Argiope aurantia is a carnivorous spider that can be found along the eaves of houses or outbuildings or in any tall vegetation where they can securely stretch a web. They are homebodies, staying near one area their entire lives, unless their web is frequently disturbed. This type of spider is sometimes called a “writing spider” on account of its large, intricate webs with large white zigzags. They are venomous but no so than a bee. Despite their size, frightening appearance, and ability to vibrate their web, they are harmless to humans. In fact, they are considered quite beneficial in keeping the insect population at bay.
If you ever spent time up at the farm, you might know Argiope aurantia by its other name: “Scary As Hell Jumping Spider.” That’s because despite being harmless, this spider is scary. I remember several times going into Granny’s little “wash house” and finding these things blocking the door. And I don’t remember which cousin did it, but I distinctly recall someone walking face first into one of the webs on a Christmas morning.
I’d like to point out that while the spiders do not jump, our uncle used to tell us that they did indeed jump. So until all of us cousins were old enough to know better, we firmly believed that these spiders could easily jump off their webs and onto our faces. Thanks a lot Uncle Lanis.
David and I went up to the cemetery last Saturday to continue priming the metal fence and lo and behold, these spiders were everywhere. Stretched out between posts and beams, half a dozen Argiope aurantia were just lazing on their webs waiting on a grasshopper, completely unaware that they were in the way of my paintbrush. And to make matters worse, they were in the nearby trees, making it impossible to escape. I carefully relocated them to nearby branches (meaning I poked them with a stick until they crawled onto it, then threw it as far as I could) so I could continue painting….but being homebodies, they gave a resounding “screw you, we will not be evicted” and walked right back to their original spots. And this is why if you walk to the corner of the fence where the oak tree is, you’ll find several feet of hasty brush strokes surrounded by spilled paint on the grass. Sorry about that Kay.
As an adult, I have come to realize how beneficial spiders are to nature and I am no longer inclined to squish them. But this does not make them less scary. So hats off to you, Argiope aurantia, aka Scary As Hell Jumping Spider. But look… if you’re planning to take up residence on the fence, the least you could do is help us paint.