What Spider Makes A Zig Zag Web?

What Type of Spider Has a Zig Zag Web?

By: Ngalula Kabutakapua

Argiope Aurentia is the technical name of the yellow and black spider you might have spotted in your garden. This species lives in the U.S., Mexico, South Canada, Central America and sometimes Costa Rica. Also called the black and yellow garden spider, it is harmless to human beings and characterized by a zigzag vertical design in its web.

Appearance and Habitat

The Argiope Aurentia has a black abdomen, with yellow or orange markings. Legs are black, with yellow or orange features. The spider’s head has short, silvery hair. Although similar, the male spider is often brighter and smaller than the female. When mature the female can measure 1 to 1/8 inch. The Argiope can be found in a temperate, tropical or terrestrial habitat. You may spot it in a garden or field.


Depending on the gender and climate, the Argiope Aurentia can live one year or more. Females can live for several years. If they find a good habitat, they can be active night and day, attacking and eating insects trapped in their webs. The web is sticky and is moved by the spider when a prey is detected. When feeding, the spider also eat its own web. Once it has eaten the web, it rebuilds it during the night.


Once it has found a suitable place for the web, the spider can stay there for rebuilding it. It takes a couple of hours to replace the eaten web. In the middle of the web is a vertical zizag design called stabilimentia. This help in capturing the prey, stabilize the spider and prevent birds to come across the web. The Argiope Aurentia hangs its head down from the middle of the web.


When the male is mature enough, it goes looking for a female. Once found it, it stays at the edge of the female spider and sometimes builds another small web near there. After copulating, each female produces one or two brown sacs, containing 300 to 1,500 eggs. The sacs are hung in the middle of the spider web. Some female die during winter, so they can not assist when the spiders are born. It is unclear how many times the Argiope Aurentia mates in the course of its life.

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Garden Spiders: Weavers of Delicate Webs

By Jessie Szalay 23 December 2014

Known for their colorful, intricately patterned abdomens, garden spiders are the common name for the genus Argiope, which means “with a bright face” in Latin. There are dozens of species within this genus, but the most common members found in North America are the yellow and black, banded and silver varieties.

“As their common name suggests, they are found in gardens,” said Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal, an arachnologist at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. “But they are usually [a] generalist species in terms of the habitats they occupy and are not restricted to gardens.” In North America, they are found in southern Canada, the continental United States, and as far south as Costa Rica. They rarely venture inside human dwellings. These non-aggressive spiders’ bites are not harmful to humans.

Garden spiders typically live for about one year, according to the National Wildlife Federation. After mating in the fall, the females eat the males then die soon after. Spiderlings hatch in the spring.

Garden spiders are a genus in the family Araneidae, known as orb-weaver spiders. According to Sewlal, orb weavers’ “web design is the one we most associate with spiders and are seen in storybooks and at Halloween.” These spiders are the creators of delicate, circular, spoked webs. “The web consists of a series of concentric circles starting from the smallest at the center, referred to as the hub of the web, and radiating outwards where the circles get larger and larger,” said Sewlal. “These circles are divided into sectors by lines of silk so that it resembles slices of a pie.” Sometimes, they cluster heavy streams of silk in a zigzag pattern near the center of the web, which is called a stabilimentum.

See also:  What Plants Do Spiders Eat?

According to the University of Michigan’s BioKIDS website, most orb-weaver spiders spin a beautiful new web each night after eating the remnants of the old web.

“There are actually two different types of silk used in web construction,” said Sewlal. “When the web is being constructed, the spider lays out very thin lines of non-sticky silk when it is making the concentric circles, or radii, and uses this to keep the tension of the web. After the sticky lines of silk are placed, this non-sticky silk is cut away.”

Flying insects such as flies, bees, grasshoppers, and others get stuck in the stinky silk. According to the University of Idaho Extension’s Homeowner Guide to Spiders Around the Home and Yard, garden spiders often sit in the center of the web, and when an insect gets stuck, they quickly wrap the prey in silk and bite it, causing the prey to go still.

Garden spiders will spin webs in plants, in porch overhangs, between trees, and in other outdoor spots.


According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the taxonomy of garden orb-weaver spiders is:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Subkingdom: Bilateria
  • Infrakingdom: Protostomia
  • Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Family: Araneidae
  • Genus: Argiope
  • Species: More than 175

These are among the most common species:

Black and yellow garden spider

The species Argiope aurantia has several common names, including black and yellow garden spider, corn spider, writing spider and zipper spider, according to North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension. In Latin, aurantia means “overlaid with gold” — a fitting description for this vibrant spider. “They are quite colorful,” said Sewlal, “with a prominent oval abdomen covered in a black and yellow pattern, hence their common name.” Their abdomen is patterned on top with three-to-four bold black and yellow spots and stripes and, on the bottom, mottled black with two vertical yellow stripes. The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology’s Animal Diversity Web (ADW) noted that this spider’s celothorax (smaller, front section of the body) is covered with shiny silver hairs. Its eight eyes are arranged in a trapezoid pattern. Females have yellowish or reddish legs at the base that fade to black. Males have brown legs with faded black bands. Young spiders’ legs are entirely banded.

