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Re: Re: OT-CHAT: Garden Spider, Iris Companion

  • Subject: Re: [iris-talk] Re: OT-CHAT: Garden Spider, Iris Companion
  • From: Bill Shear <wshear@hsc.edu>
  • Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 11:29:50 -0400

On 9/21/01 11:23 AM, "Kitty & Bruce Loberg" <loberg@jps.net> wrote:

>> Your spider is Argiope aurantia, commonly known as the Garden Spider,
>> Writing Spider, or Black-and-Yellow Argiope.  This spider is found
> predominantly
>>  in moist areas and is absent from most of  the arid southwest.  In the
>>  United States, it becomes scarce west of  Missouri.    It has been
> recorded
>>  on the west coast from Tiajuana to Portland, Oregon.
> Dear Bill and others,
> yes...   I've known a spider most of my gardening life here in Mendocino
> County (Calif.) that looks like this (re Steve & Sharlyn Rocha's picture).
> I've always called it the "Garden Spider", it makes the same web you
> describe, it comes late in the summer, and I consider it my Iris Spider
> Companion.   My family knows that they dare not touch this spider or face
> the wrath and retribution from a garder gone berserk!
>     I've had this one large spider appear in exactly the same spot, last
> year being the third year in a row until it met my cat, and I kind of
> wondered if it had survived through each winter (against my house where it
> had frost protection).   Bill, if it bites, what's it level of toxicity?
> My cat decided to pester (play) with this one, and the spider disappeared
> one day shortly after that, and my cat began to drool around the mouth for
> several days, and I wondered.
> Kitty Loberg

Kitty, it would be very unlikely that the same spider would appear over a
three-year period.  The life cycle is annual, so the spiders live only one
summer.  However, particularly good websites (heh heh) will be occupied by
new spiders each year.

Argiope aurantia is not known to be venomous to vertebrates.  People who
have reported bites (very few) say it's "like a bee sting" at the worst.
I've handled many, many spiders over the last 40 years and have been bitten
only once (not by Argiope)--without effects.  This is not to say that it
could not be more harmful to a cat, with less than 10% the body mass of a

More likely is another untested idea.  The black and yellow colors of the
spider make it very obvious, and usually that signals predators that the
animal so colored is either bad-tasting or poisonous.  After a single
experience, predators (especially vertebrates) learn to steer clear of that
particular food item (or anything else that looks like it, which is another
story).  Foaming at the mouth or excess salivation is a common symptom of
such poisoning.  So I might speculate that the spiders are not venomous, but
are poisonous if eaten, and that your cat felt bad after eating one!  But I
don't know if this thought has ever been tested experimentally.

You would have to work hard to get Argiope to bite defensively--as is true
of most spiders.  For all the good they do in helping to control insect
populations, spiders are much maligned.  Almost any unexplained dermatitis
will be attributed by a physician to "spider bites."  In truth, spider bites
are very rare, and except for those of a few species, are of no health

So please, folks, follow Kitty's lead and don't kill or worry about spiders.

Bill S.

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