Banded Garden Spiders, scientifically known as Argiope trifasciata, are fascinating arachnids that can be found in gardens and other outdoor spaces across North America.
These spiders have a distinct appearance, with the females measuring between 13-14.5 millimeters in length, and the males being about one third the size.
They feature elongated abdomens decorated with thin silver and yellow lines as well as thicker black, spotty lines.
The cephalothorax, or head, is small and covered with silvery hairs, making them easily identifiable.
While they may look intimidating, Banded Garden Spiders are actually beneficial creatures to have around.
They help control insect populations, such as flies and mosquitoes, by capturing them in their intricate webs.
As cousins to the black-and-yellow garden spider, Banded Garden Spiders are slightly smaller and have a pointier hind end.
Identification and Physical Features
Color and Size
The Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) is a striking arachnid with a unique appearance. Some of its key characteristics include:
- Color: Black, with white and pale yellow markings
- Size: Females 13-14.5 millimeters in length, males smaller
These variations in size and coloration can help distinguish the Banded Garden Spider from other garden spiders.
Stripes and Spots
The Banded Garden Spider has distinctive stripes and spots that can help identify them:
- Thin silver and yellow transverse lines
- Thick black, spotty lines
These markings are particularly noticeable on the abdomen of the spider.
Abdomen and Legs
The abdomen and legs of the Banded Garden Spider have several unique features:
- Abdomen: Elongated oval with a somewhat pointed posterior
- Legs: Black, with pale yellow bands and elongated humps
- Carapace: Covered with silvery hairs
The combination of these features makes the Banded Garden Spider relatively easy to identify compared to other species.
|Banded Garden Spider
|Yellow Garden Spider
|15-25 mm (females)
|Black, white, yellow
|Stripes and spots
|Thin & thick lines
Distribution and Habitat
Banded Garden Spiders (Argiope trifasciata) are commonly found throughout the United States1. They have been spotted in various states such as:
- New York
Canada and Central America
These spiders have a wide distribution across North America, where their range includes both Canada and Central America2.
Vegetation and Preferred Environment
The Banded Garden Spider prefers to thrive in areas with:
- Tall grasses
Their webs are usually built near the ground where they can catch their preferred prey, which are mainly insects3.
To sum up, the Banded Garden Spider:
- Is found across the United States, Canada, and Central America
- Prefers areas with gardens, fields, shrubs, and tall grasses
- Builds webs close to the ground to catch insects
Diet and Prey
Common Prey Items
The Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) mainly feeds on small insects to maintain their diet. Some common prey items include:
- Flies: These spiders often capture various types of flies in their webs.
- Grasshoppers: They are known to consume grasshoppers as a part of their diet.
The Banded Garden Spider employs an interesting hunting technique involving the construction of large orb-shaped webs.
These webs help them capture and immobilize their prey. Here’s how the web appears:
- Orb-shaped: The spider constructs a circular-shaped web with a zig-zag pattern in the center.
- Sticky: The web has a sticky coating which helps in capturing the prey.
Once the prey is captured in the web, the Banded Garden Spider follows a specific method to consume it:
- Immobilization: The spider quickly paralyzes the captured prey using its venom.
- Wrapping: After immobilizing the prey, the spider wraps it in silk for future consumption.
|Effective at capturing small insects
|Limited to prey available in the web area
Overall, the Banded Garden Spider plays a significant role in controlling pest populations in gardens due to their diverse diet and efficient hunting techniques.
Predators and Defense Mechanisms
Banded Garden Spiders, like other spiders, have predators to be aware of. Some common predators include:
- Wasps: Some wasp species specialize in hunting spiders.
- Lizards: These reptiles often consume spiders as part of their diet.
- Humans: Spiders may be accidentally or intentionally killed by humans, who view them as pests or are afraid of them due to misconceptions.
Venom and Bites
Spiders possess venom to aid in their predation of insects, but the venom of the Banded Garden Spider is usually not harmful to humans.
Comparing a spider bite to a bee sting:
|May cause allergic reaction
However, it’s important to note that individuals may experience varying responses to a Banded Garden Spider bite
In rare cases, an allergic reaction may occur. If bitten, some appropriate measures include:
- Washing the bite area with soap and water.
