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Golden silk orb-weavers are all about the silk

Backyard Safari

Monday, August 02, 2010

Media contact: Jessica Basham

When someone mentions spiders, do you think of scary books parents read to little children about the creepy, crawly, eight-legged creatures? But spiders aren't that scary when you learn more about them.  They actually do good things by helping control pesky biting flies like mosquitoes.  And, while all spiders can bite and have venom, only a few Florida spiders are harmful if they bite you.

A common Florida spider seen during the summer is the golden silk spider.  This large and amazing spider has a long, yellowish body with tufts of black hair at the joints of its long legs. Although they may look scary, golden silk spiders are not dangerous. They can still bite, but usually they scurry off to hide when their web is disturbed.

The golden silk spider hangs face-down in the center of her web, waiting for unsuspecting prey (flies, beetles, grasshoppers, wood moths and other flying insects) to get stuck so she can have her next meal.  Yes, the large spider in the center is the female who made the web. If you look closely, you may see several smaller spiders in her web.  They are males hoping to get her attention.

Golden silk spiders belong to the orb-weaver family. It is called an orb-weaver because its web is round.  The unique thing about these spiders is the silk they spin to make their webs.  It looks like gold thread and shimmers in the sunlight.  Golden silk spider silk is also very strong.  So strong, that native people in tropical countries mat and twist the webs to make strong bags and fishing nets.

Recently a group of people in Madagascar - an island in the Indian Ocean southeast of Africa - collected more than 1 million golden silk spiders and carefully extracted their silk before returning them to the wild.  They wove the silk into a beautiful golden rug.  It took four years to make because collecting and weaving spider silk is a very difficult process.  The techniques they used to make the rug were developed more than 100 years ago.

Finding these spiders is easy. Join the Get Outdoors Florida! movement and search for the golden silk spiders and their beautiful, large webs by looking between tree branches, along woodsy hiking paths and across empty doorways.  Because the webs are large and bright, they are easy to spot and can be seen throughout the day.

Make up a creative story about the spider you find.  What is she thinking? What is her day like?  Can you count how many bugs she has caught in her web?  Can you draw a picture of her?

To learn more about the golden silk spider, visit MyFWC.com/Learning or www.ifas.ufl.edu. Also, to view the textile created using the silk of the golden silk spider, visit www.amnh.org and type "spider silk" in the search box.

Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center - Check it out!

Be sure to visit the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center's website - BTYCC.org - and discover the outdoors! Learn about youth activities such as fishing, shooting sports, hiking, viewing wildlife and seasonal hunting on the impoundments, fields and forests of the conservation center.



FWC Facts:
There's a lot you can do to view wildlife without ever leaving your home. Bring birds, butterflies and wildlife to your backyard with a few simple steps.

Learn More at AskFWC