care for a golden silk spider as a pet may be challenging due to its unique requirements:

  • Cephalothorax size: The spider’s body length typically measures between 1-2 inches
  • Housing: A spacious enclosure with ample height for web-building is necessary

Some essentials for caring for your golden silk spider:

  1. Transport: Use a gentle method for transport, such as a soft brush or indirect coaxing
  2. Maintenance: Keep the enclosure clean and remove debris regularly
  3. Food: Offer a variety of insects, such as crickets or flies, to meet their dietary needs

Overall, it’s crucial to research and understand the specific care requirements of a golden silk spider before considering it as a pet.

Other Fascinating Facts

Golden silk spiders, also known as banana spiders or giant wood spiders, are an intriguing species of spiders. They belong to the family Nephilidae and are found in various regions such as:

  • Madagascar
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • Americas

Their distribution is quite extensive, and they are easily identified by their striking color pattern and large size.

Here are some fascinating facts about golden silk spiders;

  • Vision: These spiders have excellent vision, which helps them detect prey and navigate through their environment.
  • Vibrations: Golden silk spiders can sense vibrations on their webs, allowing them to locate trapped prey.
  • Jump: While not known for their jumping abilities, these spiders are agile and can move quickly when threatened.
  • Araneidae vs. Nephilidae: While both are in the class Araneae, golden silk spiders are part of the Nephilidae family, as opposed to the Araneidae family which includes common orb-weaving spiders.
  • Fond of spinning: They are known for producing large, complex webs made of their golden silk, which exhibits unique properties, making it a subject of interest in nature genetics research.

A comparison of the golden silk spider with a common orb-weaver spider in the Araneidae family:

FeatureGolden Silk SpiderCommon Orb-Weaver
Web Silk ColorGoldenWhite
SizeLargerSmaller
DistributionWiderVaries
FamilyNephilidaeAraneidae

Conclusion

Golden silk spiders might seem intimidating due to their appearance, but their mild venom poses little threat to people.

Their distinct golden silk and expert web designs contribute to the delicate balance of ecosystems by controlling insect populations.

Understanding their behavior, habitat, and role can help us appreciate these arachnids as beneficial inhabitants of our surroundings.

Through informed awareness, we can coexist harmoniously with these unique and captivating creatures.

To sum it up, golden silk spiders are remarkable creatures with a unique set of features, making them an interesting subject for research and observation.

Their distribution, color pattern, and web-spinning abilities set them apart from other spiders in the arachnid world.

Footnotes

  1. Entomology and Nematology Department – Golden Silk Spider 2

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Golden Silk Spider: AKA Banana Spider

Is this a banana spider?
December 12, 2009
Hi! I found this big spider in my house, this is the first time I see one of this kind, I saw one in this website named banana spider, but the tale looks different, is it poisonous?
luigitec
Mexico

Golden Silk Spider
Golden Silk Spider

Dear luigitec,
The common name Banana Spider is used for more than one species of spider.  To be truly accurate, you should refer to the species in your photograph as a female Nephila clavipes. 

The most frequently used common name is Golden Silk Spider.  It is also called a Banana Spider, but that name is shared with Heteropoda venatoria, a species of Hunstman Spider. 

It is unclear why Nephila clavipes is called a Banana Spider, though it may be because of the yellow banana-shaped abdomen.  Heteropoda venatoria received its name because it was frequently found with shipments of bananas where it was mistaken for a Tarantula. 

Nephila clavipes, like all spiders, have venom, but it is not considered dangerous to humans.  There are reports of small birds becoming entangled in the webs of Nephila clavipes, and becoming meals for the spiders. 

The golden silk of the web is extremely strong.

Letter 2 – Orbweaver from Taiwan

Large spider in Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan
Location: Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan
January 17, 2011 1:14 am
Saw this large spider alongside a mountain road in northern Taiwan. Did quite a bit of searching, but my Google-fu is not up to the task.
Signature: Las

Orbweaver

Dear Las,
This is a Golden Silk Spider in the genus
Nephila, however we are uncertain of the exact species. Nephila pilipes is documented in Taiwan, however, the markings are different in the images that are posted online. 

The silk spun by the Golden Silk Spiders is quite strong, and there are numerous reports of Golden Silk Spiders snaring and feeding upon small birds that get entangled in the webs made of golden silk.

Correction
2011/01/17 at 11:04 pm
I searched the web in Chinese and found this picture to be a good match. The linked picture is an adult female of Argiope ocula (眼點金蛛 in Chinese, or Eye-spotted Golden Spider, translated literally):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/spideryang/2863674849/


Adult males and immature of this species have very different color patterns in the abdomen.
tan2

Thanks for the correction.  We wish we could verify this on a reputable website.

Letter 3 – Golden Silk Spider: Grossly exaggerated

over a foot long with leg length, color is mustard and black on legs
September 11, 2009
This spider is huge! Its web is thick as a thin rope. I see them all throughout the woods here in Valdosta Georgia.


from what that bug
Valdosta, Georgia, United States

Golden Silk Spider:  Scale distortion
Golden Silk Spider: Scale distortion

Dear from whats that bug,
We are highly amused by the gross exaggeration in your letter.  This is a Golden Silk Spider, Nephila clavipes, which is sometimes called a Banana Spider.  They are native to the Southeast U.S. and range into South America. 

