Many, if not most, people have a real aversion (sometimes bordering on fear) of spiders. To begin with, they’re among the “creepy crawlers” and all are poisonous – although only a very few are really toxic to humans.
But, many species of spiders are truly beautiful when viewed up-close. I was reminded of their beauty while walking through an old field grown up to goldenrod and asters along with many other species of forbs and grasses.
What first caught my eye was a spider rapidly bouncing back and forth on its web. Some writers describe the action as vibration, but this was much more vigorous than could properly be called vibration. The bouncing stopped when I stepped back and began again with each close approach.
There, just beginning to spin its web was a banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata). This is a spectacular species; basic black with multiple bands of white and bright yellow on its back. The ventral side is black with yellow markings.
As has often been described, this spider was orienting its web in an east/west direction. It is thought that the web’s orientation allows the spider to absorb the sun’s heat as it rests with its underside facing south.
These spiders overwinter as eggs that hatch in the spring. The males die soon after mating and the females are active in late summer and fall.
The banded garden spider is closely related to the equally beautiful, and more common, golden (or yellow) garden spider (Argiope aurantia) that is also active late in the year and also vibrates its web.
So, take a good look at the next spider you see, it may be a beautiful creature.