Georgia / Nature / Weird

And Along Came A Spider

Our Spider

One of our earlier posts in our Weird & Wonderful series was about the skin-eating fish of Cambodia, and now the creepshow gets better.  It’s a long way to Cambodia, but I only had to move to Georgia, right here in the good ol’ USA, to discover my first snake-eating spiders. I am not making this up.

There’s a gravel path to the mailbox behind our condo building which is wooded on one side, with mature viburnum shrubs on the other side. It’s a convenient shortcut and normally a pleasant path, but this past summer, a huuuumongus spider (a female – more on that later) wove a beautiful, golden, 6-8 foot-wide web, and set up shop on the shrub side of the path. On my daily trips I monitored her progress, and as the days passed, I swear, I was half expecting to see a squirrel dangling in her net.

Male on the edge

This is a Golden Silk Spider, but it’s is also known as a Banana Spider – and not because it eats bananas.

“It is particularly despised by hikers and hunters, as during late summer and fall the large golden webs of this species make a sticky trap for the unwary.” — University of Florida Entomology Department

The female is considerably larger than the male, and the spider’s body length is about 2 inches. Add in the frighteningly long legs, and it measures 3-4 inches. Now that’s one big honkin’ spider! And just so you know, the itsy-bitsy spiders you see in the photos are not babies (thank goodness), but are males. I’m betting that they don’t forget to put the seat down.

Repairing her web

In Australia earlier this year, someone shot a short video of one of these spiders attempting to eat a 15-inch snake. It’s hard to know who to cheer for in this battle. There’s also a video floating around of one of these spiders capturing and eating a goldfinch. I didn’t link to this video for fear of being labled the Big Meanie of the blogosphere.

I’ve been told these spiders are normally harmless unless harrassed. Their venom is a mild neurotoxin, similar to the black widow’s, but not as powerful. Harmless – what malarkey! If one of these spiders drops on me, stick a fork in me because I’m done.

I wish you a good night’s sleep and pleasant dreams.

Happy Trails and Sweet Dreams,
James

77 thoughts on “And Along Came A Spider

  1. James that is one nasty spider. Remember that whining I was doing about all the snow? I take it all back. At least we don’t have insects that eat snakes, well we don’t have snakes either for that matter. Snakes birds, what’s next small dogs? That video is ….shocking. Sweet dreams indeed!

    • The hot and humid South, and particularly the coast, are crucibles for all sorts of creepy-crawlies Sue. Over the years I’ve developed a good tolerance for most of them, but when spiders reach this size; all bets are off. You know that you probably do have snakes, but given that they’re cold-bloodied, they probably hibernate 11 months out of the year. ~James

      • Poor sad snake that finds itself in Calgary. I have heard of an occasional spotting of garter snakes here but very rare. I imagine I would be doing a lot of squealing should we be on a walk with you and Terri. Being from the farm I don’t mind bugs generally but this is WAY over the top. 🙂

      • Yes, indeed! Especially rainy season, brings out the biggest buggers ‘n whoppers ever – like this super long leech that I saw crawling around the bathroom floor the other night, beetles and snakes galore. Sometimes I can’t believe I LIVE here 😉

  2. Gosh. If that ever lands on me, I’d be done with too. 😉 I hear that some (like the Sydney Funnel Web) like hiding in toilet bowls; I shudder thinking about possible outcomes.

    • In the US, one of our most poisonous spiders is called a Brown Recluse. They get their name from their preference of dark places. Riffing on your story, apparently one of the places they like the most (and where they can do the most damage) is hiding under outhouse seats. Now there’s some terror for you. ~James

    • There are a number of spider species with a large disparity in size Alastair between the male and female. The black widow is in this category, and after mating, she actually eats the male. Now THAT’S a serious commitment to the relationship. ~James

  3. OMG James! This post about takes the cake! I’m aware of many a creepy crawly having been raised in Australia, and spent some time in Africa and the Amazon, but did not know about a spider that could eat a snake. Truly creepy. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Alison

    • As I said Alison, in a spider/snake battle, I’d have a hard time picking a favorite. We lived in Sudan for a couple of years, and luckily, because it was desert, other than mozzies along the Nile, it was relatively bug and snake free. ~James

  4. Most spiders in the orb weaver family are beautifully colored and spin amazing webs. I would have been fascinated to watch her progress. There are a lot of neat facts about them on the web. I believe the largest one on record had a span of over 6 inches. I hope you get to keep watching her.

