It seems to me that fall is spider time as I notice spider webs hanging from everything imaginable. I’ve seen dew-covered spider webs strung between power lines, and I’ve encountered a web of two in my face when I walked out my front door.
The first hard frost will kill them off, but for now they are mating and producing egg sacs so their eggs can overwinter and re-establish the population next spring. Two orb-weaver spiders with large webs are the most commonly seen.
Barn spiders and yellow garden spiders
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 and construct a new web every evening and take it down before dawn. This rusty brown spider has legs extending about two 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 their meals 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 entrap flying insects. The abdomen has distinctive yellow and black markings, while the front part of the body, the cephalothorax, is covered in white.
The female yellow garden spider typically remains in one spot throughout her life, repairing and reconstructing her web as it is damaged. Her web may have a distinctive zigzag of silk through the middle, explaining her other common name, the “writing spider.” Unlike the nocturnal barn spider, the yellow garden spider can be found in its web at anytime. Sometimes a smaller spider will be found in the web with her. This is the male garden spider.
Here all along
These spiders have been present all summer, growing and eating insects. By late summer they are large enough to be noticed. Georgia has more than 800 species of spiders, all of which are harmless if left alone.
For more information on spiders and other pests, see the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences publication site at www.caes.uga.edu/publications.
(Michael Wheeler is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension coordinator in Hall County, Ga.)