What are these large spiders found in the landscape?

The picture is of a Yellow Garden Spider which are often seen in the landscape in late summer and fall. Read on to learn more about this and another fall spider.

Late Summer & Autumn Spiders

Nancy C. Hinkle, UGA Department of Entomology 

Between now and Halloween we will be seeing more spiders around our yards.  The first hard frost will kill them off. Now they are mating and producing egg sacs so their eggs can overwinter and re-establish the population next spring.  There are two orb-weaver spiders with large webs that are most commonly seen.

Barn spiders (Araneus cavaticus) can be found on porches, where flying insects attracted to porch lights get trapped in their webs.  These spiders are nocturnal, constructing a new web every evening and taking it down before dawn.  This rusty brown spider has legs extending about 2 inches, making it look large and noticeable.  These spiders hide during the day, but at night are found in the middle of the web, waiting for insects to be trapped.

The yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) is one of the longest spiders we have here in Georgia.  It is frequently found in gardens and around shrubbery where it constructs large webs to entrap flying insects.  The abdomen has distinctive yellow and black markings while the front part of the body, the cephalothorax, is covered in white.

The female yellow garden spider typically remains in one spot throughout her life, repairing and reconstructing her web as it is damaged and ages.  Her web may have a distinctive zigzag of silk through the middle, explaining its other common name, “writing spider.”  Unlike the nocturnal barn spider, the yellow garden spider can be found in its web anytime.  Sometimes a smaller spider will be found in the web with her; this is the male garden spider.

These spiders have been present all summer, eating pest insects and growing.  By late summer they are large enough that people start noticing them.  Remember,Georgia has over 800 species of spiders, all of which are harmless if you leave them alone.  All spiders are more afraid of you than you are of them.

For more information:

Call your local Extension Agent at (800) ASK-UGA1 or locate your local Extension Office.

Stinging and Biting Pests of People

Golden Garden Spiders

Pest Management Handbook Follow all label recommendations when using any pesticide

What type of spider is this and what is the risk?

Brown widow spiders – hiding in a log near you

Stephanie Schupska, news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office

A brown widow spider will usually hide when it senses danger. In fact, a person is more likely to be hit by lightning than be bitten by a brown or black widow spider. Image credit: Nancy Hinkle.
A brown widow spider will usually hide when it senses danger. In fact, a person is more likely to be hit by lightning than be bitten by a brown or black widow spider. Image credit: Nancy Hinkle.
Glove up before clearing brush, cleaning out the garage or pulling logs off the woodpile this winter. A brown widow spider or her more commonly known sister, the black widow, may be hiding in the shadows.

The brown widow’s camouflage – an orange hourglass on a brown body – makes her hard to see. That’s good for her but bad for the person who sticks a hand too close to her web.

Avoids people

The brown widow usually tries to stay away from people, said Whitney Boozer, an entomology graduate student with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“If they’re disturbed, they drop off the web, curl up in a ball or retreat,” Boozer said.

They can’t retreat when they’re pressed up against someone’s skin, though. A brown widow gets in this situation when someone wraps a hand around her while she’s holed up some place.

Wear long sleeves and gloves

Gloves and long sleeves will protect you “if you’re working in areas where brown widow spiders are commonly found,” Boozer said. Outside, brown widows prefer woodpiles, tires, empty containers and eaves. Indoors, the spider prefers protected places like under furniture and in shoes.

Shake clothes and check shoes before putting them on if they are left outside or in a garage.

Bites by brown widows cause severe reactions in 5 percent of people who are bitten. The young and old are especially vulnerable. With medical intervention, bites are almost never fatal.

The only scientific data collected on deaths attributed to widow spiders was taken between 1950 and 1959. During that time, 63 people died from the spiders’ bites, said Nancy Hinkle, a CAES entomologist.

Indoor plumbing lowered bite numbers

“Doubtless those numbers are much lower now that we have indoor plumbing because most widow bites occurred in privies,” she said.

According to Boozer, the brown widow’s venom is more toxic than that of her black cousin, but she injects less venom when she bites.

“In my whole life, I have known only one person bitten by a widow spider, and actually I didn’t know him, he just called my office,” Hinkle said. “On the other hand, I have personally known three people who were struck by lightning.”

She estimates that there are fewer than seven people killed each year by widow spiders. More than 1,000 people each year are struck by lightning.

A bad reputation

“So your chance of being killed by a widow spider bite — even without treatment — is over 100 times less than your chance of being struck by lightning,” Hinkle said.

Despite the odds, brown widows still aren’t spiders most people want wandering around in their homes. If you do see one, don’t panic. Boozer suggests taking it outside or vacuuming it up.

“Even outside, you’re allowed to kill widow spiders,” Hinkle said, who usually cringes when the conversation turns to smashing spiders.

Crush the egg sack, too, Boozer said. A brown widow’s egg sack is sphere shaped with spindly spikes of webbing sticking up all over it.

If desperation leads to a chemical attack, it’s best to spray spiders directly, Boozer said. Spraying a home’s perimeter may prevent spiders from entering it, but it won’t kill the ones already there. Brown widow spiders avoid places that have been sprayed.

Online Training for the Pest Control Industry

Past trainings and webinars have been recorded and made available online. For more information, click on the links below. Not all webinars originate from Georgia, so not all information may be pertinent to our area.

This website lists the available online trainings.

Are Those Itsy Bitsy Spiders Good or Bad? May 2, 2014

Dr. Nancy Hinkle, Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Georgia.
People list spiders as one of their greatest fears.  This webinar helps you to identify and to understand the biology of spiders common in Georgia. Click here to view the webinar  For more webinars in this series, see All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series.

Dealing with People Who Think They are Infested with Invisible Bugs February 19, 2014

Dr. Nancy Hinkle, Professor of Medical-Veterinary Entomology at the University of Georgia.

The presentation is available as a podcast at these two sites. You may need to download QuickTime to view the video.



Home Invaders (Kudzu bugs and others) October 2, 2013

Dr Dan Suiter, Professor and Program Leader-Urban Entomology, University of Georgia.

Category 41 (Mosquito Control) Exam Review to prepare applicators to take the GA Department of Agriculture commercial pesticide applicator exam June 2013

Elmer Gray, UGA Entomology Department.

The Bugs That Won’t Go Away: Your role in delusional infestation March 27, 2013

Dr Nancy Hinkle, UGA Entomologist

Dr. Peter Lepping, Consultant Psychiatrist, Visiting Professor at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, Wales

Ant Control Made Easy May 17, 2012

How Can You Tell if You Have Odorous House Ants? Dr. Karen Vail, University of Tennessee

Understanding the Biology and Behavior of Carpenter Ants Dr. Dan Suiter, University of Georgia

Managing Problems with Pharaoh Ants Dr. Michael Merchant, Texas A&M University

Fire Ant Control Made Easy May 10, 2012 

How Can You Tell if You Have Fire Ants? Dr. Jason Oliver, Tennessee State University

Understanding the Biology and Behavior of Fire Ants, Vicky Bertagnolli-Heller, Clemson University

Managing Imported Fire Ants, Dr. Bastiaan Drees, Professor, Texas A&M University

Biological Control of Fire Ants, Dr. Lawrence Graham, Auburn University