Murder She Wrote: Is the Writing Spider Dangerous?

One of our customers sent us an email to ask us if she should be concerned about this spider that she found outside her home in Murfreesboro, TN.

The spider in question is known as argiope aurantia. It is a colorful spider that goes by a primary common name of black and yellow agriope. This spider is also known as a yellow garden argiope, yellow garden orb-weaver, golden garden spider, golden orb-weaver, and the writing spider.

Although it looks rather threatening, the writing spider doesn’t prey on humans. But if it is provoked, it will bite. The bite feels similar to a bee sting. Young children, the elderly, and those with sensitive immune systems should take special care not to harass this pest. It’s best to marvel at these spiders and their webs, but not touch them.

The female does, however, prey on her mate. After intercourse, the male writing spider has an irreversible seizure and is dead within 20 minutes. Then, preparing her afternoon treat, the female spider wraps him in a silk sack and leaves him on the edge of her web to devour him later.

As far as how this spider got its name, the writing’s on the web. As you can see in the picture above–submitted by our customer–it looks like there are several x or z shapes in the web. These zig-zag patterns make the writing spider easy to identify.

Writing spiders are orb-weavers, which means they make beautiful, elaborate webs in a circular formation. And not just one web, either. This scribbling spider builds and tears down its UV-light-reflective web every day! Female writing spiders try to build these webs in places where they won’t be disturbed. So, if the web is in one place one day, it will likely be in the same place the next day. These webs are made of silk that is stronger and more flexible than steel!

Writing spiders are most commonly found in gardens, bushes, and shrubs. Because these spiders are found throughout the mainland of North America, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen this spider or its web before if you live in one of the 48 contiguous states in America. And if you haven’t, you may have read about the writing spider or watched a movie about it.

Orb-weaving spiders were made famous in E.B. White’s beloved novel “Charlotte’s Web.”

The character of Charlotte actually contains her spider identity in her middle name: Aranea. Although Charlotte is a slightly different species than a writing spider, she shares many characteristics with writing spiders, especially her web-making skills.

Special thanks to our curious customer Mariah T. for the question! If you ever have any questions about a pest identification, please email us at service@thebugman.us. Or, post the photo on Facebook.com/TheBugManTN orTwitter.com/TheBugManTN.

Posted in Educational