The Writing Spider

One of my favorite childhood movies was Charlottes Web. It’s a great story of how a pig who started out as a runt and was going to be killed is saved time and time again by a young girl, a gluttonous rat and a spider who becomes his best friend, Charlotte. To save Wilbur (the pig) an idea was hatched to prove to the farmer that Wilbur was special and should be spared from the slaughter house. Charlotte constructed her web above Wilbur’s pen and with her silk, spun the message “Some Pig” for all to see. This of course amazed the people but this ability of a spider to ‘write’ in their web has been going on way before Charlotte and even though it’s not words we can read, it’s still amazing to see.

A writing spider is a typical garden spider found in the United States as well as around the world. You may know it better as the Argiope aurantia or perhaps its other common names; black and yellow garden spider, zipper spider, banana spider, x spider or corn spider. These spiders are easy to identify by the distinctive pattern of silk in the middle of their webs. Most often a zig zag pattern thick and white, the other wise hard to see web is easy to spot especially since the writing spider usually straddles this pattern waiting for its prey. There certainly are varieties but generally this spider has yellow and black markings on their abdomens and a mostly white cephalothorax (head). These spiders are mostly harmless to humans.

Writing spiders commonly build their webs in areas close to open sunny fields, where they can stay concealed and protected from the wind. They can be found in tall vegetation, outbuildings and even around the eaves of your house. The female spider will stay in the same local area for most of life.

The web of a writing spider is distinctive just like the spider itself; it is circular in shape, with a dense zigzag of silk known as stabilmentum in the center of the web. A female zipper spider’s web can reach 2 feet in diameter and are built at elevations 2-8 feet from the ground. The pattern on the web is not completely understood but scientists believe that it may be to warn birds or large animals of the presence of the difficult to see web. We know webbing gives off (or at least reflects) ultra violet light as well as some plants. Many insects see UV light better than sunlight so it’s possible this zig zag looks like a nice shiny leaf for a bug to land on and thus an easy meal for the spider. The argiope spider also has a daily ritual of consuming the center circular part of the web and then rebuilds it every morning. Unlike other orb spiders the writing spider does not live in dense clusters. Also unlike the golden orb spider that leaves a cluttered series of webs, the writing spider keeps a clean orderly web.

These spiders only breed once a year. The male roams to find a mate and once found he will then build a small web near the female. He will then pluck the female’s web strands like a guitar announcing his intentions and hoping to gain her favor. When the male approaches the female, he has a safety drop line just in case she attacks him. After they mate, the male will die, and the female will sometimes eat the male.

Even though this spider is a great bug eliminator, for some it may cause some apprehension because of it’s size and striking appearance. Eliminating the writing spider is easy, just consistently knock the web down and it will cause the spider to relocate to another location to survive. If you have outdoor lighting it may be attracting the food, in turn attracting the spider. You could also try changing the outdoor bulbs to yellow “bug away” bulbs or sodium vapor bulbs to remove the center of the bug’s attraction. I guess if you had to you could spray the spider and it won’t give you to much trouble when you do. But why eliminate such a good friend who helps keep your home pest free? Who knows, you may need its help someday and it’ll write a special message in it’s web just for you. I guess the opposite could also happen if you were mean, you might get a whole different kind of message then.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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  • Exterminatorsrock

    my Grandma used to tell me and all my cousins, “if it writes your name in the web, you will die”.

    the knee high stocking wearing spider has mystified me ever since. i really try to never kill one, in case the old wives tale is true

  • You are wise to listen to your Grandma–I always heard killing a daddy long leg meant rain but not quite the same consequences– 😉

    Love the ‘knee high stocking spider’ name–That fits perfect…

  • Exterminatorsrock

    i’ve tried to do some research to find out the origin of many of these “wives tales”, and i stumbled across “folklore entomology”.

    i now have a new obsession

  • Cool-I’m gonna check that out too…thx

  • Talaziawalther

    OMG I had two of those neer my home one was on my building and one was on my poorch we are infasted!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Some say having one is good luck– You have two! I’d say you’re doing pretty good.

  • Jeremy Radtke

    are these spiders found in minnesota because i have been looking at one all day lived here   for 30 years and this is the 1st one i have seen

  • I grew up in Iowa & I remember seeing spiders with “extra” webbing many times so I’m pretty sure Minnesota is on their map too!

  • Jfwilburn

    we used to catch grasshoppers to throw in the webs when we were kids to watch them cacoon them in seconds

  • I think that is a sanctioned sport for every kid! That and the frying ants with a magnifying glass competition.

    Great comment-brings back simple times and good memories.

  • cookie

    lolo, i just killed 7 of them, i thought they were deadly! oops, o well lol

  • just watch out for any webs with your name written in them 😉

  • Cassy

    I have one in my backyard but I’m just concerned about my dog. I have a pitt bull and she’s like, petrified of the thing. She won’t even go to that end of the yard anymore. I just want to know if she (it’s a girl, there’s a baby in her web with her) will hurt her or anything. And now that I know she’s potentially harmless I don’t want to kill her, I just want her to die of natural causes and her baby to be a boy so it will go away. I just feel like if I knock her web down that one of them will get in the house and then we’ll have a big problem because I’d so bomb my house for two weeks.

  • Ellen Mcdonald

    Way The Writing Spiders is not come back I real Like the writing spiders i Put a bug in the way some time i do not see a writing spiders no more Love Ellen Mcdonald

  • I share your love for the writing spiders. It’s amazing to me how they spin their webs. I sure hope the writing spiders will come back where you can find them soon.

    Thanks for your comment Ellen

  • spidergirl

    I have 6 that I have seen. I also noticed two egg sacs on the front and back of my house. I am a bit worried now that I have
    seen the eggs. Is this ok, to have this many? I watch one put up her web this morning and was taken back by how beautiful it was. Another female actually helped her, like she was teaching the other one. Although I hate to do it I’m going to have to remove the web because it covers my entire sliding door to my back yard. Should I start removing some of the others too? It just seems like my house is covered with them…

  • Once they ‘over stay’ their welcome or move too close I’d say you’re doing the right thing….

  • lesmoore

    A zipper spider has lived outside my living room window all summer. I would like to bring ‘her’ inside and maybe put her in a terrarium. Can I feed her hermit crab food? I hear spiders and hermit crabs are similar.

  • I don’t know what’s in crab food so I couldn’t say. Besides-I think her time is probably up with the coming of winter…maybe find one early next spring

  • Ina B

    I have termites and they need to treat where my spider is located. I see a male near her and want to safely relocate both of them. It saddens me, because I love them being there, but I want them protected as well and they are in a bad location. Suggestions?

  • If you simply use a broom or rake you can ‘scoop’ them up and move em to anew spot. They’ll quickly rebuild with no problem.

  • Dandelion

    If we kill a wasp or fly we throw it in her web.