Watching Yellow Garden Spiders Trap Prey

In the last couple weeks, I located two different Yellow Garden Spiders in their webs during my walks in Eliza Howell Park. (They are sometimes called Black and Yellow Garden Spiders.) The large orb web is made by the female, who can usually be found in the center, in a head down position. She is more visible on the “back side” of the web (as in this picture) than on the side that faces the open area from which flying insects are more likely to come.

The web is large, about 2 feeet high and nearly as far across, and is placed across a small opening between plants, quite close to the ground. It has a very visible zigzag shaped section of thick silk in the center, over 6 inches long vertically, called a stabilimentum. Yellow Garden Spiders are among the largest web making spiders in our area.

The details of web construction are fascinating and parts of the web are rebuilt every night, (but the web remains in the same location). The Yellow Garden Spider is usually in her spot in the morning, on a clean web. partly hidden behind the stabilimentum, whenever I check.

She goes into action as soon as something becomes ensnared in the web. I arrived recently just as she grabbed a moth that had gotten caught. She quickly killed the prey, injecting a venum. Then, in a matter of seconds, she wrapped it in a cocoon of silk, to be moved away and later consumed.

I didn’t stay long enough to confirm, but it looked to me like this time she was starting to eat the moth as soon as she returned to her waiting spot on the web.

Not all spiders use webs to catch prey, but the Yellow Garden Spider is one that does and their webs are most easily found now, in late summer and early fall.

I am looking forward to a sunny morning with heavy dew because the webs stand out most, in all their intricacy and beauty, when each strand of silk is dew covered.

By the first frost, the Yellow Garden Spiders will probably be gone, with the new generation emerging in the spring.The next month is the best time to find their webs and observe their hunting technique. Here she just caught a fly.

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