Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the December 14, 2014 Newsletter issued from Río Lagartos, on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO

In knee-high strand-vegetation scrub near the water's edge of Ría Lagartos Estuary about ten kilometers east of Río Lagartos, a spider in her web caught my attention not only because she was boldly colored pale-white and black, but also because an eye-catching design graced the web's center. The design was X-shaped, fashioned of zigzagging strands of spider silk, with the spider occupying the X's center. You can see this below:

Silver Garden Spider, ARGIOPE ARGENTATA, in web

Mosquitoes that day were atrocious, even bunching up behind my glasses and getting into my eyes. My mosquitoes were a bonanza for the spider, for as I took these pictures one mosquito after another got snagged in the sticky web, causing the spider to rush out and grab it, return to her position in the X's center, and suck the mosquito's body dry. Below, you can see her feasting on one:

Silver Garden Spider, ARGIOPE ARGENTATA, ventral, feeding on mosquito

A view of this spider's top side as she feeds on a mosquito is shown below:

Silver Garden Spider, ARGIOPE ARGENTATA, dorsal view

The web's zigzagging silk patterns -- such web decorations are known as "stabilimenta" -- as well as the spider's white front segment, or cephalothorax, its large size, its banded legs, and the bold patterns on its rear segment, or abdomen, all reminded me of the common Garden Spider so often seen in North America. You might enjoy comparing the common Garden Spider with our scrub discovery at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/a/gardspid.htm.

So many similarities between the two species make sense because our local scrub spider belongs to the same genus, Argiope. It's ARGIOPE ARGENTATA, usually called the Silver Garden Spider or Silver Argiope. Silver Garden Spiders, like common Garden Spiders, are distributed over a large part of the Americas, though on the average the Silver Argiope requires warmer, drier habitats than the Garden one. Silver Argiopes are found from the southern US south to Argentina. With such a large distribution, it's not surprising that pictures on the Internet show a variety of Silver Garden Spider abdomen designs. Even just locally, the designs vary tremendously.

Silver Garden Spiders can bite and their bite might hurt awhile, but for the vast majority of people they aren't serious. However, especially susceptible individuals may need to seek medical attention if bitten. Mainly, though, the spiders just don't bite unless handled, so don't handle them.