The Golden Orbweaver, scientifically named Trichonephila clavipes, is a fascinating spider that has piqued the curiosity of many nature enthusiasts. Known for its striking appearance and impressive web-spinning skills, it can be found across the southeast United States all the way to Argentina and Peru.
These spiders can reach up to 3 inches long and have a unique diet mainly consisting of small insects such as grasshoppers and flies. Their webs showcase intricate patterns and make an interesting addition to the natural landscapes they inhabit.
Golden Orbweaver Overview
Identification and Appearance
The Golden Silk Orb Weaver (Trichonephila clavipes) is a notable spider species in the nephila family. Some key features of their appearance include:
- Size: Up to 3 inches long
- Color: Varying shades of yellow, orange, and brown
- Legs: Long, slender, with feathery bristles
These spiders can be easily recognized by their vibrant colors and large size compared to other orb-weaving spiders.
Habitats and Range
Golden Silk Orb Weavers inhabit a vast range, extending from the south-east United States all the way to Argentina and Peru. They can often be found in:
These spiders build their webs in areas with abundant insect prey, such as grasshoppers and flies.
Golden Silk and Web Structure
Golden Silk Orb Weavers are best known for their unique golden silk, which is not only visually appealing, but also boasts incredible strength. The silk has several remarkable properties:
- Color: Yellow-gold hue
- Strength: Comparable to steel
- Flexibility: Can stretch up to 140% of its original length
The web structure consists of a large, spiraling pattern with a dome-like shape. The golden silk allows the web to blend in with its surroundings, improving its effectiveness in catching prey.
Behavior and Biology
Diet and Prey
The Golden Orbweaver is mainly an insectivorous spider, feeding on a variety of small insects. Some examples of its diet include:
Their webs are strung between trees and bushes in forests, gardens, and other natural environments, making them efficient at capturing prey, such as flying insects that enter their webs.
Reproduction and Mating
Golden Orbweavers reproduce sexually, with the male and female meeting to perform their mating rituals. Here is a summary of their reproduction process:
- The female is significantly larger than the male, with an average size of up to 3 inches long.
- Mating usually occurs at night.
- After mating, the female lays eggs and guards them until they hatch.
- Spiderlings emerge from the eggs and disperse into the surrounding environment.
|Up to 3 inches long
|Golden-colored body & web
|Brown, black, or multi-colored
|Insects and small invertebrates
|Forests, gardens, trees
|Average of 1-2 years
The presence of Golden Orbweavers in an ecosystem can be beneficial as they help control pest populations by preying on various insects. Moreover, their stunning appearance and large, golden webs make them an interesting sight in gardens and forests.
Interactions with Humans
As a Pet and in Captivity
The Golden Orbweaver, also known as Trichonephila clavipes or banana spiders, can be found in various countries like Australia, Madagascar, Canada, and Mexico, typically in areas with warm temperatures. While they are not commonly kept as pets, they can be found in captivity, such as in insect exhibitions and zoos. They require the following conditions to thrive:
- Warm temperature
- Space to build their webs
- Food supply, such as small insects like flies and grasshoppers
The Venomous Bite and Its Effects
Although the Golden Orbweaver is venomous, they are known to be non-aggressive. Their bite is not fatal, but it can cause local pain, blisters, and other mild symptoms. Here’s a comparison between the Orbweaver’s bite and a bee sting:
|Golden Orbweaver Bite
|Mild to severe pain
|Non-fatal unless allergic
Golden Orbweaver Silk in Fabric
Golden Orbweaver spiders produce a distinctive silk with some exceptional characteristics:
- High strength
- Golden color
Their silk is so impressive that it has caught the attention of researchers and the textile industry. The spider silk is used to create a unique fabric that combines the strength and elasticity of graphene and carbon nanotubes. Some potential applications include:
- Clothing materials
- Biodegradable sutures
- Artificial tendons and ligaments
In conclusion, although the Golden Orbweaver spider can be venomous, it is generally non-aggressive and rarely poses a threat to humans. With its unique silk’s potential applications in various industries, it is an interesting species that continues to amaze and fascinate those who study it.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Writing Spider: Immature Golden Orb Weaver with Stabilimentum
beautiful spider on fancy web
I took a picture of this spider in June on Skidaway Island, GA. Its web is amazing, I’ve never come across one of these fellas before and I don’t believe I’ve seen it in your many spiders pages. Some sort of argiope? Any idea?
The lable on your JPG file is correct. This is a spider in the genus Argiope. Argiope Spiders are sometimes called Writing Spiders because of the stabilimentum pattern woven into the web. This is thought to be a camouflage device, which is obvious in your image. We checked BugGuide and found a nearly identical image with this information provided by Bob Patterson: “Argiope Spider….. …. probably an immature (based on the stabilamenta pattern in the web), and possibly the species A. aurantia, based on comparison with photos in Thomas Eisner’s fine book ‘For Love of Insects.’ ” So, it would seem you have an immature female Golden Orb Weaver.
Letter 2 – Immature Golden Orbweaver
Might be a Silver Orb Weaver?
Location: near Savannah, GA
June 14, 2011 2:32 pm
We get a lot of orchard spiders and gold silk orb weavers, but this guy is different. I can’t seem to find clear pictures of a Silver (Argiope argentata) to compare him to. What do you think?
Signature: Red Chloe
Dear Red Chloe,
We are trying unsuccessfully to put a dent in all the identification requests that were sent to us in the past week while we were out of the office. This is an immature Golden Orbweaver, Argiope aurantia, which you may compare to this image posted on BugGuide. The Stabilimentum that this individual has woven into its web is distinctive, though the pattern changes as the spider matures. The Stabilimentum is thought to act as a camouflage for the spider, though its exact purpose is not clearly understood. Many members of the genus Argiope spin a stabilimentum and this has given rise to the common name Writing Spider.
