It’s Argiope Day!

Over on the iNaturalist site for Spiders of Minnesota, we’ve been tasked with finding Argiope. I hadn’t seen any in Minnesota before (and I’ve been living here for almost 20 years), but as usual, once you start looking, and once you see a few, suddenly their presence just leaps out at you. We found a bunch of them today!

These are among the biggest spiders in Minnesota, and the first one I found, the pictures weren’t so great. I’m used to itty-bitty little beasties, so I’ve got multiple extension tubes in my camera, and all I got were EXXXTREME closeups. Today I popped out most of those tubes. These guys really are monstrous huge, and vividly colored. Once I tweaked my camera, they were also easy to photograph.

We found them in the unmowed drainage ditches all along the highway through town. Well, honestly, Mary found them — she spotted the first, I moved in with the camera, totally focused on the specimen, and she had to yell at me that I was about to walk into another one. She was keying in on the stabilimenta, the thickened zig-zag bands that form a line in the webs, and once she spotted one, she was seeing them all over the place. It got to the point that she’d say “one here, one here, another one here” and point and I’d just go where she commanded.

I’ve put a little gallery below the fold. Get out into nature and open your eyes!


  1. Jazzlet says

    Lovely photos, great details, the female with the fly is superb. What is the brown prominence under the abdomen? How big are they?

  2. unclefrogy says

    one of my favorites that and the silver banded one with the same size and shape. one of the more disappointing things about my garden is the complete lack of any orb weavers at all let alone these marvelous creatures probably due to the current lack of dogs and the inevitable fly population density ( they have all died and have not been replaced yet)
    that prominence if you are pointing to the one I see is where the spinnerets are located.
    their web is very thick and strong and i have seen them with grasshoppers bundled in them they are big and strong.
    uncle frogy

  3. John Harshman says

    Jazzlet: Those would be the spinnerets. And those spiders (which I know by their common name “garden spiders”) can be a couple of inches wide.

  4. Ragutis says

    Not sure if that’s the same thing often referred to down here in FL as “banana spider”, but I’ve blundered into plenty of their webs face first during my scouting and more outdoorsy days. One afternoon walking about the Devil’s Millhopper area, I must’ve walked into 4 or 5. You just don’t expect to encounter a spiderweb stretching 5 or 6 feet across a trail. And unless the owner is sitting smack dab in the middle of it to catch your eye…

    Rather pretty as far as spiders go, I’ll admit that.

  5. blf says

    You just don’t expect to encounter a spiderweb stretching 5 or 6 feet across a trail.


  6. kenbakermn says

    Beautiful! When I was a kid in Illinois we had those by the dozen in the backyard. We called them banana spiders. But yeah, they’re monstrous and beautiful.

  7. magistramarla says

    I also grew up in Illinois and called them banana spiders. I slept in a room that was an enclosed back porch, and I would sometimes awake to find one crawling across my pillow. I used to freak out my spider-fearing best friend when I would nonchalantly pick up one of these or a daddy-long-legs. I would laugh when she shrieked and ran!

  8. brikoleur says

    I was walking on a path in Provence, France last month. There was a big spiderweb across it with — I’m pretty sure — an Argiope lobata in it. We stopped to admire her for a moment.

    Then she rolled up the web like it was a curtain, as if telling us “go through already.”

    I tried to get a picture with my phone camera but she didn’t like being approached that close and retreated into a tree so I left her alone.

    I have no idea if what she did was in response to our approach or if she was just tidying up to weave a new web (hers was kind of tatty at that point), but in any case it was an amazing encounter.

  9. marcoli says

    Very good! Although big they are very easy to handle. I have handled probably many dozen and have never been bitten. As a youngster I used to keep these in my bedroom, where they would spin a web … somewhere. It was a pleasure that married life no longer allows. I see no harm in trying to set some up in a wood frame in the lab. Though they won’t stay there. The other species you may find is the slightly smaller banded Argiope (Argiope trifasciata), but these seem to me to be a bit less common. Other good places to look are in the tall weeds along lakes and ponds. Male Argiopes are going to be puny, almost mosquito sized, hanging out in a special web near the female. They are hard to notice, but once you find one then it becomes easy to see more. They may be with their females now, but certainly will be more commonly seen late in the summer.
    In the Fall, the females will make a huge egg sac that will overwinter. I have no idea about when their embryos start growing legs, etc. but it should be interesting to cut a ‘window’ into the egg sac (like windowing a chicken egg) and view events that way.

  10. Nes says

    Not an argiope, but these pictures remind me of a spider that I had right outside my apartment window when I moved in. I think it was one of these beauties. It had placed its web about two feet from the window, anchored to the eaves and a cable running up to the roof that draped over the edge.

    The property had just been taken over by a new management company a few months before I moved in, and they were working on renovating the place. Shortly after I moved in, they were replacing all of the windows. The company doing it had arrived at my place right before I had to leave for the day, and I asked them to leave the spider alone. Alas, they did not. Tore down the whole web and everything. Haven’t seen another like it since.