GOLDEN SILK SPIDER: (Nephila clavipes) This picture is a golden silk spider. Most people call them Banana Spiders because of their yellow bodies. They weave very strong webs which look like gold thread in the sunshine. Thats why they are called Golden Silk Spiders. Their legs look long and hairy. The female is much bigger than the male. She is about 3 inches long, and the male is only 1/2 inch long. They make big webs, about 3 feet wide and live all over the southern US, especially Florida. They rarely ever bite people. Some people have allergic reactions to spider bites, but for most people, its the same as getting bitten by an ant or deer fly. Its not fun, but it wont kill you.
HOW DID SPIDERS GET THEIR NAME? Over 700 different kinds of spiders live in Florida. The scientific name for spiders is "Arachnid" (uh-rack-nid). That name comes from an old Greek story. In this story, a girl named Arachne loved to weave. Her weaving was so beautiful and perfect that the goddess Athena got jealous. To punish Arachne, the goddess turned her into a spider. But Arachne still loved to weave, even though she was a spider. Today, all Arachnids, or spiders, weave silk. (Not all of them make webs though.) The word, "spider," comes from the German word "spinner," because spiders spin or weave silk.
WHAT DO SPIDERS LOOK LIKE? Spiders have a head and an abdomen (belly). They have 8 legs and up to 8 eyes. Spiders have tiny hairs and claws on their legs that help them feel when a bug is in their web. The little claws also help to cut the silk when they are weaving their web. Spiders come in many colors, from clear to yellow to green to black. Female spiders are much bigger than male spiders. She will live for about a year, but he will die shortly after mating.
WHAT ABOUT BABY SPIDERS? Baby spiders are called Spiderlings. Many babies are born from eggs in an egg sack. After one gets out of its egg, it may "balloon" or shoot out a strand of silk that helps it float away on a breeze. Spiderlings have no color at all. This may help them hide from predators (animals that might eat them.)
WHAT WOULD EAT A SPIDER? Frogs, toads, lizards, birds, shrews, beetles, ants, centipedes, wasps, and bigger spiders like to eat them. Other dangers to spiders include people, storms and cold weather, and fungus.
WHAT ABOUT SPIDER WEBS? The spiders that weave webs use silk to do this. They make the silk out of their own bodies and jump from tree branch to tree branch to make their web. Each kind of spider makes a different kind of web. Some of the strands in the web are sticky, to catch bugs, but some are dry. The spider walks on the dry strands so she doesnt get stuck. The spider usually waits in the center of the web, with one of her legs touching a strand. If she feels the strands jiggle, she goes to find the bug that is caught in the web. If it is just a leaf, or a really big bug that could tear up the web, the spider will cut the strands holding it, so it will fall out of the web. If she needs to rebuild a web, she will eat the broken strands and digest them. This helps her make more new silk. Nothing is wasted. (Spider webs are so strong that some native peoples twist the webs to make fishing nets. Others use the web for bandaging wounds or for reducing fevers.)
HOW DO SPIDERS EAT? Spiders dont chew their food. When they get to the bug in their web, they bite it and inject venom. The venom either paralyzes or kills the bug. Then the venom turns the bugs insides into liquid. While the venom is working, the spider wraps the bug in silk. She may drink the liquid then, or tie the little silk bundle to her web so she can snack later.
WHAT ABOUT VENOM? Most spiders have venom. Lucky for us, most of this venom is not strong enough to hurt a person. Two spiders that do have strong venom are the Black Widow and Brown Recluse. If you are bitten by a spider, always tell a grown-up as soon as possible.
WHY ARE SPIDERS OUR FRIENDS? Even though they can bite, spiders are our friends. They eat more insects than birds do, especially yellow flies, which really bite people a lot. Spiders dont see very well. If you stay more than a foot away from them, they cant even see you, and they certainly cant bite you. If a spider gets on you, the only thing it wants to do is get off. Dont squash him; just flip him off. He may eat the bug that was going to sting you tomorrow!
Most people call this a Crab Spider or Thorn Spider. She stands upside-down in her web, waiting for a bug to fly in. She also weaves a new web every night.
Crablike Spiny Orb Weaver
Daddy-long-legs are in the Arachnid
class, but they are not true spiders. They don't have a distinct
head and body, just one little circle with 8 legs sticking off.
They eat tiny insects.
Daddy-long-legs or Harvestman
To see a Black Widow Spider in her web, click here.
How does a spider make its web?
Check out the Spider coloring page by clicking on the Animal Coloring Page box below!
Levi, Herbert W. A Golden Guide to Spiders and Their Kin. Wisconsin: Western Publishing Co., Inc., 1990.
Milne, Lorus and Margery. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Alfred A. Knopf - Chanticleer Press, 1995.
Smith, Francia. Come Into My Parlor, a pamphlet. Florida: League Of Environmental Educations of Florida., 1996.
Provided by the E. Dale Joyner Nature Preserve at Pelotes Island
St. Johns River Power Park, Jacksonville, Electric Authority, Florida Power & Light
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