September 2, 2022
Sewing spiders are having the best days of their lives as Labor Day brings summer to a close


By Mary Reid Barrow

When Labor Day arrives, summer starts packing up to go.  She’s already dropping a few yellowing leaves here and there and turning the garden into an overgrown mess.

But not everyone agrees with summer’s timing.  The black and yellow garden spider, particularly, defies the changing of the seasons and comes into her own as summer departs.  Hers is not an endless summer, but you could call it a very prolonged one.

This big spider that I grew up calling a sewing spider is only reaching her peak at Labor Day. The one in my back yard is in the prime of life now. You can’t miss her.

She’s big and beautiful, bright yellow and black, about an inch long with even longer legs.  She’s perched jauntily in the middle of her big stylish web which you can’t miss either because of its equally oversized zigzag stitch down the center.

That stitch is why some of us call her a sewing spider.  Others say writing spider and the more technical of us call her a black and yellow Argiope.

She sits in the center of her web not only waiting for a meal but also waiting for a male. He will be a much smaller, innocuous looking spider. Soon, I might be lucky enough to find him perched, in fear, in a small web of his own on the far reaches of the her web.

He’s fearful, because he must be quick and daring to dart in and mate with this big mama,four times as big as he is, who can easily mistake his movement in the web for her dinner.  It is said he plucks the web with a twang, known only to her, to alert her that he is not dinner. A twang is little reassurance in the face of this Amazon!

Though scary to the male, she is no threat to humans, usually dropping to the ground if she were alarmed, and no more venomous than any other spider in the garden.

If the male meets up successfully with  my beauty, she will become even larger, a very plump mama, as the eggs in her belly grow.  She lays her eggs protected in what looks like a brown paper sack tied at the top   She will probably attach her egg sack to a hard structure like the nearby well house.  And she very well may lay another egg sack or two before she’s through.

 Well into fall, my sewing spider’s summer will finally be over and she will die, passing the torch to the little ones who will spend the winter in their paper sack and emerge late in spring, ready for another long summer.

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