- Applying ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling.
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary.
Remember, the Banded Garden Spider is not typically aggressive toward humans and will only bite if it feels threatened.
It is best to appreciate these spiders from a safe distance and allow them to continue their helpful roles in controlling garden pests.
Life Cycle and Reproduction
Mating and Egg Sac
Banded garden spiders are fascinating creatures when it comes to reproduction.
Unlike some spider species, the much smaller male garden spider actively courts the female garden spider by plucking strands on her web.
After mating, the female focuses on creating kettledrum-shaped egg sacs 1.
These unique egg sacs have some interesting characteristics:
- Diameter: 3/4 inch
- Egg count: can contain over 1,000 eggs
- Shape: kettledrum
Spiderlings and Growth
The next stage in the life cycle of banded garden spiders involves the emergence of the spiderlings.
These young spiderlings hatch in spring and exhibit a process called ballooning to disperse2.
Ballooning involves the spiderlings using strands of silk to catch the breeze, allowing them to travel to new locations.
As the spiderlings grow, they undergo several molting stages before reaching their full size, when they can eventually reproduce and contribute to the next generation of banded garden spiders.
Web and Behavior
The Banded Garden Spider is known for its unique web structure.
A typical web built by this spider is similar in size and shape to that of the yellow garden spider. However, the web is often devoid of stabilimentum.
The diameter of the web can vary, and orb weavers like the Banded Garden Spider build these intricate structures to catch their prey efficiently.
Ballooning and Dispersal
Another interesting behavior exhibited by the Banded Garden Spider and other orb weavers is ballooning. This technique helps them with dispersal.
Spiders can move from one location to another by catching the wind with their silk threads.
This method allows them to establish new territories, find resources, and mate with other spiders.
Comparison between Banded Garden Spider and Yellow Garden Spider webs:
|Banded Garden Spider
|Yellow Garden Spider
|Absent or variable
The web and behavior of the Banded Garden Spider allow it to survive and thrive in various environments, making it an effective and adaptable predator.
Comparisons with Other Spiders
Yellow Garden Spider
The Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) is a large orb-weaving spider commonly found in gardens, and it is often mistaken for the Banded Garden Spider. Here are some differences between the two:
Banded Orb-Weaving Spider
Web construction: Both Yellow Garden and Banded Garden spiders create orb-shaped webs. However, Yellow Garden spiders are also known as Writing Spiders due to the trademark vertical zig-zag pattern they construct in their webs6.
Habitat: These spiders are typically found building their webs in gardens or tall grassy areas7 .
Behavior: They are shy creatures and pose no threat to humans8.
|Yellow Garden Spider
|Banded Garden Spider
|Up to 28 mm
|15 to 25 mm
|Prominent black and yellow pattern
|Thin silver and yellow lines
|Vertical zig-zag pattern
|Regular orb-shaped web
Interesting Garden Spider Facts
The Banded Garden Spider is an impressive arachnid. It is often known as the writing spider due to the intricate zig-zag patterns they form in their webs.
Moreover, the spider is excellent at controlling mosquitoes and other pests in gardens and does not pose any significant harm to humans.
In summarizing this article, it is important to underscore the the Banded Garden Spider’s ecological contributions.
Characterized by their distinctive patterning in hues of silver, yellow, and black, these arachnids serve a pivotal role in regulating populations of various insects, including flies and grasshoppers.
Their geographical distribution spans the United States, Canada, and Central America, with a liking for environments rich in gardens, fields, and tall grasses.
The construction of their orb-shaped webs, coated with a sticky substance, exemplifies natural engineering and is highly effective in prey capture.
Although they are venomous, their venom generally poses minimal risk to humans.
Therefore, upon encountering these spiders, one would do well to recognize their integral role in ecological balance.
- Banded Garden Spider – Penn State Extension ↩ ↩2 ↩3
- Banded Garden Spider | Missouri Department of Conservation ↩ ↩2 ↩3
- yellow garden spider – Entomology and Nematology Department ↩ ↩2
- Entomology and Nematology Department ↩
- Penn State Extension ↩
- Entomology and Nematology Department ↩
- UMN Extension ↩
- UMN Extension ↩
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about banded garden spiders. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Banded Garden Orbweaver
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
December 3, 2011 9:55 pm
I came home today to find this spider on my front porch. I’ve never seen one like this before. It has large fangs! Do you know what it is? It’s body is about 1 inch long. This picture does no justice for the vividness of the colors.
