Golden Silk. Web of a Golden Silk Orbweaver Spider (Nephila clavipes). Gainesville, Florida, 2012.
In Florida, one of the surest signs that summer has hit is the abundance of Golden Silk Orbweaver Spiders, otherwise known as Banana Spiders. If you've never seen one of these spiders, they can seem pretty scary. They're huge! Large ones can be a couple of inches across from leg to leg. They tend to hang in their large webs at about face level, so it's very common to walk through them while you're hiking, or even just strolling in your yard. But they are pretty harmless. They can bite, but I don't know anyone who has been bit, and they're not especially toxic. I understand the bite is much like a bee sting. As the summer wears on, and their webs are walked into and otherwise disturbed, the spiders move higher into the trees or on power lines, or tuck themselves into secluded corners under your eaves. Then they set up shop and start catching bugs. Their webs are incredible--they truly are a lovely golden yellow, and they are extremely strong. I've seen green darner dragonflies trapped in these webs. Several years ago there was a beautiful weaving on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. This tapestry was made from Orbweaver Spider Silk. The silk came from a related species from Madagascar. Here is a link if you're interested in seeing more:http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/spidersilk/