Nephila clavipes | Golden Silk Orb-weaver Spider

Large yellowish spider hanging from a web

Apologies to anyone who has a phobia of spiders – this isn’t the start of a series, I promise!

My sweetheart is scared enough of spiders to quiver and let out a loud, high-pitched squeal when he sees one. If a spider imprudently reveals itself indoors, I am called upon to relocate it using an upturned glass and piece of card.

Strangely, some spiders don’t give rise to that instinctive reaction. For instance, he’s developed a nodding acquaintance with a large spider that lives in a corner of my shed. He admires the little, sturdy jumping spiders for their feisty attitude, observing that if you attempt to scare one off, it holds its ground and sticks its front arms up in a boxer-like stance so it seems to be saying “I don’t think so!”.

And I ought to confess that this spider scared me more than it did him. It was hanging around with the right crowd: we found it suspended face high on a web in woodland outside Mississippi’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks last autumn. 

The mere size of this golden silk orb-weaver spider was alarming to someone more familiar with a money spider. My memory may be exaggerating, but suggests that it was nearly as big as my hand and certainly bigger than the only fish I’ve ever caught with a rod (even though I was top angler that day). And it was yellow. I can’t remember seeing a yellow spider before. The subconscious mind runs along the lines of yellow and black = wasp or bee = potential sting, then the conscious mind starts replaying all the stories you’ve ever heard about venomous creatures. Well, mine did.

My sweetheart said it was a garden spider, nothing to be scared about, and not poisonous to humans, although Wikipedia cautions these are so large that “…any bite can cause some mechanical damage”. He glossed over that bit.

These spiders are also known as banana spiders, though I don’t know if that’s because they live in banana trees, often travel with bananas, look like bananas, or all three. I loved how its colours complemented the autumn foliage and how it seemed to be using a leaf as a parasol.

The spider had its thoughts on something else, and was hanging languidly, displaying its long, gartered legs, unperturbed by the close attentions of a couple of humans brandishing iPhones. You might observe it had a better sense of proportion than I did.

My mum, the family arachnophile, once won extra kudos by being happy to hold a large tarantula when a naturalist offered her the chance. I’m not sure how keen she would have been to hold this one: I’ll have to ask her!

33 thoughts on “Nephila clavipes | Golden Silk Orb-weaver Spider

  1. Anne Copeland says:

    I really LOVE spiders, perhaps except for the truly venomous ones, and quite frankly when I have run into those, they have done everything to avoid contact. It is only if you pursue them directly that they will ultimately turn and attack. I have rescued many a house spider, carrying them out in my hand, but I know spiders, and I know how to handle them carefully and not to alarm them etc. And most spiders will not try to bite you. They just want to try to get away.

    Spiders are such incredible creatures in reality. The webs they spin are so strong, that some types of spider silk could be used to stop the planes that land on ships, and that is true. Their silks are used for the lines in some types of telescopes and other similar things. It is amazing that all silk comes from insects, and silk is one of the most desirable of textiles.

    Next time you see a spider, I hope you will allow it to live and if you find it in your house and are afraid of them, you can catch it in a jar and then take it outside and safely release it.

    In my little town of Yucaipa, CA (Southern CA), there was a lady known as the Spider Lady, and she collected all kinds of spiders for study and research back in the day. She never once got bit by any of them, even those that did bite. This is not to encourage people to do it, however. We have a lot of different types of spiders here including tarantulas. They apparently come down out of the mountains at certain times of the year – apparently when it gets colder, along with lady bugs, and other insects. I recently had a wonderful visit for several days with an orange Praying Mantis, which I believe was a good event. I looked up its symbolism, and every insect has an associated symbolism with it. Just remember that if you have a spider in your environment, it is there because there are insects around for it to capture and eat, so it is helping you to prevent the high costs of an exterminator.

  2. Oddment says:

    Well…ummm…hmmm…I am really trying hard to find something to say besides eeeuuuuw. But I can’t. Spiders just give me the creeps. I will share my garden with them, but not my residence. I kind of wish they’d make some noise. They’re just suddenly THERE. I did enjoy your description of the creepy thing, though. I couldn’t have done it!

    • susurrus says:

      I don’t know if it is the approach of Halloween but I can’t help thinking they’d make a scary noise if they were audible. They would worry me a LOT more.

  3. Vicki says:

    The size and colour of this spider would have been enough to scare the %$#@! out of me. Seriously, Susan, this looks to be one really scary spider.

    ….and….a particularly good photo of one too. Love the sharp focus and how beautifully you’ve captured the pattern on his/her back.

  4. David A Lockwood says:

    I hate any spider bigger than a grain of rice, but such a lovely image I gritted my teeth.
    Lookup Camel Spiders/Sun Spider for a really horrible monster of a thing (if you haven’t seen one already) because one of those would make me up-sticks and move a whole camp site if I saw one. My wife is the same as you, glass and paper then comes to the rescue.

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