Text by Paula Dittrick, TMNCPC blogmaster, with photos by TMNCPC members Noel Zinn and Paula Dittrick
If you can get out into Seabourne Creek Nature Park’s Houston Wilderness pollinator area around 7 a.m. when a heavy dew lingers on a humid summer day, you will see numerous spider webs glistening across the grassland. It’s magical and well worth the effort of making an early-morning trip.
“There’s an old naturalist’s saying that you’re never more than 5 feet from a spider. It’s probably true, as spiders can be found nearly everywhere, indoors and out,” say Wizzie Brown and Mike Merchant in a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension article on spiders.
Brown and Merchant note that spiders are largely beneficial and help keep pests like flies and plant-feeding insects under control.
The Invasive Plant Control Team of the Texas Master Naturalist Coastal Prairie Chapter affectionately dubbed a yellow garden spider as Abigail, and we deliberately remove invasive plants in her vicinity taking care so as to not disturb her large web. Yes, we know her scientific name is Argiope aurantia.
An internet search shows other names commonly used for the yellow garden spider include black and yellow garden spider, zigzap spider, and zipper spider.
Abigail’s body is more than 1 inch long with even longer legs. She is very agile as can attest a few members of the TMNCPC Invasive Plant Control Team who watched her devour a grasshopper a few weeks ago.
Argiople aurantia is common in Texas, but Abigail is special to the TMNCPC Invasive Plant Control Team members working to replace sumpweed (Iva annua) and Brazilian vervain (Verbena brasiliensis) with more desirable plants.