The name Banana spider is used to describe a number of different large spider species commonly found throughout the southeastern United States, North America and South America. Banana spiders receive their name because of the yellow/golden-colored silk they create to make their very large webs which they use to catch flying insects, their main food source. The webs can be larger than 1 m across with long filament anchors. They are often found in forests, banana plants, mangroves, dark areas of homes, wood piles, and open wooded areas, in fields, along wooded trails and at the edge of clearings.
The body of a female banana spider can be between one-and-half and three inches whereas males are generally smaller (less than one inch long). These spiders usually have red, yellow or white abdomens contrasted against black or dark brown. Their legs are often striped, have feathery tufts and the tips of their legs point inward.
Species generally classified as banana spiders include:
- Argiope appensa
- Trichonephila clavipes
Facts About Banana Spiders
- Banana spiders are large spiders commonly found throughout the southeastern United States, North America and South America.
- These spiders are usually red, yellow and black in color.
- The banana spider has a solid yellow abdomen. Their abdomen is shaped closer to a square or oval than a circle.
- The abdomen may also contain a mix of several dots of black, red and yellow color to warn predators and humans of its toxicity.
- Banana spiders receive their name because of the yellow/golden-colored silk they create to make their very large webs which they use to catch flying insects, their main food source.
- They are often found in forests, mangroves, banana plants, dark areas of homes, wood piles, and open wooded areas, in fields, along wooded trails and at the edge of clearings.
- The male banana spider is generally smaller, with a body size up to 0.5 inches (1.27 cm) and a leg span of up to 1.5 inches (3.81 cm).
- The female banana spider is generally large. It has a body length between 1 and 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) and a leg span of up to 5 inches (15 cm), making it the largest non-tarantula arachnid.
- Male spiders reach full maturity, when they leave their webs to look for a suitable mate. Males usually use web characteristics to identify potential female mates.
- Females typically mate at the beginning of adulthood just after their last molt and again later in life when feeding.
- The color pattern of female banana spider consists of a silvery carapace (outer body wall) with yellow spots on a muted orange to tan cylindrical body.
- The female banana spider has distinctive tufts of hair on its long inward-pointing legs.
- The slender males are inconspicuous dark brown and would often go unnoticed if not for the fact that they are often found in the webs of females.
- Female produce egg sacs in the surrounding environment to protect their eggs. They deposit and protect their eggs on a silk platform where they cover their young in loose silk. The loose silk creates a sac, which is attracted to nearby vegetation and hidden away from predators.
- Female banana spiders typically lay eggs between August to October and the eggs will hatch about a month later.
- The banana spider has legs that are evenly distributed around its body, not coupled into pairs like the garden spider.
- Their legs are typically yellow with the presence of a dark linear stripe or stripes on the frontal (dorsal) legs.
- Male banana spiders come into the female’s web for copulation and mate with her, while she is feeding and unable to attack them. After mating, the female spins an egg sac on a tree, laying hundreds of eggs in each sac.
- During the defensive display, the body is lifted up into an erect position, the first two pairs of legs are lifted high (revealing the conspicuous black/light-banded pattern on the leg underside), while the spider sways from side to side with the hind legs in a cocked position.
- All types of banana spiders feast on insects found in their environment, such as wasps, small moth, butterflies, mosquitoes, leaf-footed bugs, stinkbugs, fruit flies, locust, crickets and bees. Both adult and immature banana spiders are predators.
- Generally, banana spiders can live up to two years. Though there are other types of banana spiders with a life span shorter than 1.5 years.
- The banana spider’s web silk is a yellowish or golden hue and very strong. It prefers constructing webs in fields, between trees and shrubbery adjoining the side of the home. Their webs are constructed of a spiraling circle, with supportive lines radiating from the center, coupled with a zigzag pattern down the middle.
- Banana spiders have ability to bite humans especially when directly handled or when accidentally pinched or squished. Their bites leave behind a small red welt, which is not mildly pain.
- Banana spiders are not that dangerous as they seem to be from their physical look. A banana spider bite is usually less painful than a bee sting. Their venom is mild and not extremely poisonous to cause serious health problems and complications.
- Banana spiders are widespread and notably visible from mid-summer to late fall.
Also Read: Different Types of Striped Caterpillars
Types (Species) of Banana Spider
Cupiennius is a south and Central genus of Spiders. They are found from Mexico to northwestern South America and on some Caribbean islands. These species generally come in a range of sizes from cephalothorax lengths less than 9 mm (0.35 inch) to large species, with a cephalothorax length of 40 mm (1.6 inches). During the rainy season from June to November, this species is common in sunny edge areas, such as along roadsides and cultivated areas.
Phoneutria species is also referred to as Brazilian wandering spiders or armed spider. They are mainly found in northern South America and Central America. These species of spiders can grow to have a leg span of 13 to 18 cm (5.1 to 6.1 inches). These spiders are known to look for relatively dense vegetations where webs can be setup in areas where insects will regularly fly through.
Nephila also referred to Giant wood spiders consists of numerous species found in warmer regions around the world, with species in Australia, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Nephila spiders vary from reddish to greenish yellow in color with distinctive whiteness on the cephalothorax and the beginning of the abdomen. Like many other Banana spiders, most of them have striped legs specialized for weaving (where their tips point inward, rather than outward as is the case with many wandering spiders).
Argiope appensa also referred to as Hawaiian garden spiders, are mainly found on several islands in the western Pacific Ocean, in Hawaii and from Taiwan, Australia, New Caledonia, New Guinea to Indonesia. This species shows sexual dimorphism (same species exhibiting different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs). The strikingly black and yellow females are 5.1-6.4 cm (2-2.5 inches) long, including legs, while the brown males reach only about 1.9 cm (0.75 inches). Hawaiian garden spider constructs webs mainly in bushes, between branches and in human constructions. The webs are rather large and show a white zig-zag silk decoration developed from one corner to the center of the web.
Trichonephila clavipes species is native to North and South America. In United States it is commonly referred to as Golden silk orb-weaver or Banana Spider. This species has the large size and the long legs with clumps of hair that are typical of the genus. It is large compared to most other members of the genus and is distinguished by the bright colors of the female abdomen, which changes color as the spider matures. The main web of a mature female may be as large as 1 m in diameter whereas the main filaments that anchor the web between trees can be between 1 and 1.5 m in length.