According to Fairfax County Public Schools, female spiders are larger than males, growing up to a 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) long. Males are typically three-quarters of an inch (almost 2 cm) long. And Sewlal said that black and yellow garden spiders can make their bodies look even larger: “When disturbed, they will hold onto the web and vibrate it to appear bigger. However, if this fails then they will drop to the ground.”

These spiders can spin truly large webs; the Missouri Department of Conservation stated that they can stretch up to 2 feet in diameter. Sewlal pointed out that these spiders’ stabilimentum — the zigzagging silk line in the web — «is located vertically through the center of the web.»

A silver garden spider (Argiope argentata) weaves its web. (Image credit: Elliotte Rusty Harold Shutterstock)

Silver garden spider

Argiope argentata, also known as the silver garden spider, has a primarily shiny silver body with brown or orange coloration on the back of its abdomen and brown tones on its underside, according to the San Diego Natural History Museum Field Guide. Its legs are banded in silver, black, and orange colors. Like other garden spiders, females are significantly larger than males. “Their body shape makes them resemble a drop of water clinging to the underside of the web,” said Sewlal, “hence their common name of ‘dew-drop spiders.’”

The silver garden spider lives in warmer regions of North America, such as California and Florida, and is even sometimes found in Argentina. According to the Biology department at the University of California, Irvine, it is often spotted on prickly pear cacti during the autumn months.

The silver garden spider’s web is especially likely to have a heavy zigzag pattern, called the stabilimenta. According to Sewlal, this is their most defining characteristic. “This species arrange the silk in a zigzag pattern to form a wide thick line. These wide and thick lines are then placed in an X-shape with the middle passing through the hub,” she said.

“The actual use of this is controversial,” said Sewlal. Arachnologists have two primary theories about it: “The first is that it attracts prey since it reflects light so that insects are tricked to believe that they are flying towards a gap in the vegetation. The second theory is that it alerts predators like birds that the web is there so that they do not fly into it and destroy it.”

A banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata) sits on its web. (Image credit: Ron Rowan Photography Shutterstock)

Banded garden spider

Agriope trifasciata is the most common garden spider in the Western United States, according to the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Entomology department, though they live all over the country. “Probably their most defining physical characteristic is their body coloration,” said Sewlal. “Their oval abdomen is mostly white with bands of yellow and black, hence their common name.” These spiders have abdomens that are pointed near the rear and covered in small stripes. The female is significantly larger than the male.

See also:  What Happens If You Get Bitten By A Spider?

Sewlal mentioned that arachnologists have found that banded garden spiders almost always “orient their webs along an east-to-west axis but place themselves in the webs with their abdomens facing south.” This position helps them absorb as much of the sun’s heat as possible. “Temperature is one of the major factors [for] spiders, especially for them to be active late in the year,” said Sewlal.

Like the other garden spiders, banded garden spiders also build stabilimenta. It looks similar to the silver garden spider’s, but is less prominent in the web, according to Sewlal.

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Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia)

Yellow and black garden spider

The spider species Argiope aurantia is commonly known as the black and yellow garden spider, or corn spider. It is common to the contiguous United States, Hawaii, southern Canada, Mexico, and Central America. They have distinctive yellow and black markings on their abdomens and a mostly white cephalothorax. The etymology of its name means «gilded silver-face». Males range from 5–9 mm (0.20–0.35 in) females from 19–28 mm (0.75–1.1 in). Like other members of Argiope they are considered harmless to humans.

Habitat Edit

Garden spiders often build webs in areas adjacent to open sunny fields where they stay concealed and protected from the wind. The spider can also be found along the eaves of houses and outbuildings or in any tall vegetation where they can securely stretch a web. The circular part of the female’s web may reach two feet in diameter. Webs are built at elevations from two to eight feet off the ground.

Female Argiope aurantia spiders tend to be somewhat local, often staying in one place throughout much of their lifetime.

The web of the yellow garden spider is distinctive: a circular shape up to 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter, with a dense zigzag of silk, known as a stabilimentum, in the center. The purpose of the stabilimentum is disputed. It is possible that it acts as camouflage for the spider lurking in the web’s center, but it may also attract insect prey, or even warn birds of the presence of the otherwise difficult-to-see web. Only those spiders that are active during the day construct stabilimenta in their webs.

