Is the Yellow Garden Spider Poisonous? Debunking the Myth and What You Need to Know

folder_openArachnida, Araneae
comment10 Comments

The yellow garden spider, scientifically known as Argiope aurantia, is a large and striking orb-weaving spider that often catches the attention of gardeners. They are also referred to as writing spiders due to the unique zig-zag pattern, or stabilimentum, they weave into their webs. Commonly found in gardens and sunny areas, these spiders are known for their contrasting black and yellow markings on their abdomen, which make them easily identifiable.

Though their appearance might initially cause alarm for some people, the yellow garden spider is not considered poisonous to humans. They do possess venom, as it is necessary for them to immobilize and consume their insect prey such as gnats, mosquitoes, flies, and aphids. However, their venom is not considered medically significant to humans. In fact, these spiders are considered beneficial, as they help control populations of pesky insects in gardens.

Yellow Garden Spider Overview

The yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) is a large orb-weaving spider commonly found in gardens. These spiders are known for their striking appearance and unique web patterns. Some interesting features of yellow garden spiders include:

  • Bright yellow and black coloration
  • Vertical zig-zag pattern, or “writing,” in their webs
  • Non-aggressive behavior toward humans

When comparing Argiope aurantia to other garden spiders, they excel in certain aspects:

Characteristics Yellow Garden Spider Other Garden Spiders
Size Up to 1 inch Usually smaller
Web pattern Zig-zag May vary
Color Yellow and black May vary

However, a key question arises: is the yellow garden spider poisonous? While they do possess venom for capturing prey, their venom is not harmful to humans. In extremely rare cases, a bite might cause mild discomfort, but their bites are generally harmless and they avoid biting humans unless threatened.

So, if you spot a yellow garden spider or a black and yellow garden spider in your garden, there’s no need to worry. They are beneficial creatures, preying on common garden pests, and are safe to coexist with in your outdoor space.

Physical Characteristics and Web Structure

Female Yellow Garden Spider vs Male Yellow Garden Spider

Female yellow garden spiders can reach a length of one inch or more, while males are smaller, typically around 1/3 of the female’s size1. The carapace is silvery-white, and their abdomen exhibits a striking black and yellow pattern. Some examples of physical differences between females and males include:

  • Size: Females are larger, often more than an inch long2.
  • Coloration: Males have a more subdued color pattern compared to the vibrant females3.

Yellow garden spiders, sometimes called writing spiders, corn spiders, or zigzag spiders, are known for their distinctive orb webs. Their webs often feature a stabilimentum, which is a zigzag pattern in the center4.

Egg Sacs and Reproduction

Reproduction in yellow garden spiders involves the female producing egg sacs, which she usually attaches to her web. These egg sacs are:

  • Round in shape.
  • Covered in a protective, brownish silk.
  • Can contain up to 1,000 eggs5.

To summarize, the key information about yellow garden spiders includes:

  • Females are larger and more vibrantly colored than males.
  • They create distinctive orb webs with a zigzag stabilimentum.
  • Reproduction involves the production of egg sacs containing up to 1,000 eggs.

Distribution and Habitat

The yellow garden spider, also known as Argiope aurantia, can be found in various regions across North America, Central America, and even parts of southern Canada1. These spiders are particularly common in gardens and areas with diverse plant life2.

  • North America: Yellow garden spiders are widespread throughout the continent, from Canada to Mexico3.
  • Central America: They are also found in Central American countries, adapting well to the climate4.
  • Southern Canada: Surprisingly, these spiders can thrive in southern Canadian regions despite colder temperatures5.

Considering their habitat, these spiders prefer gardens that offer a rich mix of plants and grass6. This allows them to weave their distinctive zig-zag-patterned webs, which they use for capturing various insects7.

