The Golden Silk Spider

Florida’s biggest spider at its peak

Heading outside with spiders on your visual menu? These days, you may get to feast your eyes on the golden silk spider.

These impressively large arachnids – the super size of Florida’s spiders – are most visible in August and September, and later if the hot weather holds.

Oh, and they’re also more visible because this is the time when they’re the biggest they’re ever going to get.

“They are reaching their full size and maturing, especially the females, and they suddenly seem to appear,” said G.B. Edwards, taxonomic entomologist with the Florida Department of Agriculture. He’s also known as “the state spider man.”

“In the last couple of instars (developmental stages), they enlarge quite rapidly, and their webs get bigger too,” Edwards said. “It’s probably the largest spider that most people will see” in Florida, he added.

The females, which are larger than the males, have long legs that can spread as long and as wide as a man’s hand. The spiders, which are orbweavers, can ensnare small birds in their strong, densely woven golden silk webs, which can reach 3 feet or more in size, but more common prey include mosquitoes, small flies, wasps, beetles, grasshoppers, moths and butterflies.

“They catch a lot of mosquitoes,” Edwards noted.

Also called the banana spider because of its long yellow body, the golden silk spider has legs with black tufts at the joints. A tropical species, it’s found throughout most of the Americas and across the Southern states, but in the United States, the spiders are more common in Florida, Edwards said.

They’ll bite if provoked – for instance, if you pick one up – but the bite is not poisonous (most say it’s less painful than that of a honeybee) and they’d rather flee than fight.

Look for them in citrus groves, in webs attached to shrubs and trees, treetops or clustered in a mass of webs between utility wires or near the water.

“They’re basically solitary, but in an area with high prey density, they’ll tend to congregate,” Edwards said. “They’ll end up filling large spaces between telephone poles, over a stream between trees.”

Roy Beckford, agriculture/natural resources agent with the Lee County Extension Office, noted that some organic citrus farmers like seeing those huge webs woven between their trees because the golden silk spiders catch so many pests.

And the silk they spin is so strong that some native people in tropical countries mat and twist the webs to make strong bags and fishing nets, according to information provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

A group of people in Madagascar collected more than 1 million golden silk spiders and extracted their silk before returning them to the wild, then wove the silk into a golden rug, the FWC said. It took four years.

These days, hikers and other nature lovers need to keep an eye out for them, because while the golden silk spider isn’t dangerous, its webs are very sticky.

“They end up building across paths, so watch where you’re going. Carry a stick, and carry it ahead of yourself,” Edwards said.

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2 Responses to “The Golden Silk Spider”

  1. Tweets that mention The Golden Silk Spider « Al Hoffer's South Florida Pest Blog -- Topsy.com Says:

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  2. Jerry Says:

    A golden rug? That’s pretty wild. I play a lot of paintball and these critters are all over. It’s funny to see these big brave men running around the woods with their camo and macho gear when they run into one. They scream like little girls! Ha–it’s the funny thing. I’ll point them to your blog because they don’t believe me when I say they’re harmless. 🙂

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