Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Invasion of the Arachnid Army

In the past three weeks, my garden has been invaded by an entire battalion of itsy bitsy spiders! I am not exaggerating when I say that almost ALL my shrubs and trees, and even many of my container plants, are now decorated with elaborate spider webs inhabited by anywhere from one to several of these pint-sized arachnids.

A Web search (pun intended) reveals that these are basilica spiders, so named because their webs purportedly resemble arching cathedral domes, although I fail to see a strong resemblance. I've had these spiders in my garden before, but this Spring they have taken over!

The spiders are only about an inch long, including legs, with a lovely green, white and yellow filigree design on their abdomens. Apparently the females have the green stripe, while the males have more yellow on their abdomens. I read that this design is intended to mimic an open mouth with tongue and fangs, presumably to ward off predators.

Unlike other spiders, the webs of basilicas are three-dimensional in shape, and they form an absolute maze of threads and anchor lines all going in different directions. The references say they often are found in groups in contiguous webs, and I can attest to that. My larger plants, such as a gorgeous bird's nest anthurium, are draped in a multi-level basilica condominium complex. I counted 15 basilicas in the anthurium alone!

Maze of webs in anthurium
My husband and friends know that I have severe arachnophobia. I once jumped out of a moving car to get away from a spider (Very Large! Very Scary!) on the inside window frame. Fortunately the car was not moving all that fast.

But I have found that when I have a camera in front of my face, I lose my fear of spiders. With my little macro lens, I will even get right in THEIR face. Which is a good thing, because spiders really are cool creatures.

Basilica spider duet
They are also very beneficial, eating all sorts of bad insects like gnats, flies and mosquitoes. So, I have left my basilicas in peace, hoping that eventually the population will find some sort of equilibrium before the military takeover of my yard is complete.

Has anyone else experienced the Invasion of the Arachnid Army in their garden?


  1. At least all those spiders should take care of other pests in your garden. I wonder why you have so many more this year than normal. I guess it must have been a good breeding year. :-)

  2. My theory is that they know I am afraid of them, so they have showed up en masse, just like my cats make a beeline for anyone who is allergic to them!

  3. I love spiders, always. We have had some spectacular webs from time to time, but no big invasion at the moment (though a crab spider and I had an interesting encounter today).

  4. Well, I wouldn't say a military take over but I definitely noticed them 'earlier' than usual (which I presumed was due to our early warm-up). And there ARE more in number than normal. I'm glad you did the research ... now I know what they are called. Also good to know they eat mosquitoes... plenty of those to go around.

  5. I have a few crab spiders, Meredith, but nothing like the Basilica bonanza. Meems, I suspect you are right that our early warm weather has been a boon to their populations. I have no idea how long they live, but they are still everywhere in my yard.

    One spider I do hope to see this year is the black and yellow argiope. We had a large gorgeous female living right under our deck eaves last summer and we got quite attached to her.

  6. Orchid spiders! My nemesis. They are just everywhere this year. At least they're pretty.