To construct the we b, several radial lines are stretched among four or five anchor points that can be more than three feet apart. The radial lines meet at a central point. The spider makes a frame with several more radial lines and then fills the center with a spiral of silk, leaving a 5/16 to 3/8 inches (8 to 9.5 mm) gap between the spiral rings, starting with the innermost ring and moving outward in a clockwise motion. To ensure that the web is taut, the spider bends the radial lines slightly together while applying the silk spiral. The female’s web is substantially larger than the male’s, who builds a small zigzag web nearby. The spider occupies the center of the web, usually hanging head-down, waiting for prey to become ensnared in the web. If disturbed by a possible predator, she may drop from the web and hide on the ground nearby. The web normally remains in one location for the entire summer, but spiders can change locations usually early in the season, perhaps to find better protection or better hunting.

The garden spider can oscillate her web vigorously while she remains firmly attached in the center. This action might prevent predators like wasps and birds from drawing a good bead, and also to fully entangle an insect before it cuts itself loose.

In a nightly ritual, the spider consumes the circular interior part of the web and then rebuilds it each morning with fresh new silk. The radial framework and anchoring lines are not usually replaced when the spider rebuilds the web. The spider may be recycling the chemicals used in web building. Additionally, the fine threads that she consumes appear to have tiny particles of what may be minuscule insects and organic matter that may contain nutrition.

See also:  How Do You Know If Its A Spider Bite?

The garden spider does not live in very dense location clusters like other orb spiders such as the golden orb web spider. The garden spider keeps a clean orderly web in comparison to the cluttered series of webs built and abandoned by groups of golden orb spiders.

Reproduction Edit

Yellow garden spiders breed once a year. The males roam in search of a female, building a small web near or actually in the female’s web, then court the females by plucking strands on her web. Often, when the male approaches the female, he has a safety drop line ready, in case she attacks him. After mating, the male dies, and is sometimes then eaten by the female.

She lays her eggs at night on a sheet of silky material, then covers them with another layer of silk, then a protective brownish silk. She then uses her legs to form the sheet into a ball with an upturned neck. Egg sacs range from 5/8″ to 1″ in diameter. She often suspends the egg sac right on her web, near the center where she spends most of her time. Each spider produces from one to four sacs with perhaps over a thousand eggs inside each. She guards the eggs against predation as long as she is able. However, as the weather cools, she becomes more frail, and dies around the time of the first hard frost.

Argiope aurantia spiderlingsIn the spring, the young spiders exit the sac and are so tiny that their collection of bodies look like dust gathered inside the silk mesh. Some of the spiderlings remain nearby, but others exude a strand of silk that gets caught by the breeze, carrying the spiderling to a more distant area.

Eating habits Edit

Females of the species are the most commonly seen in gardens. Their webs are usually characterized by a zigzag shaped stabilimentum (an extra thick line of silk) in the middle extending vertically. The spiders spend most of their time in their webs waiting for prey to become ensnared. When prey becomes caught in the web, the spider may undulate the web back and forth to further trap the insect. When the prey is secure, the spider kills it by injecting its venom and then wraps the prey in a cocoon of silk for later consumption (typically 1–4 hours later). Prey includes small vertebrates, such as geckos and green anoles, as well as insects.


Q: What are the huge spiders with zigzag webs?

Q: I just moved here and I have never seen so many of these large spiders outside. I seem to be running into their webs constantly. Their webs have this zigzag pattern in the middle which is where they hang out. I kid you not, they are huge. What is going on? What are they?
A: The spider you are encountering is probably one of the argiope spiders, most likely the yellow and black argiope, Argiope aurantia. I have seen hundreds of them in the summer and early fall months when I am out gathering clippings of tree limbs along the roadside and edges of forests. They are large (up to 2.5 cm) but they are not aggressive creatures, therefore you need not feel threatened by them. Although, I agree running into the web would be disconcerting. They are immensely beneficial to us in controlling insect populations as they can eat creatures several times larger than themselves. I have several yellow and black argiopes in my own yard and the photo attached is one of them.
She is living just outside my back door on one of my citrus trees. This morning I found a June bug in her web – unlucky for him! Yellow and black argiopes have a silvery, white outer covering on its cephalothorax (combination of head and chest). The 8 black and white legs are often held in pairs when at rest. The abdomen has intricate designs in black, white and yellow. These spiders often weave the zigzag design in the middle of their web, exactly as you described. They prefer to hang in the web with their heads toward the ground just along the zigzag area.
The argiope spider, like most other spiders, has fangs which produce venom to paralyze or kill their prey, but they are unlikely candidates for biting humans. Take the philosophy of “live and let live” with these creatures. Don’t mess with them and they won’t mess with you. If you are bitten by any spider and the area becomes inflamed and/or you develop flu-like symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.

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