Signature: Lucretia in California
This beautiful spider is a Banded Garden Orbweaver, Argiope trifasciata. It is considered harmless, though it is possible it might bite a person if carelessly handled, though the bite would normally just cause local soreness and swelling.
Letter 2 – Banded Garden Orbweaver
Subject: Spider in Ontario Canada
Location: Goderich Ontario
November 18, 2016 5:33 pm
Found this spider on the wall outside work today. Was pretty docile, and no web in sight, but quite pretty! Got several pictures from different angles, so I’m really hoping they’re good enough.
I included one zoomed out photo to try and indicate scale. I’m thinking he must’ve been in one of the shipments we got this week since we’re setting up a new store, but either way he was an awesome spider to see!
This is a Banded Garden Orbweaver or Banded Argiope, Argiope trifasciata, and it is a local species for you as it ranges over most of North America.
Orbweavers mature in a single season, hatching in the spring and growing through the summer, attaining maturity and full size in the fall when they generally attract all the attention.
Like other members of the family, this Banded Garden Orbweaver spends most of its time in its web, unless the web is destroyed or it is pursued by a predator.
Orbweavers are perfectly harmless, though a large individual is capable of biting. The venom should have little more effect than local swelling and tenderness.
Letter 3 – Banded Garden Orbweaver
Subject: Yellow Garden Spider
Geographic location of the bug: Lake Bluff, Illinois
Time: 09:55 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I work in a landscape garden and we get lots of spiders, mostly cross spiders, so I was happy to come across this beauty.
I grew up having them in my mom’s garden, so it really did make me smile. Hopefully the pictures are worthy of sharing.
How you want your letter signed: Karin
Your images of a Banded Garden Orbweaver, Argiope trifasciata, are beautiful. According to BugGuide, the habitat is: “Open areas, old fields, etc. with tall grass. Webs tend to be more hidden than those of aurantia, and the preferred habitat is said to be drier.”
Letter 4 – Banded Garden Spider
September 25, 2009
I sent an email a little while ago (today) asking about a spider in my yard. My mother has since emailed me this name. When I search your site, I see one similar, but am not sure if it’s the same as the spider I sighted in Oregon yesterday.
I’ll attach my pics again.
Sarah in Oregon
lynx or orbweaver spider?
September 25, 2009
My son, 6, found this spider hanging on one of our porch rails yesterday. We took some pics, but I don’t have a good identification system for spiders.
He/she did seem to let out some sort of webbing when the cat knocked him from the step. No worries, this critter escaped safely under the porch! I know you can help us bug-geniuses!
Sarah in Oregon
Thanks so much for attaching your images a second time. Your spider is in the same genus as Argiope bruennichi, but it is the native Banded Garden Spider, Argiope trifasciata. This is a harmless, wide ranging species in North America. Argiope bruennichi is native to Europe.
Letter 5 – Banded Garden Spider
Golden Orb Weaver?
September 24, 2009
I just found this beautiful spider (about three inches long including the legs)… s/he built a web in the mint in my front yard. Am I right in guessing this is a golden orb weaver?
Heather in IN
Your spider is not a Golden Orbweaver, but another species in the same genus, the Banded Garden Spider.
Letter 6 – Banded Garden Spider
spider/crab thing idk
November 11, 2010 6:20 pm
found this picture and i have noooo clue what it is?? can you please infor me?
Signature: Jillian Watson
In our opinion, this appears to be a Banded Garden Spider, Argiope trifasciata. You can compare your image to the images on BugGuide.
Orbweavers in the genus Argiope are impressive spiders that attract much attention. They are not considered to be dangerous, though it is possible they may bite if carelessly handled.
Letter 7 – Banded Garden Spider snares Honey Bee
Subject: Banded Garden Spider?