    • It sounds like you know a bit about these spiders Laura. Do you have them in your area? On the island these spiders are pretty much gone by late autumn. I’m not sure when and where they lay their eggs but they start showing up in late spring. From the ones that I’ve seen here, I can definitely believe 6 inches. ~James

    • Most bugs don’t bother me (well except the mosquito that gave me dengue fever), but the thought a spider this size dropping on my head sends shivers down my spine. Most people hate spiders. I wonder why we react to them so differently from other bugs? ~James

    • Sorry about this Rusha, but when I was going through my photos for the Weird and Wonderful series, this photo pegged my weird-o-meter, and I couldn’t resist. You can breath easy though, I don’t think there will be any more really creepy posts. ~James

    • Thanks for the comment Marilyn, and for dropping by the blog. Isn’t that video priceless. I’ve had to knock a few of these webs down, and the silk is amazingly strong. I bet no one was more surprised than the snake. Imagine the humiliation; a snake captured and eaten by a spider! ~James

    • I’m an outdoorsy type Dixie, and have done lots of camping and hiking, but I’ve never seen a spider of this size anywhere (in the US anyway). I saw a few whoppers in Costa Rica and Malaysia, but I expect to see them in the jungle – NOT in my backyard. ~James

  5. I won’t go out into the woods today–teddy bears’ picnic or not.
    She is somewhat ‘good looking’ but I plan to stay farrr away, faarrr, faarrr away.
    I thought snakes only had victims not that they too were preyed upon. Too funny.

  6. Snake eating spiders indeed, James. I can see you chuckling as you add to people’s arachnophobia. I grew up with black widows living in our basement (they now live in our pump house). More than once we went charging out of the basement with the thought that a black widow was climbing up our leg. Do you have any idea how fast a little boy can get his pants off when he imagines that is happening. 🙂 –Curt

    • We also have black widows in Oz, only they’re called redbacks. There’s a famous Australian song. The location of the action is an outhouse, or more colloquially, a dunny. It is so wonderfully authentically Australian. First verse:
      There was a redback on the toilet seat,
      When I was there last night.
      I didn’t see him in the dark,
      But boy I felt his bite.
      I jumped up high into the air,
      And when I hit the ground.
      That crafty redback spider,
      Wasn’t nowhere to be found.
      Google Redback on the toilet seat for the rest of the lyrics and youtube renditions 🙂
      A.

      • Very funny Alison. Leave it to Aussies to come up with a song about a trip to the dunny. In the US, one of our most poisonous spiders is called a Brown Recluse. They get their name from their preference of dark places, and one of their favorite hangouts is under the outhouse seat! ~James

    • That’s a very funny visual image Curt. We bought a fixer-upper house in Greenville, SC that needed a fair amount of work. I crawled all over the crawl space, into the attic, rummaged through the bushes, etc. One day while moving a pile of bricks, I uncovered a big, honkin’ black widow. She was a beauty, but I was glad to have a brick in my hand. And my DIY projects were never the same after that. Luckily, I was never bitten. How about you? ~James

      • I always get nervous when I see one, just like I do with rattlesnakes. 🙂 I’ve never been bitten by a black widow (or a rattlesnake), but every once in a while I will get a spider bite. They are nothing to laugh about. –Curt

  7. I. Hate. Spiders. Actually, growing up I was borderline arachnophobic, just like my dad, but I’m much better these days. Still, wouldn’t want to run into that thing in a dark alley. Lord of the Rings, springs to mind.

    • I’m not phobic Steve, but these huge spiders creep me out. I just know that if one dropped out of the web onto me it would go down my collar. Wait a minute. Maybe I am phobic. ~James

      • There are lesser things to be afraid of James. No shame. Phobic? No, being worried about one down the collar is just common sense. Stay safe, sir.

  8. Hi guys
    Your photos are beautiful – those spiders look like they should be living under the sea with some sort of crabs – yikes! Thanks once again for the interesting read – I met you with the pedi-fish, then was amused with your egg humor, and now there’s these spiders from hell! Can’t wait to see what’s next!

    • Thanks Kelly. It’s always fun going through old photos that didn’t make it into a post at the time, and then coming up with a theme that pulls them together. “Weird and Wonderful” takes in a wide swath. Monday’s post may raise a few eyebrows as well. Watch this space. ~James

  9. I have 2 serious aversions – snakes and spiders. Seeing a spider of that size would tip me over the edge! As Sue Slaght said … maybe all this cold and snow isn’t such a bad thing after all. I can feel my skin crawling…. {shudder}

    • It’s nice to hear there’s a silver lining for all your cold and snow Joanne. But give me the mosquitos, snakes, spiders and gators any day. I’d rather have spider-induced shivers than face frigid winters. ~James

    • Pam I’m sure you learned early on in the south, it only takes wrapping one spider web over your face to start to pay attention on the trail. If I don’t have a walking stick, I carry a small branch and wave it around. ~James

  10. I am glad I read this post in the morning as I most likely would have nightmares. I do not like spiders in the least. That looks like one nasty spider. I can’t believe how much larger the female is from the male.