In summary:

Region Presence
North America Widespread, from Canada to Mexico
Central America Found in Central American countries
Southern Canada Can thrive in southern Canadian regions despite the cold
Habitat Prefers gardens with diverse plant life and grassy areas

Diet and Predation

Benefits to Ecosystem and Gardens

The yellow garden spider, also known as Argiope aurantia, mainly feeds on small flying insects which get trapped in their webs. Some common prey items include:

  • Flies
  • Bees
  • Wasps
  • Mosquitoes
  • Aphids
  • Grasshoppers

These spiders play a crucial role in controlling the population of these insects, which can be harmful or annoying to humans and plants 1. By capturing and consuming pests, they help maintain a balanced ecosystem in gardens and other outdoor areas 2.

Predators of Yellow Garden Spiders

Yellow garden spiders also face threats from various predators that feed on the spiders themselves or their spiderlings. These predators consist of:

  • Birds
  • Lizards

These predators keep the spider population in check, ensuring that there is a balance in the ecosystem and the spider population does not get out of control 3.

Below is a comparison table of yellow garden spider prey and predators:

Yellow Garden Spider Prey Predators
Argiope aurantia Flies Birds
Bees Lizards
Wasps
Mosquitoes
Aphids
Grasshoppers

In conclusion, the yellow garden spider is not poisonous to humans. Its venom is harmless to non-allergic humans, roughly equivalent to a bumblebee sting in intensity 4. It plays a vital role in the ecosystem by controlling harmful and annoying insect populations in gardens, while its own population is regulated by birds and lizards that prey on it.

Venom and Effects on Humans

The yellow garden spider might appear intimidating, but it is not considered dangerous to humans. Its venom is primarily designed to impact insects, such as moths, for self-defense and hunting purposes.

A bite from this spider might cause mild symptoms, like swelling and redness. However, in North America, only a few spiders have venom that poses significant risks to people, such as the black widow, brown recluse, and possibly the yellow sac spider. See the table below for comparison:

Spider Venomous to Humans Bite Symptoms
Yellow Garden No Mild
Black Widow Yes Severe
Brown Recluse Yes Severe
Yellow Sac Maybe Moderate to Severe

While some people might fear or be allergic to spiders, it’s worth noting that a yellow garden spider bite is not considered dangerous. In fact, their venom has potential applications in human medicine.

In short:

  • Yellow garden spiders are not poisonous to humans
  • Their bites cause mild symptoms, unlike other venomous spiders
  • Their venom has potential medical applications

Footnotes

  1. Yellow Garden Spider | Arthropod Museum 2 3

  2. Black and Yellow Garden Spider 2 3

  3. Yellow Garden Spider 2 3

  4. Beneficial Yellow Garden Spiders 2 3

  5. Yellow Garden Spider 2

  6. Texas A&M University

  7. University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department

Reader Emails

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 – Black and Yellow Orb Weaver catches hapless Hummingbird

 

Spider with hummingbird
Hey Bugman,
Like everybody else I love this site!! I came home from work yesterday and saw this carnage outside my bedroom window. I had been watching this Golden-Orb Weaver (I call it the zig-zag spider) for days but was shocked at the attached picture. As I lifted the shade to get a better look at the female ruby throated hummingbird I also saw a poor cicada was also trapped in the spiders web. Needless to say this spider will not be hungry for many days. Just thought you might enjoy this picture. Didn’t know if you had ever seen anything like this before. This all took place in College Station, Texas.
Donell S. Frank

Hi Donell,
We are a bit nervous to post your photos (though that won’t stop us) because we fear that they might bring about the demise of numerous Black and Yellow Orb Weavers, Argiope aurantia. This is a most unusual catch for this regal spider, and we know that the nature loving public has a particular fondness for hummingbirds. Nonetheless, this is quite an amazing documentation. Thank you so much for sending the images our way.

Letter 2 – Garden Orb Web Spider from Australia

 

What kind of spider?
Location: Canberra, ACT, Australia
December 17, 2010 9:34 pm
Hi,
I almost walked into this one in my backyard (Canberra, Australia), it had weaved a net across a path in the garden. It was about 3-4cm from top to bottom including the legs. Is it dangerous? Rare? Any information would be interesting! I found it just the other day (2010-12-17 which is summer in Australia)
Signature: Lars

Garden Orb Web Spider

Hi Lars,
Your spider is
Eriophora transmarina, and it is commonly called a Garden Orbweaver, a name shared with several other species around the world.  You can read about this common spider on the Brisbane Insect website.

