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A Mississippi Garden Spider

A Misssissippi Garden Spider
A Mississippi Garden Spider

I don’t like spiders. I never have. But, let me tell you something. You have NEVER seen spiders until you have seen a Mississippi Garden Spider. These things are so big that I would be afraid to leave any small pets running around loose!

People always want to know what that zig zag looking thing in the web is. Scientist call it a stabilimentum, and they don’t have a clue as to the purpose of it. Personally I think they use it for bungee jumping when no one is around or maybe for lassoing small calves that wandered away from their mother.

These spiders have long been known to construct stabilimentums in their webs but the function of these zig zag additions has so far eluded scientists. Although originally, studies in the 80’s seemed to point to the function of the stabilimentum as a way to provide a visual clue to prevent birds from blundering into webs, this hasn’t proven to be correct. Studies in 1999 also showed that webs with a stabilimentum actually caught 30% fewer insects when compared to spiders that did not spin a stabilimentum. Whether it’s a defensive mechanism or even an attraction to prey species remains a mystery. http://www.enaturalist.org/unit/197

If I hate spiders so much, you would think it would all be a simple matter of getting rid of this one, right? The problem is that like many of you, when I was a little girl I used to love to read Charlotte’s Web.

Every time I make the decision to go have a long talk with that dang spider to explain it is time for it to move on before I smack it with a shovel, I think of Charlotte and the spider gets another reprieve.

I have fully warned her that if she decides to have babies though that we will be having this discussion again!

In the meantime, I am very happy to have an excellent zoom feature on my camera so that I don’t have to get too close to her to take her picture. I figure I better have a trail of evidence of her existence in case the neighbors come around asking if I have seen their Black Angus calf around anywhere.

J. Cricket Walker

Small Business Marketing Consultant and Scenic Photographer
Copyright © 2006 J. Cricket Walker of Online Photography Magazine All Rights Reserved

  1. Fred Pfister
    Fred Pfister06-13-2007

    Cricket: I don’t LOVE spiders myself, but I rather admire them–and I think they get a lot of bad press. I liked your little essay.
    I have a poem that I’l like to use your picture with as an illustration. May I? I can give you credit and a free copy. Please drop a reply.

    Fred Pfister
    editor
    The Ozarks Mountaineer.

  2. J. Cricket Walker
    J. Cricket Walker06-13-2007

    Hi Fred!

    I would be honored! :)

  3. Swarovski
    Swarovski07-04-2007

    Recently read an article about macro photography and the use of a killing jar. Its great to see that not everyone who enjoys taking pictures of insects wants to kill them first to get their perfect shot. Great Photo. How big is the spider and do they bite? Glad I live in the UK I hate spiders.

  4. Misnathrope
    Misnathrope07-07-2007

    I caught one of these today. :D
    I picked it up and let it walk around my hand.
    Now I’m trying to find information about it to see if it will kill me or something. :P

  5. sam r.
    sam r.07-10-2007

    I have these around my house. They don’t just live in Mississippi, I live in southeast Missouri. Maybe they moved here just to scare me. ha ha. I’ve seen some with green on them too. I hate spiders but as long as they stay OUTSIDE I’ll leave them alone.

  6. J. Cricket Walker
    J. Cricket Walker07-10-2007

    I think different varieties of these can be found all over the United States and even some parts of Canada. They just seem to grow bigger here. :)

  7. MyArk
    MyArk07-19-2007

    Great picture!

    I had two of these last summer. I don’t like spiders either, but have the odd desire to let these be…if they remain in the web and not dangle. So far, the ones I’ve watched stay put. Last summer’s pair both stayed long enough to make 2″ egg sacs and die quietly. Wondering where the sacs went…and if I’ll have a million of them soon!

  8. diane
    diane07-21-2007

    Awesome picture!

    We found this spider this morning in our garden. We were able to get pictures of the spider and the zig zag, but not the actual web. Our main concern appears to be is the spider poisonous. We are more than willing to leave it alone.

