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Autumn spiders
By Nancy Hinkle
University of Georgia

From big, fat barn spiders to their yellow garden cousins, between now and Halloween we will be seeing more spiders around our yards.

The first hard frost will kill them, but now they are mating and producing egg sacs that will overwinter and re-establish the population next spring.

The most commonly seen ones are orb-weaver spiders with large webs.

Barn spiders (Araneus cavaticus) can be found on porches, where flying insects attracted to porch lights get trapped in their webs. These spiders are nocturnal, constructing a new web every evening and taking it down before dawn. This rusty brown spider has legs extending about 2 inches, making it look large and noticeable. These spiders hide during the day, but at night are found in the middle of the web, waiting for insects to be trapped.

The yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) is one of the longest spiders in Georgia. It is frequently found in gardens and around shrubbery, where it constructs large webs to trap flying insects. The abdomen has distinctive yellow and black markings while the front part of the body, the cephalothorax, is white. The female typically remains in one spot throughout her life, repairing and reconstructing her web as it is damaged and ages. Her web may have a distinctive zigzag of silk through the middle, explaining its other common name, “writing spider.”

Unlike the nocturnal barn spider, the yellow garden spider can be found in its web anytime. Sometimes a smaller spider will be found in the web with her; this is the male.

These spiders have been present all summer, eating pest insects and growing. By late summer, they are large enough that people start noticing them.

Georgia has more than 800 species of spiders, all of which are harmless if you leave them alone. All spiders are more afraid of you than you are of them.

(Nancy Hinkle is a professor of entomology and Cooperative Extension veterinary entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Nancy Hinkle is a Cooperative Extension entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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