Giant Man-Eating Garden Spiders
Q: OK, Grumpy, here's a new one. I have two garden spiders on each of my window boxes in the back yard (on my husband's barn). I believe they are called garden or banana spiders. One is large and has weaved a zigzag (I guess she's the she) and on the other box is a smaller one with no zigzag (I guess he's the he). I don't really want to kill them, but they have made it nearly impossible to water the boxes because the webs are so large. Do you know of any way to run them off before my husband, the spider killer, does away with them?
A: Garden spiders (Argiope sp.), those great big ones with the perfect orbicular webs, are particularly noticeable at this time of year. They're harmless to people and not aggressive, but because they're so large, they remind us of those huge, man-eating spiders in old Tarzan and sci-fi movies and give us the willies. The apparent purpose of the zigzag pattern they weave in the center of the web is to make it more visible to birds and large animals, so they won't hit and destroy it.
The really big spider you describe is undoubtedly a female -- her abdomen is swollen with eggs. She'll lay them soon in a big egg case and appear much smaller thereafter. Then she'll die with the first frost -- which is only fair, since the poor, much smaller male dies soon after mating, usually as lunch for the female. What can I say, love hurts.
To save the spider from your spider-hating husband, you could try to move it elsewhere. If you drag a big stick through the middle of the web while she's there, she may grab onto the stick. Then just take the stick to some out-of-the-way place and drop it. It's highly unlikely she'll return to the same spot.