  9. J. Cricket Walker
    J. Cricket Walker07-21-2007

    They are not known to be harmful to humans,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argiope_aurantia

  10. Leslie
    Leslie07-23-2007

    This is an AWESOME capture of this spider. Today as we were cleaning some property off for a friend one of these landed on my friend. She screamed and her husband just kindly said ” it wont bother you” and gently knocked it off of her. We all had a good laugh. They are well known in South Texas. People here call them Banana Spiders alot. Although that’s not what they are called. Just thought I’d share that laugh with you. LOL!
    Leslie

  11. J. Cricket Walker
    J. Cricket Walker07-23-2007

    @ Leslie – I have only seen them in their webs. I think I would have a heart attack on the spot if one of them ever landed on me! :)

  12. Ron
    Ron07-23-2007

    Cricket,

    We live in Mississippi, too. Had one of these in our backyard. It had built it’s web high in a fence corner. After doing a bit of reseach and finding out they are no harm to humans and LOVE bugs. AND, knowing that corner of the yard was a haven for “skeeters”, I left the web there and simply told it “Bon Apetit”. A few days later the lot next door was cleared to build a new house and it appeared the spider packed and left. NOTHING was left of spider or web.

    Sad, in a way.

    Ron in Ms.

  13. tanya
    tanya07-24-2007

    is this spider posionious

  14. J. Cricket Walker
    J. Cricket Walker07-24-2007

    Hi Tanya! They are not known to be harmful to humans. :)

  15. Joe
    Joe08-05-2007

    I can remember riding horses as A teenager .
    It didn’t matter which way you turned that horse It was going to carry you through that gigantic web .
    The spider would wind up on your forehead or ear then you would just about fall off the horse trying to avoid it.
    I can still see that horse laughing at me!!!

  16. Gabi
    Gabi08-06-2007

    We just used your photo to identify one just like it that has made its home outside our breakfast room window. It looks just like yours and is hanging by its zig zag. Someone else mentioned the banana spiders. This one is very different from those. They can be poisonous, so don’t confuse them! We were glad to learn this one isn’t!

  17. Jon
    Jon08-07-2007

    In Vicksburg, Mississippi some people call these “Writing Spiders” because they make interesting zig zags in their web and some folks can read letters of the alphabet in there. They are very beneficial spiders and catch and eat lots of bugs. Also, they take down their webs by swallowing or eating the silk strands and then recycle this silk fiber when they move to a different location to erect another web. They don’t stay in one location very long. I saw a great piece on Animal Planet recently about these particular spiders and the amazing strength of their silk…much, much stronger than steel cable strands of the same diameter. Fiber scientists are trying to duplicate the chemical structure of spider silk for use in various applications.

  18. Barb
    Barb08-09-2007

    We found one of these in the flowers this morning. I was wondering if it would hurt anyone because it’s so big. I glad to find out that they don’t. If they are Mississippi Garden spiders then this one is a long way away from home because we are in southwestern Ontario Canada.

  19. Sandra
    Sandra08-16-2007

    Thanks for the info on this little beauty who has been hanging around my front door garden for the past month or so. Okay. So he’s not so little anymore. Must be eating well. He never moves. Always in the same zig zag spot. We call him the family pet, and just introduce him to guests as such. In all seriousness, I feel that as long as he stays outside where he belongs, we’ll get along just fine. Unfortunately, I’ve heard musings of a contract on his life. The daughters REALLY don’t like him.

    Oh yeah. I’m in Dallas, TX.

  20. Blake
    Blake08-17-2007

    I love to watch these spiders. They are quite fascinating although i can totally sympathize with joe who made the comment about riding horses. I swear i think the horse does it on purpose. I live in the little town of Brookhaven, Mississippi and through out my younger years I have caught various flying insects and thrown them in these spiders webs to watch them attack. Anyone who has ever been bitten by a massive horsefly will understand this seemingly deviant behavior. haha I once caught a black widow in a jar and on a sudden urge decided to dump it in the garden spiders web and see what would happen. The widow never stood a chance. It was amazing how quickly it was killed and stored in the web. And in case some of you did not know, those larges lumps of web in various positions are just food the spider is saving for later. It’s a very fascinating thing to watch.