Location: Hialeah, Florida
September 8, 2016 7:43 am
I *think* this is a female Banded Garden Spider. I first saw it on August 14 and at first thought it was a tree snail due to the appearance of the back. The body was more than an inch long, and it stayed in its web in the same place for weeks, catching bees.
I was rather hoping there would be a lot of baby spiders later, but a few weeks later there were 2 days of torrential rain during which time I didn’t look for her & when I did look, she was gone, leaving an intact web and no clue as to her disappearance.
The third photo was one of a lucky series- I was taking a picture of her holding a webbed up bee when another bee landed in the web. She was on that second bee so fast I had to scramble to get pics! (I’ll send 3 more of the series in another query.)Spider webbing up caught bee.
I chose these out of the series because one shows the bee clearly, and the other two do a fair job of showing the spinnerets in action.
Signature: Curious in Florida
Dear Curious in Florida,
Thanks for sending in your wonderful images of a Banded Garden Spider or Banded Orbweaver, Argiope trifasciata. They are an excellent addition to our archives.
Letter 8 – Banded Orb Weaver
Unknown large spider
Sun, Nov 2, 2008 at 5:41 PM
I have used your site for a few years now and love it. A great resource. I found this spider today (Nov. 2, 2008) near the four corners/Monument Valley, close to Mexican Hat, Utah. It was larger than a Black Widow, about the size of a half dollar.
And as you can see in the photo it has a large abdomen, maybe the size of a small grape. Very strong web. The closest I found on your site is a banded orb weaver but this is not quite the same and we saw no zig zag in its web.
Mexican Hat, Utah
Sorry about the delay, but between our convention trip with students and the elections, we fell behind in responses. We are finally returning to older letters we never opened.
We agree with your first assumption that this is a Banded Orb Weaver, Argiope trifasciata. Often the markings of desert creatures are lighter to better reflect light, preventing overheating.
BugGuide indicates that the stabilimentum of the web is less prominent than the Golden Orb Weaver, but some information on BugGuide explaining this is truncated. This truly is a stunning individual.
Letter 9 – Banded Orbweaver
Golden Orb Weaver?
Location: northern Illinois
January 21, 2011 12:17 pm
Long time fan of the site. I photographed this spider in northern Illinois over the 2009 summer. She would get agitated if I got too close to her web and start wobbling back and forth and shaking her web.
I think it is a Golden Orb Weaver but would like your confirmation, as it doesn’t look exactly like any of the ones listed on your site..i.e. it’s pretty fat and oval shaped, and has a striped pattern on the legs. Thanks!
Signature: Amy in Illinois
This is a Banded Orbweaver, Argiope trifasciata, not a Golden Orbweaver, but your error is quite understandable since they are in the same genus and share many similarities.
Excellent! She was a beauty, and of course we just observed and left her to her business. Exact location was Stillman Valley, Illinois. Thank you very much as I know you’re very busy!!!
Letter 10 – Banded Orbweaver
Subject: Terrified in Northern California
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
December 1, 2015 3:38 pm
Found this spider on my back fence. Curious to know what type this is.
Signature: Nervous in San Francisco Bay Area
Calm yourself. Though it is large, brightly colored and somewhat frightening, this Banded Orbweaver, Argiope trifasciata, is perfectly harmless.
Orbweavers seldom leave their webs, so this gal must have been evicted. They have very mild venom and they are very reluctant to bite people.
Letter 11 – Banded Orbweaver
Subject: Unknown spider
Location: South central idaho
September 1, 2016 10:44 am
I found this spider and several people have been wondering what species it is. The size reference is the large canning lid underneath.
We just finished posting another image of a Banded Orbweaver, a harmless spider species from an entire family that is considered harmless. Your image is much more detailed than the one we just posted.
Letter 12 – Banded Orbweaver from Canada
Subject: Unusual insect
Location: Toronto, Canada
September 2, 2016 12:27 pm
Hi there. I found this in my yard in Toronto, Canada on September 2nd. We’ve nevet seen anything like it.
This is a Banded Orbweaver, Argiope trifasciata, a member of a family of spiders that is considered harmless, though a large individual might bite if carelessly handled. Orbweavers rarely leave the security of their webs. For the record, spiders are NOT insects.
Thank you for your reply, Daniel.