    • It’s a funny thing about spiders LuAnn. They don’t really look that different than really large ants, and when was the last time you heard someone who was creeped out by ants. Ants don’t bit or sting – at least most of them don’t except those nasty fire ants. And I’ve never heard of anyone having nightmares about ants. ~James

      • I hadn’t thought about that but you are right James. I do freak out when I walk through a spider web. We took a mangrove tour last winter in FL and I was put in the front of the boat. Needless to say I was clearing our path of spider webs for everyone else’s comfort…eww!

  11. Oh my goodness. And you say good night….. spiders never used to bother me until I moved back to north Montana, I used to always pick them up and put them outside (except for black widows). Well, we grow everything big here in Montana.. the wolf spiders are the biggest (body about 2 inches) and will attack you instead of run away. They are very aggressive. The hobos are the deadliest… horrific bite that rots the skin from the inside out, really. And yes, the hobos here are bigger than the average Joe. The last place I lived had an infestation of the buggers. We caught about 10 in every trap each night for about a week.. Talk about nightmares.
    Well, I have to say that your spider is pretty. I love the colors.. But please keep it in your neck of the woods. We have plenty other spiders here in Montana. Thanks for the great post!

    • Thanks for dropping by the blog Mary and for the great (and seriously creepy) story. I’ve heard of wolf spiders but had no idea they would attack. That’s bad for so many reasons. I’ve never heard of hobos, and hope that I never run into one. I can’t imagine how tense you must have been living in a house infested with them. I only have one spider tale that even comes close to yours. When we lived in Sudan, we were introduced to camel spiders. These little beauties can get up to 6 inches and the absolute scariest thing is that they chew on people while they sleep. Their venom numbs the area so people can’t feel the bites and they just munch away. I know that this isn’t an myth because one of the laborers that worked on our crew had it happen to him – the spider took a half dollar sized chunk out of his cheek. Our crew chief told me the story, but I didn’t ask to see the proof. I was afraid that I’d never sleep again. ~James

      • Yikes… and I thought hobos were bad… yes, a good night sleeps is nice… I end up making a natural repellent that worked… I sprayed concentrated hot pepper juice around the window seals and door. It really worked. but boy did I jump anytime I felt something on my skin…

    • You got that exactly right Peggy. These really are beautiful spiders and their webs are a wonderful, almost metallic golden color. For this reason, they’re also called Golden Web Weavers. Pretty neat – at a distance. ~James

  12. Ugh! One of the creepy sticks-in-your-mind facts I know from school is that ALL spiders bite and all but a couple of oddballs produce venom. So, I don’t care if not all are harmful to humans. I don’t like them – any of them!

    But nice photos 🙂

    • As you can see from the comments Jeannee, you are not alone with this opinion. I’m not particularly bothered by most spiders, but when they get to be this size, I take notice. If you really want to get the creeps, read M. E. Chesier’s comment above. Yowza! ~James

  13. Great, informative post and photos. I’m glad you’re doing the fieldwork of reporting on these creatures so we can examine them safely from afar. I almost didn’t click on this post, but I knew it would be good, so I got over my aversion to looking at spiders. I try to face my fears.

    I actually went to the movie “Arachnophobia” by myself, because no one in my family wanted to go with me. When I came home that evening, I walked in the side door, right through a huge web with a giant garden spider (Argiope aurantia) in the center. Yikes! The next day the web was almost gone, but it reappeared every night for the rest of the summer. (We avoided that door at night from then on.) The spider spent the day in the upper corner of the exterior door frame.

    According to Wikipedia: In a nightly ritual, the spider consumes the circular interior part of the web and then rebuilds it each morning with fresh new silk.

    • Cathy, Terri told me that I might get some “Arachno-blowback” after posting these creepy photos, but I’m glad that you persevered and read the post. I looked at the giant garden spider online and realize we have them in the southeast as well. Very interesting about the web constructed nightly. I hadn’t heard of that before. The web of the golden silk spider is a very large, complex and beautiful thing. It keeps the same web throughout the season, but given its size, it catches sticks and all sorts of debris which rips it. After a big storm, the big mama is busy, busy repairing the damage. Most of the big spiders build their webs about 3-4 above the path, but I must admit, if they build across the path, I help them to that big spiderweb in the sky. ~James

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