Argiope aurantia
Yellow garden spider (Round Rock, Texas, July 26, 2001)

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This particular spider's body is only about 3/8ths of an inch long, and its legs only span about an inch at present. However, as more and more insects drop by, it will grow larger. Within the next six weeks the spider should double or triple its body length. In the process, it will reconstruct the web every night and may even move its  location from place to place, seeking to find the best place to attract visitors.

Argiope aurantia is an orbweaver. Orb webs are the best known of all spider webs, and are made up of two non-sticky scaffolding threads and a third "catching" thread that is studded with glue droplets. Radial threads converge on a central hub, while frame threads delineate the web and provide insertion points for the radial threads. These are not sticky, but are very strong and relatively inelastic. 

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One of the most colorful spiders found in the Round Rock area is the yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia). It and its extensive web are often found in bushes around homes. The specimen shown here was found in the bamboo brake shown on the left. Its web is in the center of the right half of the photo. See the whitish spot? That is the brightly accentuated center of the web, known as the stabilimentum, where the female waits for friendly insects to drop by for dinner.

The spiral threads of the web are both elastic and sticky. Once a visiting insect touches one of them, the probability of an extended stay increases considerably. The structure of the web is such that, if a visitor lands on a particular portion of it and becomes "attached," the wiggling of the visitor transmits vibrations along specific radial threads to the hub, where the spider patiently awaits. When the radial threads begin to vibrate, the spider knows that a visitor has arrived somewhere on the web. By following the vibrating threads, the spider knows exactly where to go to welcome the new arrivals.

The stabilimentum that is such a prominent part of this web is not present in the webs of all orbweavers. In fact, it is not always present in the webs of this species. Many different theories have been advanced to explain its function, but it remains one of nature's unsolved mysteries.