  21. Angela
    Angela08-25-2007

    I noticed one today outside my backdoor. It’s HUGE scared the crap out of me when i just “noticed” it on it’s web. THe zigzag is awesome looking in the web. also saw it catch some prey! now i’m trying to snap a good picture of it before it packs up and leaves elsewhere! lol

  22. Judy
    Judy08-27-2007

    One was in my wildflowers and then moved to the backporch. I thought it had died…but alas it moved…why?
    It had rained and I thought it had been eaten by a bird as the web and all was gone out of the flowers…but noticed a zig-zag web on the back porch.
    Will it bite? Hope not according to all reports…thanks

  23. Tanya Marie
    Tanya Marie08-27-2007

    Hi – this past weekend as my 2 boys, Bailey 6 and Connor 3 were picking black-berries in our backyard, I noticed a few of these spiders in among the sharp berry bushes. The one’s I saw were not that large, but still a good size for our area. I live in New Brunswick, Canada, and I had to look this spider up to see if it was dangerous or not as we pick lots of berries and sometimes when reaching for berries I think they are going to jump on me or the kids. The boys got a good look at one and they did not want to pick any more berries – take care!

  24. Clara Crank
    Clara Crank08-28-2007

    I found this spider near my arbor and was just thrilled to death! I watched her for several days and then she and the web disappeared. While admiring my Beauty Berry bush, I saw her! She had moved to another spot in the garden. Now she is gone again and I hope to find her hanging around in the garden. I love spiders! I have lots of tiny little jumping ones that eat bugs in my windows that I didn’t know were there until I saw some dried bug shells on the floor. Great job for little jumping dudes. I have a tarantella inside and he is lots of fun. I have had him for at least five years. I hope the garden lady has or will leave me lots of little ones.
    Clara
    Thanks for the wonderful picture.
    Clara

  25. Amanda
    Amanda08-30-2007

    I checked the photo to match the one we have lived in the bushes outside our picture window. I just wanted to be sure that they are harmless since I have two young girls.

    We leave it alone. It facinates the kids (and the grownups too) :)

  26. Mindy
    Mindy08-31-2007

    I was out feeding the cows this morning and saw one of these great big spiders. I was very curious to know what it was and having two small children I obviously wanted to know if it was poisinous or not. I took some pictures and researched it on the internet and finally found this picture that is identical to the spider I found. I went back to take more pictures and (how I didn’t see this before kind of creeped me out) there were 5 other large webs with the same exact kind of spider on each one of them. It is soo odd how each spider is centered on it’s web and has that zig zag design. Must be a whole family that decided to make a neighberhood at the side of the barn. Anyways I live in Illinois and had never seen a spider like this. I personally am sort of fearful of spiders, but was just fascinated at the size of this spider and the design on the web.

  27. Kourtney
    Kourtney08-31-2007

    That is a beautiful spider. I own about 93 and they all live in my house. I also feed them to my pet snake

  28. ShaunausTai
    ShaunausTai08-31-2007

    Cricket – funny thing, I just saw my spider a few days ago – the same kind. This is the first time I’ve decided to look it up & what do ya know, I didn’t even have to scroll through pictures to find it – it was the 2nd one! Needless to say, do you know what they eat? Stupid question to any arachnid lover BUT I only ask b/c mine had a pod from my Hyacinth Bean wrapped up & appeared to be biting/eating it. I called a few people, “Don’t all spiders eat insects?” and no one could answer. Hmmm. Great picture though! When I made a picture of mine she actually started BOUNCING! I’m thinkin’ I ticked her off! LOL Anyway, thanks!

  29. Seamus
    Seamus09-04-2007

    Er, that’s a Golden Web Spider. They’re absolutely harmless, and they make *great* bug repellents. :)

    I have three females outside my library window. If you really want them to move, then just knock the web down. She’ll go elsewhere.

  30. Marlon
    Marlon09-07-2007

    Cricket,
    I live in Starkville, MS. I have two of these. One outside my front door and another near the back door. Before they came I would hate to leave my porch lights on while I was out because I would have to fight insects to get to my door once I came home. Now I don’t have that problem. They are great natural insecticides.

