Golden Silk Orb Weavers (Trichonophila clavipes) in My Yard

Golden silk orb weavers made my backyard their home this summer since about the middle of June. Last week, I counted 5 different webs in my yard. Their webs are huge, measuring 10 feet across and 6 feet from top to bottom. These deadly traps catch all kinds of insects from mosquitoes to wasps. This species is not reported to prey upon vertebrates, but I would not be surprised, if they do catch tree frogs, hummingbirds, and bats on occasion. They are a large spider over 1 inch long from abdomen to head, and their leg span is even wider. Golden silk orb weavers are also known as banana spiders because most are yellow. (They are also some times found in boxes of bananas.) The specimens in my yard seem to be brown with yellow spots, likely a local variation. This species ranges from North Carolina to Argentina, and they are expanding their range due to global warming.

There are currently at least 5 golden silk orb weaver webs in my backyard. The webs measure about 10 feet across and about 6 feet from top to bottom. They angle their bodies according to the time of day to reduce direct exposure to the sun. The webs survived a recent rain storm from the latest hurricane. I took this photo.

Golden silk orb weavers belong to the Nephilidae family and were formerly given the scientific name Nephila clavipes. However a recent genetic study determined they should be classified in the Trichonophela genus within the Nephilidae family. Females are 6 times larger than males, so if a smaller spider is seen in their web, it is probably a male. Females eat males when they are done mating with them. A genetic study suggests the characteristic of female gigantism in the Nephilidae family originated over 100 million years ago. There is another species of spider–the silver-colored, fat-bodied Argyrodes nephilae–that some times lives on the outside of golden silk orb weaver webs. This species steals captured prey from the golden silk orb weaver by cutting the webbing attached to the web-wrapped insect and lowering it to the outside of the golden orb weaver’s web where it is safe for the Argyrode spider to consume. A golden silk orb weaver web is an ecological community in itself with female and male golden orb weavers, web-wrapped insects, and a smaller species of spider that lives life as a thief.


Kuntner, M. et. al.

“Golden Orb Weavers Ignore Biological Rules: Phylogenomic and Comparative Analysis Unravel a Complex Evolution of Sexual Size Dimorphism”

Systematic Biology 68 (4) July 2019



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