Garden Orb Web Spider

Thanks Daniel, I appreciate your quick reply!
Knowing what these bugs around us are makes the world a bit more interesting.
Cheers,
Lars

Letter 3 – Garden Orb-Weaver possibly Eriophora transmarina from Australia

 

Unidentified Southern California Spider
Hi,
My name is Susan, and I have been unsuccessful in determining if the spider in my back yard (see attached photo) has a name or is poisonous. It seems very healthy and well fed, and I’d really rather not kill it, though it scares me and I’m not to thrilled about it multiplying…… Any assistance you can provide would be appreciated.
Sincerely,
Susan Castang
Torrance, CA

Hi Susan,
If it wasn’t for that distinctive white stripe, I would have just said you had a harmless generic Orb Weaver, but I thought I would do some web research. I found a site that pictures your spider, and that site originates in Australia. The spider is identified as Eriophora transmarina and was originally Araneus transmarinus. It is still a Garden Orb-Weaver. The site goes on to say that there are many color variations in the species and the white stripe is just one of them. We also have many spiders from this genus in California, as well as related genus Neoscona. They are sometimes very difficult to distinguish from one another. Here are a few possible scenarios for your spider. It is Eriophora transmarina which was introduced from Australia like the Eucalyptus Tree Borer, or it is a native Araneus that also happen to have color variations. Either way, it poses no threat to you and you should let it proliferate in your yard. It will help control flying pests like mosquitos carrying West Nile Virus.

Letter 4 – Garden Spider from Hawaii

 

Argiope Genus?
Greetings!
I just returned from a Hawaiian vacation and found this large spider with beautiful markings (palm-sized, including legs) hanging out in Kauai. An internet search quickly brought me to your site, where I learned that I had probably found a spider in the genus Argiope. I thought that it was perhaps the spider that goes by many names (Orb Weaver, Writer Spider, etc.), but its body is slightly different from those pictured on your site. I then came across the picture taken by "Nick Hobgood," which you dated as 02/26/2006. That spider looks nearly identical to the one that I came across. Here is his picture, followed by mine: And here is the spider that I found: Can you confirm its identification, and can you tell me about that zig-zaggy line that runs through this and other similar spiders’ webs? There were quite a few within the vicinity, and they all had that feature in their webs. Thanks for your expertise!
Becca

Hi Becca,
This is Argiope appensa, commonly called the Garden Spider, though that common name is shared with numerous other species.

Letter 5 – Garden Spider

 

What is this?
Hi.
My wife came to within 1 inch of getting this spider in the face when heading to our bin last night. I had to snap a pic to try to identify this spidy. We are in Australia on the Central Coast of NSW near Wyong, Gosford is about 30 minutes drive south of us. Any help identifying this spider would be appreciated so we know what we have. Cheers
Jason

Hi Jason,
This is one of the Orb Weaving Spiders known as Garden Spiders. We believe it is in the genus Eriophora. There appears to be a degree of variability in the markings. We found an Australian Spider site with many similar looking spiders, but no exact matches.

Letter 6 – Garden Spider

 

Kauai spider
I found this guy while on vacation in Kauai. After browsing your site it seems to be a garden spider similar to one posted in Feb 2004. It took me a while to find because upon first glance I thought it only had 4 legs. Once I saw the posting I figured that he seemed to join his legs together. I had never seen anything like it and thought you might enjoy the photo. Any reason why he positioned the legs like this? Thanks,
Rachel Hunter
San Diego, CA

Hi Rachel,
Argiope appensa is sometimes commonly called a Garden Spider. Several species in the genus Argiope position their legs in this manner. Perhaps it helps to camouflage them in their webs.

Letter 7 – Garden Spider from Hawaii

 

Spiders on Kauai, hawaii
Hi, I found these spiders last week on the hawaiian island of Kauai, and was wondering if you could identify them for me. The green one was very small, but he was pretty conspicious, as he was running across the dirt. Almost flourescent green/yellow. Awesome site you’ve got here. Thanks!
Julie Dixon

Hi Julie,
The Garden Spider, Argiope appensa, is a magnificent specimen. According to Wikipedia, it has been introduced to Hawaii. Your small green spider is a Crab Spider.