I am aware that spiders are not insects, but the one that we have here has 6 legs not 8 and the markings are entirely different.
Hello again Elena,
Please inspect your blurry image more closely, and you will see that the front two pairs of legs are being held together in a manner often employed by Orbweavers while hanging in the web, as depicted in this BugGuide image.
What is most unusual regarding your blurry image is that your individual is not hanging up-side-down, which is the typical position used by Orbweavers perched in the middle of their webs while awaiting prey.
Letter 13 – Banded Orbweaver is Double Amputee
Subject: Super cool spider
Geographic location of the bug: Ontario, Canada
Time: 12:04 PM EDT
We found this beautiful lady while on a walk- she is pretty striking but looks a little different than our native yellow and black garden spider. Can you confirm the type? I have been googling and those stripes sure look an awful lot like a wasp spider.
How you want your letter signed: JJ
Members of the genus are also called Writing Spiders because of the intricate, often zig-zag stabilimentum that is woven into the web, probably to help camouflage the spider while it waits for prey.
It appears that your individual is a double amputee as she is missing two of her front legs.
Letter 14 – Banded Orbweaver eats Grasshopper
spider wrapping large prey
Fri, Oct 10, 2008 at 10:45 PM
haven’t heard back about the previous ID but i found what is seemingly a different golden orb weaver in the tomatoes again and wanted to share these photos.
i think it’s a different spider because the markings are distinctly different, but it seems to be the same type. still not quite sure about the golden orb weaver ID for these two even though it seems to match because their markings look a bit atypical.
at this point i am just curious (plus i enjoy photographing interesting insects), and mostly wanted to share these up-close-and-personal pics of this spider wrapping her prey (a large grasshopper).
thank you, i appreciate your site. take care,
Your spider is a Banded Orbweaver, whereas your previous spider is a Golden Orbweaver. This is an awesome image of the Banded Orbweaver and its Grasshopper prey.
Letter 15 – Pale Banded Argiope
Subject: DESERT SPIDER
Location: Barstow California
October 28, 2015 12:58 pm
I was walking my dog through the mojave desert when I nearly ran into this guy strung up in his web between a cresote and Russian thistle.
He is the size of a 50¢ piece all stretched out. I thought it was an odd colored male black widow. I have never seen this type of spider before. Can you tell me what it is?
Signature: B slack
Dear B slack,
We believe yours is the first submission we have ever received from Barstow. This is a very pale colored Banded Argiope, Argiope trifasciata, an impressive but harmless species of Orbweaver.
Letter 16 – Unknown Diurnal Moth from Colorado is Black-Banded Orange
tiny diurnal moth
i took this photo a few weeks ago near nederland colorado. it is very tiny and i thought it was a butterfly till i got home and enlarged the photo. i’ve been searching your web site some and also in some books and have not discovered who it is yet.
perhaps you can help. i have appreciated your help in the past and look forward to finding out who this wee one is. thank you so much,
Sadly, we don’t know what your lovely little moth is, but we are bound and determined to get you an answer, just not at the moment. We are going to request assistant from our local Mt Washington expert in Lepidoptera, Julian Donahue.
We can recommend that you try the Moth Photographers Group website for additional research. Please let us know if you find the answer.
This widespread diurnal geometrid is the Black-banded Orange (Macaria truncataria). You can see a good write-up of its distribution (transcontinental northern North America) and biology at: [Entomology Collection]
Letter 17 – White Orb Weaver from Utah: Banded Garden Spider
Black and White orb spider from southern Utah
This orb spider was found in a canyon in Southern Utah. Do you know what kind of orb it is and what areas is it common to be found? Thank you,
We have never seen such a white Orb Weaver. We believe this is the highly variable Neoscona Oaxacensis, the Western Spotted Orb Weaver.
It is a common species in Utah, but the white coloration is not something we have been able to locate in about 30 minutes of web searching. We will see if Eric Eaton has an opinion on this beauty.
Correction: (03/10/2008) Banded Argiope
Also, the “white orb weaver from Utah” is an exceptionally pale specimen of the banded garden spider, Argiope trifasciata.
Specimens of arthropods from arid lands are often much more lightly colored than their counterparts in cooler, wetter places.