  31. wanda
    wanda09-08-2007

    I live in alabama and wish your spiders would return home. We have no less then ten hanging around our house. Thanks for your info on them.

  32. Cheri
    Cheri09-09-2007

    My MGS is hugh, love the web, only concern was if I had to worry about my golder, he’s very curious. I am thrilled to find out that there is no worry and I can contiue to enjoy our new neighbor. We are trying to make her stay pleasant so she sticks around.

  33. Sue
    Sue09-11-2007

    I have one of these hanging in the transoms of my front door. Normally I am fearful of spiders but this one has grown on me. I’ve cleared my entry of all the other spiders but left this one to himself. He really seems to have a benign aura about him, and my son and I are starting to consider him (or her) our quiet little pet. We’ll be sad to see him go when he decides to leave.

  34. Traci
    Traci09-16-2007

    Wow! I’ve gotten a lot of info from your postings! Thanks! I was outside watering the plants a little while ago and noticed the biggest and most beautiful spider I’ve ever seen. Everyone else in the family wanted me to kill it, but the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to kill was the black widow I found last summer. I’m 36 and have lived in Gulfport, Mississippi most of my life, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen or heard of one of these creatures. He/she is hanging from the edge of the house, which is where all of our cute little geckos hang out…. I wonder if they will even notice each other?
    By the way, for those of you with these spiders living a good distance from Mississippi…. maybe those lovely hurricanes we have carried some of our native critters to you? You should see some of the (uninvited) insects we’ve found down here since Katrina!!!

  35. Val Beaver
    Val Beaver10-08-2007

    Thanks for all the information. One of these lovely ladies has taken up residense at the side of my garage next to the driveway in Southaven, MS. I also took a lovely picture of her with web glittering in the setting sunlight. She is about 2 feet off the groud so I had to make sure she was harmless due to the 2 1/2 yr old nephew that loves to be outside all the time.

  36. Mary Egan
    Mary Egan02-19-2008

    I am moving to mississippi from Michigan and decided to look up informaiton about the bugs i will be enduring when i get there. I am scared as hell of spiders but i know i will have to get used to the creatures. Me and my husband have lost our jobs due to our factory closing here. This spider looks deadly. I dont know how i will deal with them when i get there.

  37. DeDe Linzy
    DeDe Linzy02-28-2008

    hi was wondering if this spider was at all harmful. I was with my cousin in the woods and we seen a spider on a web. It was yellow and black and it looked like it had eyes in its back. I am not quite sure if it is the same spider and i did not have a camera the only thing i had was a camera phone and since i was afraid to get to close i could not get a picture where you could see it. Next time I am going to bring a camera. Hopefully it will still be there.

  38. J. Cricket Walker
    J. Cricket Walker03-10-2008

    Although anything is possible, I have never heard of these spiders being harmful. They tend to be way more afraid of us than were are of them.:)

  39. Cindy
    Cindy03-26-2008

    These are the most facinating spiders to watch. I had one who’d built her web next to my utility box on the side of the house. During the day she’d barely move in her web, but at night I believe she was quite active. One day while cutting grass her web got sprayed with clippings and was quite a mess. By the next morning she had cut out all the grass and had a perfectly clean web. No holes or anything left behind. She remained there for a couple of months.

  40. Cathy Pope
    Cathy Pope06-26-2008

    I was born in Mississippi and remember seeing one of these spiders when I was a kid. I believe I was 9 years old and saw it on its web hanging between two trees in the backcountry and it was as big as my older sister’s hand. We lived in Petal just east of Hattiesburg across the Leaf River and I am pretty sure that we saw these around our house as well. My children have now become interested in spiders as we see them quite often although I wish we didn’t. Thanks for the information. I couldnt’ for the life of me find what this spider was called.

  41. Danny
    Danny10-05-2008

    We live in Tupelo MS. We have one that has built a web on our 4-wheeler. The last couple of days the kids have been throwing stink bugs from the garder into its web. It is neat to watch the spider spin the bug with its legs while spinning a web around its prey. Then, i guess, injecting it with venom or something to kill it. In a day or so he will move the bug to the center of the web and devour it. The kids love it.

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