Letter 8 – Silver Garden Spider

 

Crazy Spider in San Diego
Hi Bugman,
Here’s a unique spider I found in my yard in San Diego California about 10 miles inland from the coast. Serra Mesa to be exact area code 92123. I’ve never seen anything like it with the bumps or ridges on its abdomen. What is this and is it poisonous? Thanks,
Chris

Hi Chris,
Your spider is a Silver Garden Spider, Argiope argentata. This species can be found in California, the gulf states and the southern U.S. as well as points south into Mexico, Central and South America. All spiders have poison, but the vast majority of them pose no threat to humans. Either the spiders are too small, their jaws will not puncture the skin, or the poison is too weak to cause more than a local reaction similar to a mosquito bite. The Silver Garden Spider is not considered to be a threat to humans. According to Wikipedia: “The bite can be stingy and itchy during the first approximate hour, then the pain usually passes away. However, it may have several health repercussions on children, seniors and physically weak people. “

Letter 9 – Garden Orb Web Spider from Australia

 

Cream coloured spider with red “upper legs”
January 15, 2010
Hi Bugman,
I saw this unusual spider in the middle of the night at a suburban house in Melbourne. It did not seem aggressive, in fact it did not move once while i was there. I have no idea what it is and some web searching has turned up nothing for me. If you could please shed some light on what it is this would be great!
Sorry about the photo…its not as clear as I would have liked but hopefully it is still good enough.
Cheers.
Chris
Melbourne suburbs, Vic

Garden Orb Web Spider

Hi Chris,
The Insects and Spiders of Brisbane website has numerous images of the Garden Orb Web Spider, Eriophora transmarina (Araneus transmarina) that exhibit this color pattern.

Letter 10 – Garden Orbweaver from Australia

 

Subject:  Spider identification
Geographic location of the bug:  Dawesville, western Australia.
Date: 01/19/2019
Time: 08:04 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi there can you please help me identify this Spider. It disappears during the day and on dusk creates a beautiful web everyday. The web is always built in the same place between our house and lemon  tree. Its bright orange with no distinct pattern on the top of the abdomen.
Tonight was the first night I have noticed her hanging in a few lines of web but has not create d one. After looking around I have spotted another smaller orange Spider which I assume is a male. I have attached pictures of both
How you want your letter signed:  Stephanie

Garden Orbweaver

Dear Stephanie,
This is a harmless Orbweaver in the family Araneidae.  We believe it is a Garden Orbweaver, (
Eriophora transmarina or Araneus transmarina) which is pictured on the Brisbane Insect site where it states:  “Garden Orb Web Spiders are nocturnal spiders. They are large size spiders. The mature female spiders are about 50mm (leg to leg) in size. Males are a bit smaller, about 25mm leg to leg. The spiders are brown in colour with variety patterns on their flat abdomen. They build vertical orb web in garden and bushland. The spiders sit in the middle of the web and waiting for insects in night time. They build webs between trees or shrubs. The webs are usually one meter in diameter and about one or two meters above ground. The spider leaves a hole at the centre of the web.  Garden Orb Web Spiders build webs after sunset and move into retreat during the day time. The retreat can be leaves or tree trunks near by. When they rest, their legs fold up tightly against its body. If their webs are not damaged, they may leave the webs for next night, or they keep the silk material by eating them all before sun rise. When they collect the web silks, usually they will leave the top silk, the bridge thread. (There are some advantages for the spiders to leave the bridge thread on site.”

Letter 11 – Garden Spider from Australia

 

Subject: unknown spider
Location: Upper-Coomera Gold Coast 4209, Queensland
January 3, 2015 4:02 pm
This bug only comes out at night to the same place, makes its Web between the garden and rail by the pool, in the morning the spider and Web are gone.
It has a bright orange/red back and it seems like it’s like a shell (not sure).
Please help us find out what it is..
Thanks
Signature: Ellen

Orbweaver
Orbweaver

Dear Ellen,
This is a harmless Orbweaver is also called a Garden Spider, and we believe it is in the genus
Eriophora based on images posted to the Brisbane Insect Website.  This appears to be a genus with some variability in coloration and markings within the species.  We believe your species is Eriophora biapicata and there is a nice image posted to FlickR.  We are postdating your submission to go live next week while we are out of the office.

