Golden silk orb-weavers are all about the silk
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.