They are harmless.  They are big spiders, but nowhere near the size you indicate.  Your photo is a wonderful example of how photography can be used to fool the eye by eliminating depth cues and distorting the actual scale relationship between two objects. 

The spider is much closer to the camera and its distance relative to the person is greater than what the photo leads one to believe.  This same scale distortion was used several years ago in a widely distributed image on the internet of a Camel Spider in Iraq

The quality of that image was much better than the low-resolution, blurry image you have submitted, so we don’t expect your photo to go viral, creating mass hysteria among arachnophobes.

Letter 4 – Golden Silk Spiders Cohabitate

Banana Spider Family
Hi Bugman,
I like your site. It answered a couple of what kind is that spider questions for me that I was unable to find out anywhere else. I live in Jacksonville FL.

These banana spiders really liked the bug traffic my front porch light drew in the fall last year and it was great to have them there for the trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

I ended up having to move them however because some of my houseguests would literally freak out and refuse to walk under them. Alas after moving them to a nearby bush they were around for only about a week longer and disappeared.

I have seen a lot of brown widows, black widows, orb weavers, and a few brown recluses in and around my home. Thanks for an interesting and informative website.
Jim A.

Hi Jim,
What a great photograph. The diminutive spider on the right is the much smaller male Banana Spider or Golden Silk Spider. The tiny males live on the periphery of the much larger female’s web. The female on the left appears to not have a mate.

Letter 5 – Golden Silk Spiders: Courting Couple

What kind of spider is this?
This spider has made a web outside the bedroom window. I was unable to identify it online. We live in N. Central FL. Thanks!

We are shocked and dismayed that you emailed us from our website and you didn’t notice the prominently posted photo of a gorgeous Nephila clavipes, the Golden Silk Spider, also known as the Banana Spider, on our homepage.

We also have upward of thirty images of this very distinctive species in our spider archives. In our most recent posting, we discussed the marked sexual dimorphism as the female is about 100 the body mass of her diminutive mate. Your photo is of a pair.

Letter 6 – Golden Silk Spiders Mating

Orb weaver nookie
Sun, Oct 26, 2008 at 10:57 AM
Just wanted to share a picture of the two Orb weavers we shared our patio with this summer. We live in Charleston, SC. We named them Lilith and Frasier. Unfortunately, Lilith disappeared about a week after this photo was taken.
Amy
Charleston, SC

Golden Silk Spider Courtship
Golden Silk Spider Courtship

Hi Amy,
What an amazing photo of a pair of Golden Silk Spiders, Nephila clavipes.  We are not sure who was named Lilith, but the larger of the pair is the female.  We would think that it would have been the smaller male that vanished.

Letter 7 – Mating Banana Spiders, Argiope appensa, from Guam

Argiope and suiter, strange behavior, and Proud momma mantid
Bugman,
Thought you might like some pics from Guam. 12 is one of my many Orb-weavers (not sure of the species) and the first time I’ve seen one with a roommate so far.

15 is the same female hanging upside down from the web in the rain. I’ve seen her do this a couple of times when it’s raining. I’m guessing it’s to prevent drowning?

I thought it was dead the first time I saw it, but she was back in her web after the rain stopped. Again tonight, she was hang-drying herself. I particularly like this picture, the raindrops clinging to her body are pretty sexy don’t you think?

14 is a manti(s/d, which is plural?) taking a breather after laying eggs. We never have to worry about the temp dropping so far as to cause the eggs to go dormant. What is the incubation period if the temp stays at the hatching temperature?


Charles

Hi Charles,
Time will only allow us to post one of your images, and we are very fond of the mating Argiope appensa, commonly called the Banana Spider on Guam. The female spider has a much greater mass than her dimutive mate.

Spiders in the genus Argiope nearly always hang upside-down in the web, regardless of rain.

Letter 8 – Pair of Golden Silk Spiders

Subject:  (Red) golden orb weaver?
The geographic location of the bug:  Mexico, Riviera Maya
Date: 10/06/2017
Time: 05:19 PM EDT
I believe this is a female golden orb weaver, with the male sitting close by.
Except she’s red?
I read this could be due to a fungus.
Any ideas?
How do you want your letter signed:  Nick Mumby

Pair of Golden Silk Spiders

Dear Nick,
We know this spider,
Nephila clavipes, but the common names Golden Silk Spider or Banana Spider, and it is a different species from the Golden Orbweaver, Argiope aurantia.  We know nothing of the red color is due to fungus. 

This BugGuide image also depicts an individual with reddish coloration.  It might be just individual variation.  We agree that your image also depicts the diminutive male sharing the web with his much larger mate.