Letter 12 – Silver Garden Spider

 

Aloe Vera Nesting Spider
Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 5:13 PM
Hi Bugman, I stumbled across a good sized spider in my Aloe Vera plant. It is amber colored with darker ribbing on the legs, and cream and tan spikes on the back. I also have amber colored fangs. It seemed fairly docile, but I didn’t get too close.
Thanks!
To Ben, Ashley, and Elijah
Coastal San Diego

Argiope argentata
Argiope argentata

Hi Ben, Ashley and Elija,
Your spider is a Silver Garden Spider, Argiope argentata.  This species is found in California, the Gulf states and the Southeast US, and south into Mexico and Central America.  The spiders in the genus Argiope are quite docile in that they spin an orb web and remain in the web.  The web is spun anew daily and the webs often contain a stabilimentum.  The stabilimentum is a zigzag pattern woven into the web, and according to BugGuide:  “The function of the stabilimentum is not fully understood.  Hypotheses are; that it stabilizes the web, or makes it more apparent to birds which will thus not fly into and wreck it, or it reflects light to attract insect prey, or perhaps most likely helps to camouflage the spider in the web. ”

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Yellow Garden Spiders

Related Posts

10 Comments. Leave new

  • Looks very much like our Bark Spiders here in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    But Bark spiders are Caerostris sp. not Eriophora.
    Both are Family Araneidae.

    Reply
  • Looks like they have very similar behaviour to Bark Spiders, building their webs between trees after dark and taking them down before sun-up.
    They hide up on a branch most of the day, perfectly blending in with the bark they’re sitting on.

    Reply
  • are argiope appensa poisonus?
    i have catch that in my school
    my school at indonesia

    Reply
  • are argiope appensa poisonus?
    i have catch that in my school
    my school at indonesia

    Reply
  • Got to see and photograph a huge silver garden spider today. I was thrilled!

    Reply
  • Eric Magnusson
    May 24, 2017 12:58 pm

    At a local wetlands preserve my daughter and I had been admiring an enormous silver garden spider for several weeks, and found it had expired yesterday. My daughter (who is 5) even had a little cry for her. She loves insects and other wildlife. The old gal we’d been observing was probably over 3 inches long from leg-tip to leg-tip, and had even increased in size during the time we observed her. She lived out her last days getting fat and happy on the insects of Oso Bay.

    Reply
  • I’m so angry that my argiope has a humming bird moth in her web, she is in flowers that all the good insects like, and also humming birds themselves, I’m almost ready to get rid of her and all the other lg orb web spiders in my yard there must be 20 I’m not seeing any of my beautiful joe vines and giant swallow tails around anymore, Ali I have a tiger swallow tail who will be emerging soon and I don’t want him to die so is it ok to get rid of these spiders there is just to many and they are bigger and fatter than ever. They are starting to make me sick when I see a beautiful butterfly or moth, if that spider catches a humming bird I’ll be so mad I didn’t do away with her!

    Reply
  • Did you know a large praying mantis can also kill a hummingbird? We need them in our gardens. This spider also loves mud dauber wasps, so one may get more of those, with less of her. Everything is about checks and balances in nature. Many spiders means lots of insects to nourish them. Rid the spiders and you will not like the results, even though one may feel justified. Your plants and trees are being helped with protection from her, too, because she is one of the larger spiders to catch the bigger insects and wasps. Did you know she loves mud daubers? She is a beauty as much as a hummingbird, we just don’t see her that way. (Humans consume creatures and plants that are sweet and beautiful in nature). Replacing her will take time after any destruction. Nature will not modify a diet to please us because they developed to fill a need. For greater understanding, check out the wolves of Yellowstone Park and the balance they brought back.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

keyboard_arrow_up