Letter 3 – Juvenile Writing Spider: Golden Orbweaver
Subject: White Banded Fishing Spider??
Geographic location of the bug: Port Richey, Pasco County, FL
Time: 08:24 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I am usually able to figure out the cool creatures we find in our backyard (a bug thanks in part to your website), but with this webbing, I’m not quite sure.
How you want your letter signed: Krsrksflordialife
Fishing Spiders do not build webs with which to snare prey, but rather they only build nursery webs for their young. This is a juvenile Writing Spider, a name given to orbweavers that also spin intricate structures called stabilimenta within the web. In our opinion, with the support of this BugGuide image, we believe your Writing Spider is an immature Golden Orbweaver, Argiope aurantia. Perhaps you are already familiar with the conspicuous adult Golden Orbweaver.
Letter 4 – Korean Golden Orb Web Spider: mating and solo
I too like many others “fell upon” your site, and after enjoying the photos and interesting info remembered that I have a spider without an ID. I took this in the fall of 03 while I was attending a retreat on the east side of the country South Korea. During my 2 months there I got a chance to observe these spiders. They didn’t seem too active, but one of them went through about 4 mates before she got “hitched”. No one there new what kind they were but there were 8 of them around the front yard. The webs were around 3-4 feet in diameter and spread from tree to tree. I have never been interested in spiders but these ones caught me in their web. Please help me put a name to my new friends.
Thanks Mari Baerman
Bucheon, South Korea
What wonderful photos of Nephila clavata, the Golden Orb Web Spider. We have one spider in this genus in the U.S. called the Golden Silk Spider, Nephila clavipes. We are wondering if the common name for the Korean spider also refers to the color of the silk. Our species also has the drastic size difference between the diminutive male and the female who can be as much as 100 times his weight.
Letter 5 – Goldenrod Spider
I have one more photo I thought I’d seek your advice on. From what I’ve seen on your website, I’m pretty sure this is a crab spider. I saw mention of the name goldenrod spider. I’m not sure if these are all Interchangeable… Either way, this spider has made a nice little home for itself on one of my rose bushes. Hopefully it’s been eating some of the nasty caterpillars that have also decided to move in. I’m not big on killing bugs, but caterpillars decimated one of my rose bushes this summer. So before my other two bushes met the same fate, I started to pluck and squish any caterpillars I found eating my rose leaves. There were quite a few. Thanks for any help you can give me on identifying this spider.
We are going to use your letter to help in clarification. All biological species are named according to the Linnean binomial system or Binomen. In addition to the traditional kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species, there are subcategories like tribes, subfamilies, and subspecies. The scientific binomen is made up of the capitalized genus name followed by the lower case species name. All logic is thrown out the window with common names. Crab Spider is a common name that refers to the spiders in the family Thomisidae. Your spider is a Crab Spider, Misumena vatia, which is also commonly called the Goldenrod Spider or Flower Spider. Crab Spider is more generic, but is also correct.
Letter 6 – Mating Golden Orbweavers
Male and Female Golden Orbweavers
Location: Medina County, TX
December 3, 2010 12:11 am
Hi,I thought you guys might want to see what I found. I found them at the end of summer. Keep up the good work!
Signature: Bug Hugger
Dear Bug Hugger,
Thank you so much for providing our readership with a photograph of a pair of Golden Orbweavers, Argiope aurantia. We have countless images of the gorgeous female spider with her distinctive markings, but this may be the only image of a male of the species posted to our site. It is positively marvelous that your camera was handy to capture this amorous pair. The large female easily grabss the attention of even the most distracted person due to her size and black and yellow markings, but the diminutive male generally gets overlooked.
Letter 7 – Pair of Golden Orb Weavers
Golden Orb Spiders
Your website has been invaluable to me this past year as my 6-year-old daughter and I have been learning to identify the bugs we’ve come across. We saw this beautiful pair of spiders last week and I thought the photo came out great. When you enlarge it, the detail (hairy legs, etc) is wonderful. I believe it is a pair of Golden Orb Spiders. Thank you for the wonderful work you do!
Your amazing image shows the marked sexual dimorphism exhibited by Argiope aurantia, the Golden Orb Weaver. The much larger female dwarfs her mate who shares her web as he avoids being eaten until the opportunity arrises to consumate the mating act.
Letter 8 – Red Legged Golden Orb Spider from South Africa
Subject: orb spider?
Location: Ballito, KZN, South Africa
March 24, 2013 12:34 am
This spider in in an outdoor shed in Ballito, KZN, South Africa.
Can you tell me what it is?
Signature: Jeremy Lamb
While trying to determine your Orbweaver’s identity, we found this online article from Wildlife Extra with the headline “New ‘giant’ Golden orb spider discovered in South Africa” describing the discovery of a new species of Nephila in museum collections and they verifying it in the wild. The photo illustrating the article was of Nephila inaurata, which looks surprisingly like your individual, but the article was about a different species, Nephila komaci, that was not pictured. So, while your spider is in the same genus as the newly discovered spider, it is a different species. The Red Legged Golden Orb Spider, Nephila inaurata, is also pictured on BioDiversity Explorer. Spiders in the genus Nephila spin webs made of golden silk.
Letter 9 – taller than a telephone pole: Golden Orb Weaver
hi bugman, my husband found this spider yesterday out in our flower garden. could you let me know if it is harmful or not. thanx. we live in Quinnesec, MI.
Golden Orb Weavers, Argiope aurantia, are harmless, though they might bite if provoked. Your specimen, which appears to be taller than a telephone pole, might do some serious damage. We would definitely run if it came our way.