Writing spiders are beautiful denizens of the roadside and garden and beneficial.
Writing spiders are members of the genus Argiope, which includes rather large, brightly colored spiders found throughout the world. Most countries in tropical or temperate climates are home to one or more species. The name is from a Greek word meaning "silver-faced” because many Argiope spiders are silvery white around the eyes.
In North America, the most common member of the genus is Argiope aurantia commonly known as the black and yellow garden spider, zipper spider, corn spider or the writing spider, because it weaves a white pattern into its web similar to script.
The highly reflective white patterns are called stabilimentum. They play a role in attracting prey to the web, and may prevent its accidental destruction by large animals by rendering the otherwise transparent trap visible. The center of their large webs is two to three feet above the ground.
Writing spiders are active both day and night in our area. They often hunt during the day and construct or repair their webs after dark. Once a female finds a suitable site for her webs, she tends to stay there unless the web is frequently disturbed. Adult males roam in search of potential mates, but once they find a female they build small webs nearby and court her by plucking and vibrating her web.
After mating, the female lays her eggs, weaving her egg sac into the web. The sac contains between 400 and 1400 eggs. These eggs hatch in autumn, but the spiderlings overwinter in the sac and emerge during the spring. The egg sac is composed of multiple layers of silk and protects its contents from damage. Many species of insects and other spiders have been observed to parasitize the egg sacs.
Like almost all spiders, writing spiders are harmless to humans and handy in a garden since they eat insects. They are capable of consuming prey up to twice their size. They might bite if grabbed, but otherwise do not attack large animals. Their venom is not regarded as a serious medical problem for humans.
Legend has it that if you speak a name within their hearing, they will weave it into their web resulting in the death of the person named. In some areas, even looking at a writing spider is said to doom the observer.
Another legend states that you will die if a writing spider looks at you long enough to “count your teeth.”
"If you wish to thrive, let a spider stay alive,” is a saying that refers to all spiders.
A popular Cherokee tale credits Grandmother Spider with bringing light to the world “in the early times when everything was dark and no one could see because the sun was on the other side of the world.” The animals agreed that someone must go and steal some light. Possum and buzzard both tried and failed.
Finally, Grandmother Spider made a bowl of clay, and using her eight legs, rolled it to where the sun sat, weaving a web as she traveled across the sky. She placed the sun in the clay bowl, and rolled it home, following her web and traveling from east to west, bringing light with her as she came. The sun continued to follow that path daily from then on.
In several cultures, spiders are credited with saving the lives of great leaders. In the Torah, David, who later became King of Israel, hid in a cave from soldiers sent by King Saul. A spider crawled in and built a huge web across the entrance. The soldiers passed the cave by because the web was undisturbed and David was saved