Letter 9 – Pair of Golden Silk Spiders

Very large mommy and babies (?) in Ocala FL area
Mon, Dec 29, 2008 at 5:41 PM
Hello! Love your site!!
Last summer, we were driving across FL and stopped in Ocala at a large truck stop. This mommy and what I believe was a baby or siblings had a HUGE web built behind a BBQ stand.

The biggest was about 6″ end to end and the smaller (in the second picture) was about 4″ long. Can you identify them (so we know if we should avoid them in the future) 🙂 Or just take cool pics from afar.
Lauren in NPR FL
Ocala FL

Pair of Golden Silk Spiders
Pair of Golden Silk Spiders

Hi Lauren,
Your assumption that this Golden Silk Spider was tending to her young is understandable but incorrect.  The large female Golden Silk Spider, Nephila clavipes, dwarfs her mate by being as much as 100 times his mass. 

Golden Silk Spiders are not dangerous, but we imagine that they might bite if threatened, but there would be no lasting effects of the bite beyond local pain and swelling.

Letter 10 – Pair of Golden Silk Spiders from Tanzania

Subject:  Unknown Spider from East Africa
Geographic location of the bug:  Manyara, Tanzania
Date: 04/03/2021
Time: 02:28 AM EDT
Your letter to the Bugman:  Hello, looking to try and identify this spider. It is approximately 4″. You cannot access the spider to take a picture of its topside.
Thank you,
How you want your letter signed:  Joshua Johnston

Female (larger and on left) and male Golden Silk Spiders

Dear Joshua,
Look closely at the silk of the web and you will understand why the common name of spiders in the genus
Nephila is Golden Silk Spider.  The female on the left is about 50 times the size of her diminutive mate on the right.

Wow, so interesting.  Thanks for the quick reply.
Joshua

Letter 11 – Possibly Spider Egg-Sac on Bananas

for breakfast
so i get up one morning and find _something_ on my bananas. suffice to
say, i didn’t know what it was…
get reborn,
-Justin

Hi Justin,
It looks like you might have the egg sac of some species of spider on your very ripe bananas.

Letter 12 – Unidentified green Golden Silk Spider

Subject:  Nephila species
The geographic location of the bug:  dunno
Date: 02/04/2018
Time: 12:33 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I visited the insect collection at the University of Minnesota and they had a very large Nephila that was totally green.  Since it’s not an insect they had not bothered with any provenance! 

I have a thing for Nephila and have seen them on several continents, but never saw one like this.  Do you know a species or where it might be from?
Thanks!
How you want your letter signed: Scott

Golden Silk Spider, but what species???

Dear Scott,
We are surprised the University of Minnesota could not provide you with at least a location where this impressive Golden Silk Spider was collected. 

We suspect the colors might have changed from what they were when it was alive, but if anything, the green may have been even more vivid. 

We will post your image and perhaps one of our readers will have more luck than we have had scouring the internet.

Letter 13 – Unknown Swallowtail eaten by Golden Silk Spider in Tanzania

Tanzanian Butterfly
Hi, I took this picture of a feeding butterfly in Tanzania last year and was wondering what it was. I also included photos of a different butterfly (though I think of the same species) being eaten by what I think is a golden orb spider Many Thanks

Your butterfly is a Swallowtail, probably in the genus Papilio. The spider is a Golden Silk Spider in the genus Nephila. We did some cursory research to try to identify the species, but we didn’t have much luck.

That could take hours. Perhaps one of our readers can supply the information. At any rate, the shots of the Golden Silk Spider capturing and feeding on the Swallowtail are phenomenal.

Update: (05/27/2008)
I think the African butterfly caught by the silk spider may be a milkweed butterfly rather than a swallowtail. I’ll try to get a positive ID at some point later today.
Eric Eaton

Updated Update: (05/28/2008)
Daniel:
Wow, I owe you a big apology! You were correct, the butterfly victim of the Nephila spider really is a swallowtail, likely a subspecies of Graphium angolanus.

It is likely a mimic of one of the milkweed butterflies, hence my confusion:-) I think you’d better let Julian do all the leps from now on! Eric

Letter 14 – Unnatural Golden Silk Spider

Subject: Large Red Spider and Red Web
Location: Weber, Florida
September 26, 2013 5:11 pm
Hi,
A friend of mine lives in Florida. As she went out to get in the vehicle, she almost ran directly into this red spider. None of us know what type of spider this is, as we have never seen a red spider or one that spins a red web.

Could you help me to Identify this one, and tell us if it is poisonous or not? Thank You so Much!
Signature: Madonna

Unnatural Red Glow Filter on Golden Silk Spider
Unnatural Red Glow Filter on Golden Silk Spider

Dear Madonna,
The unnatural red glow on this Golden Silk Spider,
Nephila clavipes, is quite jarring, but not as jarring as the Pest truck in the background with haf of its logo cropped out. 

 Golden Silk Spiders are not considered dangerous, but we are quite convinced they have very strong fangs that will easily pierce human skin.  Read about Old World Golden Silk Spiders.

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.

4 thoughts on “Are Golden Silk Spiders Poisonous? Debunking Myths and Facts”

Leave a Comment