It is common to find large, black and yellow spiders during late summer in the center of big, round, flat webs. They have bodies measuring one inch long and counting their legs, can be several inches in length. These spiders belong to the family called orb weavers (Araneidae) and are known as argiope (ar-JYE-o-pee) spiders or garden spiders.
There are two common species in Minnesota, the black and yellow argiope, Argiope aurantia and the banded argiope, Argiope trifasciata. Both are strikingly colored spiders. The black and yellow argiope has a black body and yellow markings on its abdomen, somewhat resembling flames. The banded argiope has a series of thin yellow, white, and black transverse (side to side) bands on its abdomen. Garden spiders are typically found building their webs in gardens or in tall grassy areas.
People assume because these spiders are large that they must be dangerous to people. They actually are very shy (as nearly all spiders are). They stay in their webs, eating insects they capture, and rarely, if ever, are found off of them. Orb weavers would not do well if they fell to the ground. They would move very slowly and have very poor vision, even for a spider. They would be extremely unlikely to bite people, a person would have to handle one carelessly for an argiope to have any chance to bite. This spider is not dangerous to people and should be left alone. They are fascinating to watch and people should enjoy any argiope spiders they find.
Published in Yard and Garden News, Volume 10, Number 14, September 15, 2008